RALEIGH — It was a perfect ending to a brief storybook tale.
Local karate instructor Emad Aly had been agonizing over a difficult choice while leading a small-town team on a Hoosiers-like run to state and national honors.
“My father passed away two years ago,” Aly said Monday. Now his mother is 75 and in poor health. She wants her son to return home to be by her side.
“For six years I have been teaching my students to respect their parents, take care of their parents,” he said. How could he say no to his own mother?
The owner and sensei of SideKick Karate informed his students and their parents that he would be closing down his dojo to move away, but first they had a national AAU championship to complete.
In April, the dojo earned several state medals. Then it was on to the super regionals in Charlotte on May 2.
The students who participated there were Mario Hernandez, Benjamin Delacruz, Avery Brintle, Jessi Delacruz, Josh Boyd, Samuel Martin, Ashlee Coad and Ryan Swanson. Top honors by Swanson and Coad and the performance of the team qualified them for the national tournament June 30-July 5 in the Raleigh Convention Center.
There were about 5,000 people in the center with 10 mats going at once. For the gold-medal matches, there were four mats going at the same time. With six kids competing on July 2, Aly said he was motoring from one spot to the next to keep up with them.
When the dust settled, SideKick had earned three gold medals and two bronze, all in the kumite category (sparring).
Ashlee Coad competed in the intermediate category for 11-and-under and won the gold, just like he did at the state and super regional levels, Aly said. At the super regional, Ashlee also competed in kata (displaying form) and won the gold there.
Ryan Swanson competed in the 11U novice category and won gold.
Eight-year-old beginner Jessi Delacruz was a pleasant surprise, earning gold in 8U’s beginner division.
Another beginner, Samuel Martin, took home bronze in the 9U category, while fellow 9-year-old Avery Brintle took bronze in the next level up, novice division.
Benjamin Delacruz had good participation in the 10U category, but didn’t medal.
Coad’s string of wins includes state and regional championships in 2013, state champion honors this year and the super regional victory which followed an earlier match against a larger opponent. Aly said part of Swanson and Coad’s training included them participating in the dojo’s “Tiger class” which consists of upper-level ranked opponents.
When they hear that the dojo is closing, people might think it is because there aren’t enough kids interested in this area, but that’s not been the case, said Aly. He said he has had good participation from kids ranging from two and a half years old up to an 18-year-old that has been with him for years.
And the showing at the nationals last week has resulted in a few new inquiries that could grow the school more, he said. That makes it even harder to close the doors.
Aly, who is a fifth-degree blackbelt, said his family is back in Egypt.
He said he came to the U.S. to compete in an international karate tournament in New York City 14 years ago at the age of 23.
He won his class, and several people in attendance took note of him. He had offers to stay in the U.S. and train, and he decided he would give it a try.
Later, he would win a state championship in New York, then later he won national tournaments.
Six years ago, he started a dojo here to give back to the martial arts community.
On Monday, he and the parents held a pizza party to both celebrate the national tournament and to say good-bye to their sensei.
At one point, he turned away from the group to wipe a tear from his cheek.
After six years, it is hard to walk away from his students, especially when he has seen how hard they have worked and how much they have learned.
Aly said he might return to the U.S. in a year or two, but for now he must return to Egypt.
Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.