Karl Terry: PNT managing editor
Chuck Norris wasn’t in Portales Saturday but martial arts did take center stage as Greyhound Arena played host to the Yom Chi Taekwon-Do Association’s New Mexico state tournament.
Over 140 competitors from five states took part in the open tournament which features competition in five disciplines. Sixty local competitors were a part of that mix. The youngest competitor Saturday was 6 years old while the oldest was in his mid-50’s.
“You’ve got just about every level of competition out there,” said tournament director Steve Blakeley of Portales. “There are even a few competitors who fought at Worlds last year.”
While the tournament is the state competition for the Yom Chi Taekwon-Do Assn. because it is open other states can compete as well as karate schools outside of Taekwon-Do. For the last three years the state tournament has been held in Portales, though it has occurred in other locations.
The five competitions include open patterns in all styles of karate, International Taekwon-Do style patterns, blindfold patterns, sparring and breaking.
In the pattern competitions the competitor is on the floor by himself going through the routine patterns of the style. The blindfold patterns, says Blakely is a fun competition where the competitor wears a blindfold.
In sparring two competitors square off against each other observing traditional rules and courtesy.
“It’s controlled and they’re not trying to knock their opponent out,” said Blakeley. “They throw with control just to touch their opponent (with the punch or kick).”
In the breaking competition boards held vertically are kicked while tiles are broken horizontally with the hand.
Audra Brown, 16, from Portales was one of the competitors Saturday who had been to world competition where she says she won a bronze medal last year. So far on Saturday she had taken a second in blindfold patterns. She started competing when she was 7.
“I just love it,” said the teen. “I like the competition aspect, I like the physical aspect, I just like it all.
Representing and coaching the Kin Mo Itsu Karate School in Portales in his first Yom Chi tournament was instructor and owner Shannon Schaefer. His school had seven competitors entered Saturday.
“I love the raising part,” said Schaefer, who has been an instructor for 11 years and just opened his school in Portales in January. “Raising champions and raising good students is the most fulfilling part for me.”
Blakeley has been involved with Taekwon-Do for 35 years and has been an instructor for the last 25. For him the sport is all about the work-ethic involved and the competition.
“It gives them an opportunity to compete,” said Blakeley. “The nice thing about it is it’s not a team sport. It gives you a chance to compete as an individual and lose or win by their own personal training.”