RALEIGH — At the age of 8, Mount Airy karate student Nate Jones found himself on a national stage for the first time.
If not for a mere tenth of a point, he would have not only shined in his debut, he would have also walked out with a medal.
The son of Jon and Brandy Jones qualified for the Nationals for the first time in his karate career after becoming a double gold medalist at the AAU Super Regionals in Apex on May 20. This year’s AAU National Karate Championship was also held in North Carolina, at the Raleigh Convention Center, on June 29. Nate, whose gold medals in Empty-hand Kata and Weapons Kata at the super regional qualified him to compete for the national championship, competed in the 8 year-old Novice Division.
He missed the bronze medal by a tenth of a point in both disciplines, placing fourth in the nation in both.
“He had some tough competition at the nationals and was only beat out by 1/10 of a point in the medal rounds placing 4th in both Empty-hand and Weapons Kata,” said Sensei Steven Hewett, his instructor from Japan Shudokan Budo-Kai Karate School in King. “This means we just train harder and stronger for next year’s competition, going back armed with more knowledge and skills. As I tell all my students, you can’t expect to win or place in the medal round all the time, but as long as you tried your best that day, that’s what counts. Nate has a heart of a warrior and he keeps coming back for more!”
Joining Jones at the National Championships was another student from Hewett’s dojo, Zeb Mathis, son of John and Holly Mathis of King. Zeb, 10, had already won a national title two years ago, and claimed his second in Raleigh. He earned the gold medal in Weapons Kata against more than 20 competitors from around the country in the 10 year-old Intermediate Division.
“He had some tough competition in Empty-hand Kata and Kumite (sparring) and made it through several rounds before being eliminated,” Hewett stated.
Zeb competes at the National and International level, hoping to make the AAU Jr. National team once he’s old enough. His titles include 2015 AAU National and Jr. Olympic Champion as well as 2016 Silver Medalist and 2017 Bronze Medalist at the Ozawa Cup International Karate Championship.
Over 1,500 of the top AAU Karate competitors from all over the United States gathered to compete for national titles in Raleigh.
Sensei Hewett competed as well after being absent from competition for several years. He placed in the 55-and-older senior division. His return to competition earned him two silver medals, one in Empty-hand Kata and the other in Weapons Kata, finishing up with a bronze medal in Kumite (sparring). Earlier in the year, Hewett achieved a gold medal in Kata and a bronze in Kumite (sparring) at the 2017 Ozawa Cup International Karate Championship.
“It’s always good for your students to see their instructor compete at the local, national and international level to let them know that it’s not just about ‘talking the talk but walking the walk’ setting an example for them to follow,” Hewett said.
Sensei Hewett also participated for the first time in judging competitors on the National level during the following days of the competition. Judges and referees go through strict training of the rules both in meetings and practical application. There are several classes of judge and referee licensing for both national and international events. Hewett hopes to one day judge at the World Class games.
All athletes train at Japan Shudokan Budo-Kai Karate School under the instruction of Sensei Hewett. The karate school is the only AAU Karate training facility in Stokes County and the surrounding area. Sensei Hewett has also had several other students earn national tiles at previous AAU National Karate Championships. Hewett also stated that all of his students and competitors did an awesome job of presenting their skills, hard work and putting in the many hours of practice, which paid off. The school will now look to 2018 with new knowledge and experiences to make them the best they can be.
You can learn more about AAU Karate and Japan Shudokan Budo-Kai Karate School on Facebook or the dojo’s website at www.jskd.us and follow the athletes through state, regional and national competitions.