Wellesley’s Shotokan Karate Club is one of the newest and smallest additions to the North American Collegiate Karate Conference (NACKC), yet the team is already scoring top spots at their annual tournament.
The group trains in collaboration with sister clubs at Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University and Tufts University under the leadership of Sensei Kazumi Tabata. Tabata learned directly from the founder of Shotokan Karate and head instructor Vazrik Chiloyan, who has been learning and teaching under Sensei Tabata for the last ten years. This newly recognized club, now one of three martial arts organizations on campus alongside Wellesley Wushu and the Taekwondo Club, creates opportunities for students to not only explore their passion for karate while on campus, but to strengthen body and mind with Shotokan Karate’s unique combination of art and athleticism.
Following their accomplishments at the Brown University Fall 2018 Tournament and the University of Connecticut Husky Cup Tournament, students involved in Wellesley’s Shotokan Karate Club have worked hard and placed high in the annual NACKC tournament on Saturday April 13, hosted at Boston University.
Six Wellesley students, competing as a team, won the title of Kata Champion (choreography/forms) and ranked third place overall out of eleven colleges. Despite competing against much larger and older clubs, the team was extremely successful and showed outstanding karate spirit. Gaining even more victories at different divisions, the unit team of Amy Liu ’22, Mona Peng ’22 and Ayusha Ariana ’22 won first and second place for kata and kumite (free sparring) respectively in the Beginner Division, while Stacey Kim ’19, Hanamei Shao ’21 and Ann Xu ’22 won second place for both events at the Intermediate Division, and Wellesley’s beloved alumna Amandine Fromont ’17 won first and third place in the Advanced Division.
When asked about how they felt about their tournament results, Fromont, who largely acts as a mentor to the club, expressed that “with barely six months of training under [their] belts, this is truly an impressive feat…” Wellesley students were a judge favorite, and the club’s “hard work, dedication and karate spirit were visible to everyone at the tournament.” Ariana commented that it was a “fun, valuable learning experience, acting as a stepping stone to better our karate.” Xu connected Ariana’s sentiment by remarking how she was able to learn from watching others as well, and that the tournament was an “insightful experience,” that reminded her to “focus on [her] own karate while also learning as much as possible from others.” Liu said, “I was happy … because I got to see how much I improved, and how much more room I have to grow,” a sentiment echoed by all the members of the club, as Peng adds that it helped her realize “how much we’ve has grown since the days we didn’t know how to tie a belt.” Shao enthusiastically concluded, saying, “I had so much fun being able to meet other karate students and working hard to represent Wellesley!”
Shotokan Karate –– a Japanese style of martial arts –– is the most widely practiced form of karate (and is also considered one of the most traditional and influential). The main philosophy behind this form of karate is not only to strive to attain utter balance and mastery of the body, but also to improve the individual by prioritizing principles of humility, respect, compassion, patience and self-discipline. Kim describes karate to be “a surprisingly thoughtful and graceful art form,” teaching her “how to generate mass quantities of power and speed with the ultimate precision.” Stacey includes that karate helps her de-stress and meet new friends, and Ann agrees. She says that through karate, she has met people who push her to always try her best, all while having “countless memories of all the funny times in our dance studio-turned-dojo.” From comical anecdotes during practices that include Ayusha’s relieved sigh of ‘punching makes me feel alive,’ and Mona’s iconic “it be like that sometimes,” Amy recalls that the club ‘laughs, eats and gets tired together,’ and that her teammates make her want to ‘train harder.’
In the past, only a few Wellesley students have gotten involved in karate by training at other college campuses. Starting this year, the club is proud to host practices on-campus every Tuesday and Saturday evening in the Keohane Sports Center (KSC) under the instruction of Vazrik Chiloyan. While at practice, the team endeavours to progress in their individual karate journeys. Working on their karate in tandem with their inner selves, the club forms a strong bond as a team and a family that anyone is welcome to join.