Estacada's Team Ezra rises to the top
The students at Team Ezra karate studio began 2016 on a high note.
Students Robert Ashley, Mihaela Keller, Justin Kennini and Patty Hanigan, who study under Leo Hoeft, all took home titles at the Super Grands World Games international championships, held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 in South Carolina.
The top-five competitors in each division are eligible to attend the world games, organized by the National Black Belt League.
Ashley was the world champion for mens continuous fighting and mens lightweight point fighting and second in the world for 35 and over weapons.
Keller was the world champion for womens lightweight point fighting and womens continuous fighting and third in the world for Kajukenbo & Kenpo Kata.
Kennini was the world champion for junior point fighting, junior continuous fighting, junior Japanese Kata and junior Kajukenbo and Kenpo Kata.
Hanigan was fifth in the world for junior girls point fighting.
(The world games) were good, Ashley said. We go to tournaments throughout the year, and these are similar to those, but on a much bigger scale.
Ashley thought the most challenging part of the world games was nervousness.
No matter how much you prepare, you get those nerves, he said. The anticipation can be overwhelming.
He said martial arts has enabled him to better deal with the stresses in everyday life.
Our style, Wu Ying Tao, is more than just kicks and punches, he said. There are emotional and mental concepts that come with each belt.
The Wu Ying Tao style emphasizes compassion, humility, respect and balance.
Additionally, Hoeft emphasized that he focuses on dedication and effort in his rather than the results of the game.
Its about effort, its not about winning or losing, he said. In martial arts, you compete against yourself. Its good practice for when theres chaos in school and life.
Its more than just a fighting style, he said. Theres chaos and obstacles in the ring, and there are the same things in life. Its made me a much more calm and confident person.
For Hoeft, the best part of coaching is seeing his students improve over time.
I get to watch that change, he said. My trophies are my students.