As karate makes Olympic debut, RGV masters show the art of the sport

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HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — With karate making its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games, Rio Grande Valley karate masters show the public the art within the sport.

The art of karate goes back thousands of years using unique techniques. 

The category Karate Kata is the art of practicing correct forms and postures during competition, whereas Karate Kumite uses techniques and sparing on opponents during the competition.

“Karate traditionally they train on an all-wood floor most of the time and there’s not a heavy emphasis on competition,” said Jeremiah Walker, Director of Rio Grande Valley Shotokan Karate Club. “The opposite is sports style karate which you have a variety of things. If you ever see Karate Kid all the colored uniforms and patches that is more of an open sports style system.”

Walker trains people across the Rio Grande Valley, teaching the skills he learned from competing. 

“Growing up in the 80s it was like what you would see in a Karate Kid movie. The padding was very limited we would wear cloth on our hands and feet,” said Walker.

Karate is finally on the main stage as an Olympic sport. However, the road to the Olympics was not easy. The call to make it a sport dates back to the 1970s and according to, the International Olympic Committee approved the event in 2015.

Walker himself also competed on the world stage. 

“I got to compete and try out for the WKA team we would drive and travel to Kentucky at the time it was myself and one other person I trained at. So, I believe for 1999-2000 we competed for the first time in Austria and the second time was in Marina di Massa Italy,” said Walker.

When training in the art of karate, you start off as a white belt, and through years of training the color changes. 

Grandmaster Juan Gonzales teaches a variety of martial arts inside his studio Johnny’s Korean Karate School.

Gonzales said there were not a lot of opportunities for people to learn any martial arts in the RGV.

“Here in the Valley, martial art schools were very scarce. One or two in the whole Valley back then. What I did was collected every book and article and learn from it as much as I could,” he said.

Both leaders said karate teaches you more than fighting forms. 

“It really gives people something to look up to. Whether you’re an adult or a child,” Walker said.

Gonzales added it is art, something that will never get old.

“A lot of learning constantly, you never stop,” he said.

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