If you were a teenage boy in the 70s chances are you were a fan of the late, great Bruce Lee.  He was not only the best there ever was at his craft, he was F-ing Kato on "The Green Hornet" and Li Tsung on "Longstreet".  Needless to say I, along with my best friend Mickey Garza, wanted to BE Bruce Lee.

So we joined a dojo run by Mr. Yu who had a 30 inch waist and shoulders wider than your car.  As it turned out, we got pretty good at the art of Tae Kwan Do and, to our amazement, learned it was better to be passive than aggressive.  The fact that we were confident in our ability made us less likely to want to fight.  That's why when "The Karate Kid" came out, we weren't as big of fans as many others.  I would recommend any of the disciplines for kids growing up.  It builds confidence, self esteem and, if it's your daughter, the ability to take care of herself.

What prompted this trip down "jumping front kick lane" is that we are blessed to have some very talented martial artists in our area.  Some world champions in fact. They and some hopefuls are headed to the world championships soon.  Read all about it from the following press release.

Kalamazoo Athletes Prepare for World Championships

September 17, 2016 – Kalamazoo, MI – On August 2, 2016 the Olympic Committee announced that Karate will be the newest sport added for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. As a stepping stone toward this monumental goal, Kalamazoo’s local martial arts school Valor Martial Arts & Fitness is partnering with other high level schools from Michigan to send a handful of athletes to Hamilton, Ontario on November 12-13 to compete at the World Karate Organization’s (WKO) World Karate Championships.

Among those attending from Michigan are all three owners of Valor Martial Arts, including: multi-time World Champion and USA National Team Captain Nick Intgroen; International gold medalist, multi-time national champion and WMU Graduate Kelly Duncheskie; and accomplished competitor and undefeated boxer Tim Bachman. In addition, the team will be comprised of a wide range of athletes from the Southwest Michigan area including Otsego Fireman and National Team Member Kyle Baker; World and National Champion, WMU Graduate and Grand Rapids resident Chris Wilks; 16 year old Muskegon student, multi-time National and Junior Olympic champion Alysa Giudici;  and 16 year old Gull Lake student, National and World Champion, Jeremiah Smith.

Nick Intgroen, after winning his most recent World Championship gold medal last year in Berlin, Germany, said “When you compete at this level, it is no longer about personal pride or showing that you are the best, you end up being a representative of your country and your home town. It becomes a fight for national pride and there is no better feeling than standing at the top of the podium above all of the other countries with the flag around your shoulders and having them play the National Anthem.”.

The team will be led by the National Team Coach and Kalamazoo County Sergeant Al Doorlag. Coach Doorlag has accumulated countless medals and trophies himself over decades of competition and has helped lead numerous athletes to victory. After a recent 5 hour Michigan team training session, Doorlag stated “I honestly feel that everyone on that floor can be a World Champion”. The mere opportunity to travel and compete at this level is a life-changing event, let alone being named World Champion and have the title come back to Michigan with them.

Each of these competitors has astonishing passion and dedication to what they do, to the point of not just setting aside hours every day to prepare but also paying for their entire trip out of their own pockets, since there is currently no public funding for this sport. They sacrifice their free time and weekends to represent their home in a positive way and in return, only seek the respect and support of their community. With Karate now an Olympic sport and with so many hometown athletes working hard and sacrificing so much to represent as best they can, this could possibly be one of the bigger sports accomplishments Kalamazoo has recently seen.