Karate students ready to compete on world stage

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Each movement in shotokan karate has intent and purpose.

There’s no flashy stunts, or over the top attacks.

It’s the art of how to win a fight without ever wanting to get into one in the first place.

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When students of shotokan karate compete against one another two things are tested.

First, is the student’s mastery of kata.

Kata is a series of forms and movements that are replicated from situations in which a student would be attacked by an assailant.

It’s a self-defense technique, but that doesn’t mean the moves aren’t powerful enough to cause serious damage to a would be assailant.

The second aspect students are tested on is kumite.

This is the art of sparring and pits one student against another in a test of skills.

Hayden Walker and Katie Barkman have spent months training on both aspects of shotokan as the athletes prepare to compete in the 2019 World Karate Martial Arts Organization World Cup in Montecatini Terme, Italy.

Under the watchful eye of their sensei Tom Kelly, the two athletes have been training relentlessly in preparation to go up against the best in the world.

In the past the lessons have focused on the overall movements and understanding of each form.

However, as the tournament has drawn closer Kelly has had the two athletes focus on the little things the judges will be watching for in Italy.

“It’s a lot more of pinpointing the finer details than the overall movements,” Walker said.

Barkman said the little details of foot placement and other intricacies of kata are what she and Walker have been perfecting.

A wrinkle the two will have to deal with during the international tournament is a slight shift in certain rules, including the usage of body protection devices for sparring.

In national tournaments Barkman and Walker are just in their gi, a traditional Japanese outfit for karate.

However, in Italy Walker will be required to wear headgear while Barkman is required to wear a chest plate.

Both pieces are there for safety and so the athletes are training with the new equipment in order to be familiar with it before the competition.

“It can be distracting sometimes because it’ll move or something, but I try to not let it get in my head too much because I know I’m going to have to fight with it,” Walker said.

The tournament will take place Nov. 21 to Nov. 24 so the athletes will be leaving for Italy within the next week.

When the time comes for the two athletes to compete, Barkman said the key to being successful will be to not pay attention to the other competitors.

“I’m just going to focus on my own self more than anyone else,” Barkman said.

It’ll be a foreign environment with different food.

There will also perhaps be obstacles prohibiting the athletes’ normal pre-competition routines.

However, once the time comes to start competing both athletes will have to remember they’ve earned the right to be in the competition among the world’s best.

“I feel like my mind may not be focused on the tournament because I’ll be looking around at landscape and stuff, so I’m going to have to stay focused on why I’m there,” Walker said.