Shields seeks title in karate family affair

Samuel Shields in action at a recent 'eight-man eliminator' tournament. (Terry Vorg)

By Luke Voogt

Drysdale concreter and current Asia-Pacific champion Samuel Shields is aiming to win his fifth open middleweight title at the Kyokushin Karate State Finals on Sunday.

The sport is a family affair for the Shields clan, with Samuel fighting in the same weight class as younger brother Gabriel, and two siblings competing in other divisions.

“My whole family started together when I was in grade one, because we were really shy kids,” the 24-year-old told the Independent.

“My dad John, two brothers and I started at the same time – they’re all black belt.

“[Gabriel and I] always got along pretty well but we’ve had some solid rounds of sparring in the dojo.

“It’s pretty disciplined and we had dad in there watching us.

“We still fight the same against each other as anyone else – we go as hard as we can.

“But as soon as the fight’s done, it’s all good again – there’s no malice or anything.

“Every now and again I’ll enter a heavier weight class, just so I don’t have to fight my brother all the time.”

Samuel even won the heavyweight state title once and in an ‘eight-man eliminator’ in March defeated a 120kg fighter and before losing in a tiebreak round to a 115kg fighter.

Weight class makes a bigger difference in Kyokushin tournaments than in point-scoring forms of karate, according to Shields.

“It’s known as the strongest karate because of how brutal it is,” he said.

“It’s knockdown karate, so the aim is to drop your opponent. I always feel more comfortable fighting somebody smaller than me.”

Punches to the head are illegal, and if a fighter sustains a concussion they are ruled out for at least the day’s competition for their safety.

“There’s always at least a handful of knockouts for the day,” Shields said.

“I’ve never been knocked out. I’ve copped a couple of kicks to the head but nothing too bad.

“I broke my foot at the nationals one year and during my second Dan grading I cracked my ribs; one of my instructors got me with a body punch in my second-last fight.”

Shields will attempt his own favourite move, a spinning roundhouse kick to the head, at Geelong Arena on Sunday.

“It’s pretty difficult to land but I’ll definitely give it a go,” he said.

“That’s what I’m mostly known for. It’s not letting any secrets out – they know it’s coming.”

Shields described Geelong Arena as a fantastic venue for the event, which also draws top competitors from interstate.

“It’s basically a mini-nationals,” he said.

Shields met his girlfriend through Kyokushin, and has stayed in shape during lockdown by training with her dad, local fifth Dan black belt and instructor Robbie Adams.

“I was training in the garage a lot of the time with him,” he said.

Also joining him for Sunday’s tournament are sister Lily, 17, and brother Nate, 10, both competing in junior divisions.

“Dad’s been third in the heavyweight division in Australia too,” he said.

“He’s retired from fighting but he still trains.”