Vail Valley karate school shines bright again
A local martial arts academy took 22 athletes to the world championships and won 20 world titles.James Lee’s School of Champions lived up to its name at last week’s 2010 United States Karate Alliance World Championships in Dallas.The tournament attracted top competitors from the United States, Mexico, Australia, Spain and Japan.”It only happens once a year and we were prepared,” Lee said.Along with those 20 world titles, James Lee’s School of Champions came back with 51 top-four finishes. Good stuff for a school in western Colorado.”I can’t brag about my students enough,” Lee said. “We’re highly respected around the globe from our students going to tournaments around the country and the world.”Competitors are broken out by belt ranking and other classifications, including age, competing in forms, weapons and four different kinds of sparring.Sparring is self-explanatory – competitors put pads on their hands, feet and heads and try to smack one another around, in a controlled karate kind of way. Forms are a little like that choreography you see in martial arts movies when everyone is making a predetermined set of actions.”They travel the country and they’re winning. They put a lot of commitment and dedication into their training,” Lee said.After Sebastian Witt, 7, won the forms in his division, he competed against all the youth forms winners from other divisions. The result was yet another world title.Witt is 4 feet tall, half the height of his trophy.Along with his world title, Keenan Collett, 8, is also a state champion in Colorado, New Mexico, California, Indiana, Arizona and Texas, Lee said proudly.Hunter Naill received the Young Patriot’s Award. Naill has won the national sparring title four years in a row.”One team member from our school gets that honor once a year,” Lee said of Naill winning his award. “It’s for outstanding character, skill and leadership in the dojo.”Lee showed his students how it’s supposed to be done. He won world titles in the black belt division in both forms and fighting.Of his six fights, he posted four shutouts, winning them all 5-0.Forms in the black belt division look a little like the winning end of a Jackie Chan movie. It also looks a little like that choreography you see in martial arts movies, only with a practical application.”You do the form with four other guys attacking you, so you can demonstrate how the form applies in a real life fight,” Lee said.In adult sparring, competitors wear protective equipment on their hands feet and head. You can punch or kick anywhere to thorax or head, you can foot sweep or take down your opponent.It’s much more controlled in the lower divisions, Lee said.As his students improve and move to higher divisions, they’re almost within a round kick of squaring off with their sensei.”I have students who started with me and now they’re competing in my division. One day they’ll beat me, but not yet,” Lee said.