Kata forms and kumite kicks

Aeryn Kauffman, Staff Reporter

Senpei and sensei are not just words in anime shows. They are distinguished titles given to karate black belts.

Meghan Rochelle

When he is not in the classroom, CWU Professor of Biology Ian Quitadamo runs his own dojo, Central Kyokushin Karate, here in Ellensburg. There, Dr. Quitadamo goes by Shihan, a title given to karate teachers with tenth-degree black belts. 

 The 15th Annual Kyokushin Open Karate Tournament was held Saturday, Oct. 19 at Ellensburg High School. Karate students ranging in age from 8 to 50 years old competed in kata (no combat) form karate and kumite (fighting) karate.

Winegar’s Homemade Ice Cream & Coffee sponsored the event, making a flavor of ice cream, “True Vigor,” specifically for the tournament. Full of brownie and chocolate chunks, the ice cream’s creamy texture satisfied spectators while we took in the sights and sounds of the tournament.

 “Osu,” the Japanese word for “persevere” resounded off the walls of the gym after each competitor finished their fight. The first phase of the tournament, kata, involved competitors performing solo for a panel of three judges. Each competitor would exhibit their chosen kata form to an attentive audience, making sure to nail every movement as perfectly as possible. Reminiscent of tai chi, competitors who execute their kata forms attempt to start and end in the center of the circle. Kata movements are fluid, symmetrical and precise. Judges then score the performance on a scale of 0.0 to 10.0.

The winner of the kata form is 12-year-old Robert Westre, ending with an impressive overall average of 8.3 points. He will move onto the second phase, kumite.

 Kumite, combat karate, is next. Four chairs are placed in a square, all facing the center of the square. Four judges, each holding one white flag and one red flag, sit in the chairs, watching the fights for illegal moves.

 The sharp blow of a whistle signals an illegal move, such as kicks to the face or knees.

 Competitors are grouped by gender, age and body type to attempt to create as fair of a fight as possible. Westre was not so lucky. He was up against fighters twice his height and size because it was hard for him to find similarly-sized competitors in his age range.

“Work, Robby, work!” Westre’s father, Henry Westre roots.

 Henry Westre sits with his wife, Heather Westre, on the bleachers, not missing a moment of their son’s performance.

 Robert Westre’s five years of training pays off in the first round. Robert Westre does not back down. He ends his second round on a loss, but he said his attitude stays positive. He and his parents decide to stay to finish watching the tournament so Robert can support his friends.

It seems that several of the Central Kyokushin Karate dojo value community just as strongly as Robert Westre. Skyler Smith, 19-year-old CWU senior, holds a yellow belt in karate. Smith revealed the concept of dojo-kun, which means tending to the spiritual, mental and physical. This, Smith said, is what makes karate different from other martial arts.