Eagle’s Sebastian Witt racks up martial arts trophies, mulls Olympic dreams
September 14, 2016
EAGLE — Sebastian Witt knows how to pack a punch, as in an actual one.
So be advised that what the 14-year-old Eagle Valley Middle School eighth-grader lacks in stature, he more than makes up for in talent. He owns lots of trophies to prove it.
Sebastian, or Sebie as he is known to friends, family and competitors, has been studying martial arts at Eagle's James Lee Karate since he was 4 years old. Fighting, in a good way, has long been a big part of the Witt family dynamic. Sebie's brothers Ben and David and his dad, Paul, are also martial arts students.
"Ben, David and I all started at the same time and they quickly surpassed me," said Paul. "Then Sebie came along and surpassed me from Day 1."
Paul is in good company. In this year's U.S. Karate Alliance World Championships in Phoenix, Sebie competed in the 12- and13-year-old advanced class and took the top prize in four of the five events he entered. He placed second in the one event he didn't win.
His success didn't stop there. As the winner of his age division, Sebie went on to compete against all the other division champions for the Grand Champion weapons crown. Sebie proceeded to beat out all other weapons class winners age 17 and younger.
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"They were all very good competitors, very focused," said Sebie.
"It is incredibly hard to do that (win the Grand Championship) at Sebie's age," said James Lee. "There are a lot of skilled competitors out there."
Then to top off his tournament, Sebie was recognized as the James Hawks Spirit of Competition winner. The honor is awarded by a vote of all the black belt holders at the event and it is given to a single competitor in recognition of his or her outstanding efforts.
Sebie has been named to the U.S. Karate Alliance Junior National Team. The team members set national point standings benchmarks for students from schools around the country and they get to wear cool warm-up jackets when they arrive at tournaments. They are the competitors to watch and their names on the short list for the next karate evolution, one that's looming four years from now.
By all measures, Sebie is a rising star in the world of martial arts and timing definitely seems to be on his side. At the 2020 Olympic games, karate will make its debut.
"Now that karate is in the Olympics, I am definitely looking at it," said Sebie, "It doesn't seem impossible. I would just have to commit myself completely — no football, no other sports."
That's a tough decision for any kid to make, but those who know Sebie best believe he has a legitimate shot.
"We compete against a lot of the organizations and schools that would be the prospects for the Olympics," said Lee. He noted Sebie has won his division at many of those tournaments and if he decides to make an Olympic run, he would be a serious contender. "The journey on the way to that would be incredible," said Lee.
"Sebie is the type of student who has great work ethic and positive attitude. He always, always, always does his best," Lee added. "He has a lot of great body control and he is very smart."
Sebie's mom, Mary Witt, has watched all three sons compete for more than a decade. While all of the Witt boys have been successful martial arts athletes, she agreed Sebie's biggest strength is his mental game.
"Sebie is just more focused, that's just his personality," she said.
While Paul and Mary are, of course, the charter members of Sebie's fan club, they are also the people who have watched pretty much every fight he has ever fought. And they can testify to one of the most remarkable parts of his success — with few, if any exceptions, Sebie has been the smaller kid on the mat.
"It's nerve-racking. It's hard to watch, especially when the other kid is twice his size," said Mary.
"Watching your kid fight is probably the most difficult thing you will ever do, and it's also the most exciting thing to watch," said Paul.
Live to fight
As for Sebie, he doesn't let size faze him.
"They (his opponents) are not faster or stronger, but a lot of the time they are bigger," he said. "All of the time people will let their guard down and I just have to be smarter."
While he has been successful in all martial arts disciplines — forms, weapons and sparring — Sebie said sparring is his favorite.
"I hope to get my full, adult, black belt by the time I am 18," he said.
With that goal on the horizon, along with his Olympic aspirations, Witt knows he will spend hours and hours in the gym.
"The toughest part is to keep yourself going when you aren't progressing as much as you want to," he said. "But the think I have taken away from this the most is never give up. We say that at the end of ever class and at every tournament. Never give up."