It’s proof that with the right attitude and a lot of training, you can realize your goals. Delio Senatore looks like anyone else in Brisbane. His job as a high school teacher keeps him busy. He’s planning on getting married and he likes cars. You might think that’s all there is to him, unless you asked him how he typically spends his evenings on weekdays.
A black belt in karate, Delio teaches in a small dojo with his father Ettore and their friend. Khai Tran. And in 2011 and 2012, Delio took home the Australian National All Styles championship belt two years in a row. I met up with him to find out how.
He first ousted Dean Gould, to whom he had lost the previous year. “Videotape is golden,” Delio laughs, explaining how he had studied his rival carefully in order to beat him. “I studied him a lot. Dean lives in New South Wales, so it’s not like I get to spy on him. All I had was the way he sparred over the last couple of events. I was able to analyse where I went wrong as well, when he beat me. I was able to focus my training toward that, to be able to outweigh him.”
Eventually, Delio was able to lure Dean in and catch him with a perfectly-timed hook kick to the head, winning the match.
Delio had aspired to win the NAS Champion of Champions title since he started karate at the age of eight. His father Ettore has instilled in his son a strong sense of discipline and a love for the sport. “My dad has probably been my biggest support, to be honest,” nods Delio. “He pushes me a lot, mentally. He’s always tried to show me that I can achieve what I set my mind to.”
Both Delio and Dean were top-notch athletes and equally quick on their feet, so it was the man with better timing that won in the end. Delio remembers the training Ettore and Khai put him through to improve his timing. They would hold up a padded glove and Delio would have to kick it. If Delio kicked too early, they simply wouldn’t extend the glove and his foot would hit only air. Kicking too late would result in Ettore or Khai moving past his defences and hitting him with a technique. When the time of the tournament came, it was this training that allowed Delio to overcome his opponent’s speed.
Delio after his second victory. Photo courtesy of Blitzmag and National All Styles
Delio remembers his first victory more than his second one. In his second victory, the following year, he didn’t have as much to prove and he was simply trying to retain the championship. The build-up to the final championship fight was much easier, although the fight itself almost went disastrously. Delio was briefly knocked out by his much larger opponent, David Auty. Only after he had been revived and he was told that he still had a chance did the adrenaline kick in, and he went back to successfully defend his championship.
Through his trials, Delio has always had a strong family support structure to back him up. His father, of course, remains his trainer and mentor. His mother is also supportive. “Even though my mum doesn’t do karate, she’s been a very big shoulder to lean on,” Delio tells me. “She’s been a very big support as well, and a drive to help me achieve my goals.” Finally, his partner, Mel, was a rock beside him the entire time, helping him train and cheering him on from the sidelines.
While Delio still teaches karate, he doesn’t have the time to train for the tournament circuit anymore. Life has caught up with him. His job takes precedence and married life awaits him. With karate due to appear as a sport in the Olympics in 2020, Delio would like to see himself competing, but he acknowledges that this is unlikely. “I’ll be thirty then,” he smiles ruefully, although he maintains that smart sportsmanship is what wins matches over brute youthful strength. Who knows what the future holds?
When asked how his wins changed the way he thought about karate and life, Delio stops to think. “It’s made me more humble,” he ruminates, “in all situations. It’s very, very hard. Not just physically, but mentally as well. It can be quite overwhelming. But it’s definitely made me grow as a person.”
Delio teaches classes at Seishin-Ryu Karate-do in Brisbane, for people of all ages.