RALEIGH — An 8-year-old Pilot Mountain boy was among the area competitors in the 2017 AAU National Karate Championship held in Raleigh on June 29.
Competing for his first time at the nationals in the Novice Division was Nate Jones, son of Jon and Brandy Jones of Pilot Mountain. He did well at the 2017 AAU N.C. State and Regional Championships with several gold and silver medals.
Zeb Mathis, son of John and Holly Mathis, earned the title of “National Champion” for the second time at the nationals. More than 1,500 of the top AAU karate practitioners from all over the United States gathered to compete on the day.
This was Zeb’s second time competing at the Nationals and he earned a Gold Medal in Weapons Kata with over twenty competitors in the ten year old intermediate division earning the title of “National Champion”. “He had some tough competition in Empty Hand Kata and Kumite (sparring) and made it through several rounds before being eliminated,” his instructor, Sensei Steven 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.
As for Jones, Hewett said, “He had some tough competition at the nationals and was only beat out by 1/10 of a point in the medal rounds, placing fourth in both Empty Hand and Weapons Kata. 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.”
Sensei Hewett competed as well after being absent from competition for several years.
He placed in the senior division, 55 and older. He returned with 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 in King under the instruction of Sensei Steven 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 titles 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.
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.