by Renshi Riaan Van Dyk

Floating around the tournament venue, attending seminars, talking with other instructors and competitors, visiting with old and new friends, watching and judging the young and upcoming karate competitors brought back some very good and precious memories for me at this years North American Sport Karate National and World Championship Tournament in Bloomington, MN. On several occasions I found myself reminiscing on the old days went I was just a youngster competing in all of the big tournaments. Traveling and competing in the big South African cities such as Cape Town, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Durban and Johannesburg was always a great experience. As a team we always looked forward to the team field trips organized for the couple of days before the big two or three day national tournaments. Outings to places like Table Mountain in Cape Town, the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, the Gold Refineries and Botanical Gardens in Bloemfontein and of course the Beach and Boardwalk Amusement Park in the coastal city of Durban. These were always fun but the thing we were always looking forward to was the tournaments. Watching all the various competitors warm up before competing I could feel myself getting the nervous jitters and sometimes that sick feeling that those jitters are responsible for, but I knew that just like me in those days all of those nerves and pressure to do well would disappear as soon as I hit the competition floor. I knew that several of, if not all of the Team VDK team members would be experiencing similar feelings before their big day. Team VDK competitors started off the tournament weekend taking part in the sparring seminar with Black Belt Lightweight Sparring World Champion Kevin Kswift Walker. And while the kids were working and sweating away with Kswift, their parents organized an outing for the group just to take their minds off of what was waiting for them in a few short hours. The team parents treated the kids to an awesome day at the world famous Mall of America. Spending time at the gigantic Lego-land, Nickelodeon Universe and the indoor theme park with roller-coasters and all was just what the kiddos needed to take their minds off of the the tournament and let off some steam. Friday evening kids went to bed early and Saturday morning it was all business as usual as Team VDK took to the floor in their various divisions.

One would think that one would lose track of a handful of competitors among 3,000 other hard competing competitors but the Team VDK competitors shined bright and stood out head and shoulders above the others. As their instructor I could not have been more proud nor could I have asked for better results. One value we try to instill in all of our students at Van Dyk’s Karate is that hard work has its rewards. The growth that these students have shown this past year has been phenomenal and the level of maturity and self-discipline they have developed while on their journey makes one very proud. I was so proud of these students as they competed and at times they did not do as well as they had hoped, but instead of hanging their heads and complaining or crying about it they showed great self-control and sportsmanship. They already made thr decision to get back in class and work harder and at the same time they congratulated fellow competitors on their wins and in the process developed lasting friendships. As their instructor, I know how these kiddos made me feel and I can only imagine how their parents and family members must have felt. Going to Nationals and have every team member placing in the Top 10 of every division they competed in is a great accomplishment.

Our youngest team member is Jordan Runkle and this youngster competes in the 6-7 Year Old Boys Intermediate Division. Jordan competed in a large group of 6 and 7 year old boys that was ready to compete. Even at this tender age these little guys came to show off their stuff. Every one of them brought their A-Game and competition was tough. Jordan competed well and was rewarded for his efforts. Jordan placed 3rd in Traditional Weapons, 6th in Open Hand Forms and 5th in Point Sparring. Jordan is still a very young competitors but we look forward to what the future holds for him.

Jenna Runkle who only started her karate training at the beginning of 2017 has shown tremendous growth over the course of this year and following a big boost after a Grand Champion Win in Neosho a couple of months ago Jenna decided that she was going to throw her hat into the ring and committed to competing at this years Nationals. Jenna competed in the 8-9 Girls Beginner Division and in her first nationals placed very well. Jenna placed 8th in a combined 8-9 Boys and Girls Beginner/Novice Traditional Weapons Division. She placed 5th in 8-9 Girls Beginner Form and 5th in 8-9 Girls Point Sparring. Jenna has showed so much growth and is looking forward to what she has to bring next year.

Jacey Swopes was a late, but welcome addition to Team VDK and was competing out of the Nevada Karate school of Sensei Annie Douglas Thorpe. Jacey started her training a couple of years ago and has had good success in her training and in competing. Jacey was the 2016 Missouri State and 2016 Oklahoma State Champion in all three of her disciplines for her age division.

Jacey was returning to nationals as defending National Champion. As expected Jacey competed like the tiger she is and laid it all out on the mat, but came up short this year in defending her title but still brought home some hard earned hardware. Jacey placed 6th in Traditional Weapons, 3rd in Open Hand Forms and 5th in Point Sparring in the 8-9 Girls Intermediate Division.

Mason Fast who had an exceptional 2016 Nationals by winning three national titles last year returned to defend those 2016 titles. Just like all of his team mates Mason put in lots of hard work this year building up to nationals and had a very successful 2017 but just came up short of that magic number three, but winning two National titles is better that winning none. Mason competed in the 10-11 Boys Intermediate Division and placed 1st in Traditional Weapons, 1st in Open Hand Forms and 3rd in Point Sparring. Keep working hard, don’t take it easy and stay the course Mason and big things will happen for you.

Taylin “TayTay” Oberly our own little YouTube sensation who with her fighting prowess just earned herself a corporate gear sponsorship from Elite Fighting Gear had a great national tournament. Tay who is not afraid of taking on any competitor in the ring or beats up on local MMA fighters made quite an impression on all of her judges and fellow competitors with her awesome sportsmanship placed well. During her sparring division Tay had everyone in the room standing and cheering for her. It was great seeing competitors of all ages and parents standing and chanting Taylin Taylin Taylin. In the divisional point fighting finals Tay and her opponent had such a great match that some are calling it the match of the day. But this time Taylin came up just short of the win but was gracious in her accepting of her second place trophy and actually said that it is her favorite. What a gal. Taylin who competed in the 10-11 Girls Intermediate Division placed 2nd in Traditional Weapons, 2nd in Open Hand Forms and 2nd in Point Sparring.

Hunter “The Sniper” Malensek Team VDK’s oldest and most senior team member has had a very successful tournament season. Winning multiple grand championships, national and state titles on various other circuits and earning an appointment to Team USA where he had a good showing at this years NASKA National Championships. Hunter is quite the fierce competitor and after his performances at nationals, competitors from all ranks all the way to black belt congratulated him on a job well done. Hunter is on a fast track to becoming a powerhouse and force to be reconed with. Hunter placed 1st in Traditional Weapons, 2nd in Open Hand Forms and 3rd in Point Sparring in the 12-13 Boys Intermediate Division.

We would like to thank everyone for their support and would like to give a special thank you to all of our sponsors. You helped make this return to Nationals possible. These sponsors are: Extrusions Inc. – Melissa Gallette – Travis Farran – HandR Block – Evans Pharmacy – Angela Neal Williams

El Dorado Springs Optimist Club – Mid Missouri Bank – Benny Brower

El Dorado Cycle – Fugate Motors – Burleigh and Doris Wheeler – Sonic of El Dorado Springs

Shannon and Associates – Dr. Jennifer Conley – Jeff and Shana Newman – Gentile Plumbing

Bland- Hackleman Funeral Home – Sensei Annie Thorpe – Norval Appliance – Randy Bland

Mitchell Vet – Housh Dentistry – Bear Arms – O’Reilly’s – Allison Quick Lube – Sac Osage Electric

Thank you to all of those who supported the team yard sale, the car wash, T-shirt sale, the online auction and all of those who purchased Sonic cards.