From April 15–16, four members of Occidental’s Karate Team traveled to Las Vegas, Nev. to compete in two annual tournaments, the Ozawa Cup and the USA Open. Despite having to compete against internationally ranked competitors at the Ozawa Cup, Julian Diamond (first year) got third place and Nikolas Romer (first year) got second place in the intermediate Kumite division. At the USA Open, Giselle Kaneda (sophomore) placed second in the elite division.
Both tournaments hosted kata and kumite competitions, two different karate techniques. Kata involves a predetermined set of movements and competitors are judged on form, but do not fight. Kumite competitions involve double elimination of fights until two individuals face off to determine a winner. A majority of competitors in the Ozawa Cup came from Australia, Mexico and European countries. Each came from different training backgrounds which added a challenge, but Christian Chico (junior) thought that the international competition made him a tougher competitor. Chico competes in a black belt division without a weight class, so he never knows how large his competitors will be.
“That part I really enjoy a lot,” Chico said, “It helps push me as a competitor. It gives me a challenge to look past how big or small your opponent is and I just do my best and adjust and adapt to the competition.”
Brandon Richardson (senior) fought in the black belt division against a competitor from Mexico, but was also able to watch others from a various international backgrounds in their kata.
“There are a lot of different styles,” Richardson said. “The katas that we do are pretty much like choreographed dance as if we were defending or fighting against multiple people at once. At a tournament, I could do one kata and then watch someone else doing it that has about five or six movements that are completely different.”
Victor Chico, Christian’s father, serves as the team’s shihan, or instructor. He prepares them for the kata and kumite tournaments by training them in their punching, blocking and kicking. In the weeks prior to tournaments, they practice mock one-on-one kumite fights and tournament Katas in addition to the basics.
“Basics are good training, but in a tournament, there are other factors you have to account for so being able to actually fight or do those forms we’re going to do is really helpful. Especially when we get close to a tournament we’ll make time at the end of class to work on tournament technique,” Kaneda said.
Outside of practicing in the dance studio Monday and Wednesday evenings, Chico attends his father’s class at the International Karate Association’s Glendale Training Center over the weekends. Kaneda practices at Hwang’s ATA Martial Arts in Anaheim when she is free Fridays. Like any sport, they all agree that the more hours of practice they put in the better they perform at tournaments.
Chico, Kaneda and Richardson all have more than ten years of competitive karate experience. Prior to Occidental, Kaneda trained with students that were competing on behalf of the U.S. national team. She followed in their footsteps and joined the national team, which meant that she competed against fellow national team members at the U.S.A. Open. However, it was Diamond and Romer’s first time attending the Ozawa Cup, which helped solidify a sense of comradery within the Occidental karate community.
“When we all arrived in Vegas we met Brandon there, and then it was like, ‘alright here we go team,’” Chico said. “These trips really impact how strong we form our bonds. It’s less of an individual thing and more of a team — Oxy Karate.”
If you would like to learn more about Occidental’s karate club, email [email protected] or join Chico’s class next semester from 5:10–6:25 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Students can sign up through Course Counts.