3 USA Martial Arts students place at national championships

MORGANTOWN — USA Martial Arts of Morgantown had three students place in the USA National Championships & Team Trials.

The karate competition was held July 12-15 in Reno, Nev.

Landen Wood earned silver in Kumite, which is sparring. Rylee Jones earned bronze in short weapons. Salam Rajjoub also earned a bronze medal in long weapons.

The week leading up to July 12 was nerve-racking, said Landen Wood.

Their Shihan (instructor) at the dojo — and his father — Chris Wood had them working harder as the competition week neared

“The whole week before is all stress, and then it’s a whole lot harder because he’s pushing us more and more to get better,” Landen said. “Just thinking about flying and all of that stuff is just crazy.”

Landen said he was shocked and relieved to see that he earned silver, this being the second year he did so.

Rylee said, “What I learned most was concentration. There’s a lot of stuff that when you do come back here to the dojo to focus more on and work more on to make it better for our other competitions.

“Now that we’re back in the dojo we can experience all of these new weapons,” she said. “We learn how to defend ourselves with these weapons and that’s something cool.”

Salam said this was her first national competition.

“I experienced a lot of hard work and I saw a lot of people competing and I learned a lot from them,” Salam said. “Even if you lose, there’s always next time. You never have to be a bad sport because in this competition that happened — and I had to learn that I don’t always win — you have to try.”

Salam said going to nationals gave her the opportunity to learn from other students as well as gain more confidence while staying humble, which is something Chris Wood teaches the students.

Chris also keeps the students moving forward, saying it is “one goal at a time and once that goal is over, there’s no looking back at it.”

Chris said that all three of his students performed well at nationals.

“All three kids excelled. Everybody met expectations, everybody did a great job. Obviously we want to come home with some medals but it’s more about the experience and what they learned,” Chris said.

“They had fantastic attitudes; they came back, they want to learn, they want to improve, just like they have every other competition that we came through.”

Chris is already preparing his students for a tournament in November at their headquarters in St. Albans, Kanawha County. He is also having his students work toward competing in a series of national competitions across six regions of the country.

He said there will be a competition every two months, with the last held in Pittsburgh. His goal is to make at least three of the six competitions.

Landen said the competition on Labor Day weekend in Indiana will require hard work but he is striving to earn two more silver medals.

“It’s going to be a tough weekend — it’s not going to be pleasant but hopefully I can come out with at least two silvers,” Landen said. “I think about what you can get out of it the next day and what you can take back to your dojo, work on and make it better. Or if you win, as our main instructor says: ‘Do better next time.’”

Chris said, “We try to make sure to keep them as grounded as possible. They’re excellent kids and they excel, they do very well. There’s an old quote that says ‘martial arts begins and ends with respect,’ so we try to make sure that stays in everything we do.”

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