Karate tournament to assemble at WWCC

Heather Nichols-Haining

Karate tournament to assemble at WWCC | Photo by DuquezOver 40 karate schools will assemble for a martial arts tournament at Walla Walla Community College on Saturday, Feb. 9. The tournament is annually hosted by The Karate Center, a school about three blocks away from campus.

The tournament will be a friendly match between karate schools in the region. Most schools are in the Walla Walla district, but there are some schools planning to attend from as far away as British Columbia and Eugene, Ore. Others schools will be from Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and all over Washington.

“This tournament is mostly about fellowship,” said David Lybbert, head instructor of The Karate Center. “The only way you get to come to my tournament is if I know you.”

He explained that many of the schools are headed by instructors that he has taught or has worked with for a long time, while some of them studied together with him when they were young.

“Part of the fun of the tournament is getting to know martial artists from other schools. You get to meet lots of people, and it’s fun seeing them every year,” said Jan Brasheare, a brown belt from The Karate Center who has been competing at this tournament for 5 years.

The tournament was first organized for The Karate Center students and a second local school to practice together in a friendly atmosphere. The tournament had fewer than 50 participants.

The following year, four schools competed, and this year, The Karate Center is expecting more than 400 people to compete.

Students can register for any of four divisions, including sparring (controlled fighting), kata (choreographed patterns of movements), weapons and entertainment. The entertainment division is new this year, and competitors will do anything from performing karate to music, to showing flashy karate forms that may include jumps and spins.

“Normally, the back-flips and the jumps are considered frivolous and are laughed out of competitions, but they look cool. This division should be good because we’ll get a chance to have fun with stuff we can do that may not be really practical in a fight,” said Brasheare, who will compete in this division.

“Tournaments are great for lots of reasons,” said Lybbert. “They encourage students to train harder, and they can get a very honest opinion about what they’re working on. Also, it’s always great to have so much talent and hard work in the same room.”

Many students have been working hard to prepare for the event by increasing their water intake, attending more classes and practicing more at home.

“I’ve learned how to spar and am working really hard on my katas for the tournament,” said Rheanna Thorp, a white belt who will be participating in her first tournament.

Some students are nervous, while for others tournaments are a routine occurrence.

“I was scared for my first few tournaments, but I’m not as worried as I used to be because I know what I need to get done. Now it’s just a matter of doing it,” said brown belt Marcus Thell.

Other less experienced students aren’t feeling so confident.

“I’m so nervous for this and I really don’t know what to expect,” said white belt Kaytieire Fine.

After the tournament, two seminars, limited to 20 participants each, will be offered. The first will be a sparring seminar taught by Frank Arnett, a fourth degree black belt teaching in Lewiston, Idaho.

The second will be an opportunity for the martial artists to learn a high level kata from John Franco Jr.

“It should be fun to work out together with everyone from all the different schools. The tournament is something we’re all proud to host and be a part of,” said Cameron Riley, a black belt at the Karate Center.