By Diamond Bridges and Dyondra Wilson
Music blasts from the speakers as Che Gaskins, a Baltimore native, holds his stance ready to punch and kick. He flows quickly through the moves as a rock tune carries his routine. This might be Gaskins’ last tournament before he leaves for college.
The American Karate Championship took place at Massapequa High School on Apr. 1 and 2 in Long Island. And Gaskins was one among some one hundred participants.
“Initially you’re scared because they’re still learning the routine or the form,” Rachelle Gaskins, said. She was worried for her son’s safety when he first started doing martial arts. “But once he started getting better and better, I felt more confident that he will be able to do it.”
The championship consist of three annual tournaments that take place in Connecticut, Maryland, and Long Island every year.
The American Karate Championships is a part of the Worldwide Kenpo Karate League’s tournament circuit. The tournament will hold different divisions, such as self-defense and weapons, that the student will compete in for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. But Tom LoVarco, 8th degree black belt instructor at The American Black Belt Academy, mentions that every student is awarded a medal for participation and effort during the tournament.
“Martial arts have changed me in a lot of ways,” Che Gaskins, a second-degree black belt student from Maryland, said. “I’ve grown more confidence, gotten physically and mentally stronger. My grades in school have always improved ever since I’ve studied martial arts.”
Martial arts aims to teach student discipline, confidence, self-control and boost their self-esteem. After the tournament, a mother of a young boy, who participated in the tournament, told LoVarco that her son is usually shy but after performing karate forms in front of a large crowd, she noticed changes in his personality. “She thought that it really pushed him to the next level, where he doesn’t seem to be as shy and he’s becoming a little more outgoing,”LoVarco said.
Through discipline, respect, and physical and mental training, karate can improve a child’s attitude and actions towards academics. A study of children responded more accurately to test questions after participating in a physical activity compared to children that sat down without participating, according to research by Active Living Research published in January 2015.
“Martial arts to me is literally like the magic pill,” Allie Albergio, a Ninjutsu Shihan (master) and owner of L.I Ninjutsu Centers, said. “It literally reaches into every aspect of a person’s life from physical, to mental, to spiritual. The lessons are just incredible and it spills over into everything that person does, whether it be their school work, or their relationships or their jobs. It’s a total 100% life skill.”
The American Karate Championships included 11 divisions that the students could participate in, such as board breaking, musical forms, sparring, and special needs. Students ranged from ages 4-18, with a new division for adults (19+), from different states, such as Maryland and Connecticut.
“[The purpose of the tournament] is to make a better student [and] to make them a better martial artist,” LoVarco said. “Students that go to these [tournaments] compared to the ones that don’t, there’s a big difference in the way they progress.”
The next tournament will occur Oct. 14 in Connecticut.