Five athletes from Focus Martial Arts in Lake in the Hills medaled at the World Karate Championships from May 9 to 11 in Melbourne, Australia.
The five competed as members of the U.S. National Team comprised of 65 athletes from across the country.
Lindsey Willis, from Algonquin, took firsts in kata and kumite in the 12- to 13-year-old division. In kumite, she competed in the 50+ kilogram weight division.
Kata, or forms, is where competitors perform skill routines, and kumite is fighting or sparring.
Willis said it was fun interacting with athletes from all over the world. Not surprisingly, they talked about how much they practice.
"We had dinner with the Australian team and talked about how different their training was than us," Willis said. "They train a little less than us. I know a lot of them did other sports."
Suzanne Willis, Lindsey's mother, said the camaraderie with the other countries spread into the stands.
“Every country had their own little cheer they would do,” Suzanne Willis said. “We would battle back and forth. That made it exciting.”
Karate has made Willis a little more outgoing. She first started karate when she was four and still enjoys the sport
"It has helped me a lot with how shy I was," Willis said. "You have to yell in certain places in your kata."
Willis said her favorite is kata and she likes performing and learning new routines because it brings together everything she has learned.
"You put all your basics together in a routine. A lot of it is about how your present yourself and your attitude."
Also in the 12 and 13 division, Rebecca Fishman was first in kumite in the 45-kilogram weight division and third in kata.
In the cadet division, Jamie Allare took firsts in the kata and kumite in the 14 and 15 division. Kelly Arredia was third in the 14 and 15 female division in the kata and Zach Harr was third in the kata in the 16 and 17 division.
Fishman competed in the worlds last year in Italy. Competing in English-speaking Australia made it easier for the kids to understand the officials, her father Jack said.
"We’ve been to world championships before, but Australia was a completely different experience," Jack Fishman said. "The whole language issue made it more comfortable for the kids."
Jack Fishman said karate has given his daughter confidence, courage and independence.
"It’s been an amazing transformation. It’s changed her tremendously," he said. "She knows what hard work does in paying off."
The kids have worked hard, but a lot of the credit goes to Focus owner Jim O'Hara and head coach Ciprian Socaciu, Jack Fishman said. O'Hara is also the head coach of the AAU/USA national team.
"Focus should be very proud of themselves," Jack Fishman said. "The coach and the sensei over there really did a good job of getting the kids ready for this tournament."
• Rob Smith is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.