Patel earns Hall of Fame karate award

Published 12:01 am Friday, August 1, 2014

0801 spt-Taj Patel

Taj Patel was named the 2014 IHOF Young Male Competitor of the Year. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Winning top awards in Isshinryu Karate isn’t anything new to Taj Patel.

Patel, 9, was named the 2014 IHOF Young Male Competitor of the Year during the 25th annual Isshinryu Hall of Fame Banquet last weekend in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

This marks the second year in a row that Patel was selected as a finalist for two IHOF awards — the Young Male Karate-ka of the Year and Young Male Competitor of the Year.

“It felt nice to win that award,” Patel said.

Patel won the award based on his competition record for the last year. He has competed in 15 tournaments over a six-state area, including Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee, and won 26 first-place finishes out of a total of 45 divisions entered.

The past year’s highlights include placing first and being awarded a state champion certificate at the Mississippi State Games for Karate Forms; being named the Andalusia Isshinryu Karate “Student of the Year 2013”; being crowned the USYKA Youth Brown Belt Champion in 2013; and being named the International Karate Circuit “Outstanding Competitor of the Year” for 2013.

Taj’s father, Neil, said he was a little nervous at the banquet prior to his son being named for his most recent award.

“When he won, I felt good as a father to be there at that moment when he won,” Neil said. “It’s not just a U.S. honor, it goes all the way to Canada and other parts of the country.”

The IHOF banquet is held each year to recognize Isshinryu practitioners for their contribution to the art and for accomplishments in different areas of karate. The nominations for awards are sent in worldwide, and are reviewed by the IHOF Board. Finalists are selected in each award category.

Neil said his son brings his “A game” when it comes to competing in tournaments.

“Sometimes at practice he will do things and he’ll look totally different at tournaments,” he said. “I don’t know how he (Taj) does it.”

Taj said he takes it light before tournaments and makes sure he gets a good night’s rest.

“And I don’t eat too much,” he said.

The IHOF is also host to the largest closed Isshinryu tournament held worldwide and attracts top competitors from all over North America, and from as far away as Okinawa, where Isshinryu originated.

Patel represented Andalusia Isshinryu Karate in this year’s tournament and earned a first-place finish in youth brown and black belt kata, and a second-place finish in youth brown and black belt weapons.

Neil gave credit to his son’s instructor, Mark Rudd, for teaching him ways to succeed in the craft.

“It’s another thing for a dojo to win awards like that, but for one dojo to win awards other than that in such a small time period is a good thing,” Neil said.

While it may have been all about karate for the Patels, they did make it to a local theme park for some fun.

Taj said he particularly enjoyed the ice cream while touring the Mayfield facility.

Taj is an honor student at Straughn Elementary School, and he is the son of Binita and Neil Patel.