Karate kids get kick from competing

June 17, 2004|JULIE McGLOTHLIN

In a medium-sized, square room decorated with trophies and practice weapons, students are drilling for competition, doing something they call a showdown. Dressed alike in black suits cinched with red and brown belts, the six students take turns demonstrating their skills.

Bowing before Rodney Finn, head instructor at Finn's Kenpo Karate Studio, each asks permission to begin and then performs a stunning series of leaps, kicks, and punches occasionally punctuated with loud yells.

Blake Bowman, 10, executes two back-flips and a succession of figure skater-like moves, while Alexis Cocanougher, 9, seems to hang weightless in the air for a moment during her routine. Others pepper their performances with tumbling and splits in addition to standard self-defense moves.

The students also demonstrate their skill with weapons, spinning staffs overhead fast enough to make swooshing sounds and carving the air with kamas, a pair of small scythe like blades.


"I think they're pretty awesome, but I work them hard," Finn says of his Brown Belt class. He has been teaching karate in Danville for 12 years and has been taking students to competitions for six years.

Six compete in Karate for Christ Championship

June 5, these six students, along with 38 others from Finn's, competed at the Karate for Christ Championship in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. In addition to earning the title of "most winningest school" for the second year in a row, the students took home an average of four trophies each.

For many of the younger students, the trophies are nearly as tall as they are. In fact, 10 of Finn's students tied for grand champion. Normally the highest ranking black belt at the tournament would serve as judge to break the tie, but as the highest level black belt there, Finn elected to let the tie stand. "I didn't want to have to judge my own," he says.

The students compete in four categories: grappling, which is a type of ground fighting; sparring, which is a standing fight with a points system; weapons, which is a series of armed, calculated strikes performed like a dance; and empty hand forms, which is the performance of various self-defense techniques.

In addition to regular classes, the students participated in a 40-hour camp the week before the competition to practice and hone their skills.

"If you work twice as hard, then no one is going to beat you. Our biggest competition is ourselves," says Finn.

This weekend Blake and Alexis will both compete at the Bluegrass Nationals Tournament in Louisville.

Learning a lot about balance and discipline

Blake started karate three years ago because he didn't like it when other kids pushed him around at school, but he points out he's learned a lot about balance and discipline.

Alexis likes tournaments because they make her more competitive.

"It's good physical fitness," says Stefanie Cocanougher, Alexis' mother. "She pushes herself to her limits."

At the end of the class, after much laughter and learning, the kids recited a creed highlighting the values and goals of karate. They spoke of developing themselves, using their skills honorably and acting defensively instead of abusively. These teachings are especially important to the students in the Brown Belt class because they also help out with younger classes.

"You're supposed to be a role model," says Blake.

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