GW Karate club kicks it up a notch

On Friday some GW students spent the night drinking with friends, some spent the night watching movies and others, who are members of the GW Japan Karate Association Club, spent the night breaking wooden boards with their shoulders, hands and feet.

JKA’s 30 members meet three times a week in the Lloyd Gym on the Mount Vernon Campus to practice their karate skills. This Friday, the group hosted a demonstration for prospective new members, showing off their karate skills.

JKA meetings are lead by instructor Kenichi Haramoto, who guides students in basic warm-ups, stretching exercises and sparring matches. Members agree Haramoto’s lessons often reach beyond the boundaries of Mount Vernon.

“He knows what you are capable of doing and does not stop until he gets it out of you,” said GW grad student Robin McLaughry.

Haramoto is the founder and leader of the Northern California branch of JKA and is a sixth dan or sixth-level black belt. He began his training in 1962 in Tokyo and won first place in the 1966 All Japan Collegiate Karate Championship Tournament.

Sophomore Kelly Straub, like other members of the JKA club, refers to Haramoto as Sensei, which is a Japanese title reserved for respected figures. Straub said that Sensei is “pretty awesome.”

“He doesn’t talk very much and he carries a wooden sword around,” Straub said. Straub added that Haramoto is known to gently use the stick to correct students when their body motion is inaccurate.

JKA’s faculty adviser Cynthia Lee, Haramoto’s wife, knows how her students feel balancing karate and school work. Lee pursued her black belt in karate while studying in law school.

“It really helps with concentration, alertness and focus which in turn translates into the classroom,” she said.

Senior Sarah Lee agreed that karate is more than just a sport or extra-curricular activity.

“It has helped me to do things I’ve never thought I could do in real life,” Sarah Lee said. “It has helped me relieve stress and strengthen myself.”

Since 2002, GW’s JKA Karate Club has offered a unique opportunity to its members by providing traditional training in Shotokan karate. Shotokan karate is the art of punching, blocking, kicking and defending yourself against an attack.

Cynthia Lee said the karate skills learned during club meetings are not meant to stay in the contained environment.

“The point is that your body gets used to making the same movements over and over so that your body reacts automatically if attacked on the street,” she said.

Straub started with JKA as a freshman and has already worked her way up to a second-level white belt.

“For me, more than anything, it’s just a fun way to get exercise,” Straub said.

Leah Carliner contributed to this report.

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