AIK finishes strong in Tennessee; Patel closes youth karate career

Published 11:00 am Thursday, March 2, 2023

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Andalusia Isshinryu members competed in the 2023 Bryan College Open Karate Tournament held in Dayton, Tennessee, on Saturday, Feb. 18.

The tourney, which is an IIKA-sanctioned event, attracted 160 competitors from several different styles of martial arts. “All of these students looked really good this past weekend. This was their first tournament of 2023, and though a small group, they represented our dojo and Andalusia well displaying great skill, outstanding sportsmanship, and respectful attitude,” Coach Mark Rudd said.

AIK students made a strong showing with black belt Taj Patel leading the way with first-place finishes in black belt weapons, kata, and fighting. He also won the Youth Grand Champion, earning the victory over all youth weapons and kata winners from other divisions.

“I’m grateful to have had the opportunity of participating in karate tournaments because I have been allowed to participate wholly in something I have enjoyed doing. I’ve been doing karate for 13 years now, and it’s become my sport,” Patel said.

The competition was Patel’s last youth tournament due to his upcoming 18th birthday. “Closing out my youth career means a lot to me. Knowing that everything is changing now and that my youth career has come to an end is very sentimental,” he said.

His next competition will be in adult divisions.

“One of the major ways my youth karate experience has prepared me for the future is that it has taught me how to stay focused on my goals. If I stay focused on my goals, I will achieve said goals. I look forward to competing as an adult in the future because it will allow me to compete against the people I have idolized and looked up to for years,” Patel said.

Rooker placed second behind Patel in black belt weapons, kata, and fighting. Johnathan Rudd won first place in brown belt weapons and brown belt fighting. Lane Cook competed in the beginners’ division and placed fourth in kata.

“Taj has been a dominant player throughout his teenage years, so to win everything at his last tourney as a youth was special. It was a passing of the torch of sorts, as his teammate and younger black belt Nathan Rooker was right behind him,” Rudd added.

Andalusia black belt Camille Holley, who is a graduate student at Bryan College and competes on the Bryan College competition team, won first place in women’s black belt weapons, kata, and fighting. She won the women’s black belt Grand Championship in fighting.

Andalusia Isshinryu offers classes for all ages in Okinawan Isshinryu. For class information call or text 334-488-3104.

“We will be seeing more of our students in action soon and are gearing up for the 24th Annual South Alabama Karate Open to be held at Straughn High School on June 10,” Rudd said.