MORGANTOWN — Three area martial arts experts are preparing for a national competition in Nevada next month.
Rylee Jones, Salam Rajjoub and Landen Wood practice at the USA Martial Arts of Morgantown, a new facility that offers classes for ages 3 and up.
Chris Wood, Shihan of the USA Martial Arts of Morgantown, has been training and preparing these three students for the USA National Championships & Team Trials.
The competition will be held July 12-15, in Reno, Nev., and will focus on the martial art of karate.
Chris said that not only is the sport of karate important in the competition, but the energy brought into the ring is also something judges pay attention to and he stresses to his students.
“The sport of our training is only part of our training. We teach traditional martial arts to build character. They learn self-defense, and the sport is an important part of that; and that’s a way the kids develop confidence and how to carry themselves under stressful situations,” Chris said.
Rylee Jones, one of the students preparing for the competition, said what she likes about competition the most is called kata, which allows for choreographed movements. She said it allows for more creative freedom. Another part of what she looks forward to is using wet mittens, the gloves used for karate.
“My favorite part of the competition is doing kata and doing wet mittens because there is more creativity,” Rylee said. “I like going and traveling and competing against other people. … I make new friends and call family.”
Chris enjoys watching each student grow, and with the facility being new, he said he started a lot of students from the beginning and watched how they developed.
“It’s been a new experience here — you can start them on day one and see how they change, how they develop, and the feedback from the parents is always wonderful,” Chris said.
Chris looks forward to the growth each student will show in the national competition.
“As opening a new school, this is our first national competition team out of the program,” Chris said. “The growth and getting these kids to shine — no matter the medal or not, if they do everything they’ve worked on, then that’s the win.”
Landen Wood will be in the nationals for the third time, and he described the atmosphere as “intense” and “fun.”
“It feels good when you win and then you get out of the ring. … You feel relieved, and there’s not as much pressure,” Landen said.
Landen said going to a national competition helps with growth and learning the techniques and improving upon them, even if the match ends up being a loss.
“If you lose, you take that back to your dojo and work on that, so you can prevent that from happening next year when you go to nationals,” Landen said.
Chris — who is also Landen’s father — said it’s been tough instructing his son, but he taught him a “pay-it-forward” attitude that encourages him, along with other students, to help the younger classes learn.
“We’ve come a very long way,” Chris said. “Trying to be a dad, a sensei and a coach all in one was a very hard thing, but he worked hard on listening, and he’s doing much better. Watching him grow and mature is a wonderful thing.”
Landen sees having his dad instruct him in martial arts as a positive.
“He pushes me harder. It’s a whole lot tougher,” Landen said. “We do certain codes for different techniques — you just have to apply that. It just helps all around having him as my coach and as my father.”
Chris said the students train five to six days a week. He added that the sport of karate was included in the 2020 Olympic games. His mind set is to train the youth and develop their skills to hopefully one day advance them enough for a spot in the Games.
Rajjoub is also preparing for nationals. She said she is excited to learn from others at the competition.
Salam said she developed a love for karate when a friend asked her to join. She said it is an outlet for her to start gaining self-confidence.
“This is my first year going to nationals, and I really want to do well, even if I don’t get gold,” Salam said. “I want to believe in myself.”
Salam encourages others to go out and do what you love, even if it can be scary.
“If you have something that you love but you’re too scared to do, always try it out because you can always get confidence from that and be happy,” Salam said. “Try something new and learn more from it.”