Suffolk natives medal at Commonwealth GamesPublished 8:36pm Saturday, August 4, 2012
By Titus Mohler
Jeff Bateman’s Academy of Martial Arts in Hampton sent nine people to the 2012 Subway Commonwealth Games of Virginia in Roanoke last week, including three from Suffolk, and all came away with medals.
Instructors Jeff Bateman and Brandon Kolipano participated along with seven students ranging in age from 7 to 12, and the nine of them brought home a total of 22 medals.
“And a lot of them were new kids who had never been to a tournament before and then some of the kids who (were) there in the past,” Bateman said. “It’s pretty exciting for new people who had never seen (anything) like that, even the parents and all.”
While Bateman felt that the size of the event was somewhat diminished, perhaps due to the economy, there was still a strong turnout of more 100 competitors.
The three team members from Suffolk all had the same last name. Brandon Kolipano’s 9-year-old niece, Dorhett, and his 7-year-old nephew, Shandan, helped their uncle represent Bateman’s school. Kolipano has had a long association with Bateman.
“He’s been with me since 1984,” Bateman said. “(He and the kids) come from Suffolk every week. They come two and three days every week to train with me.”
For the last three or four years, Dorhett has trained at the Academy and learned kata, which are exercises that consist of several of the specific movements of a martial art and kumite which refers to freestyle sparring or fighting. She also takes a special class from Bateman just to learn weapons.
“So, when she went to the tournament, she got to compete in three events,” Bateman said. “One event was for the weapons, one event was the kata without weapons, and then the other event was the fighting, the kumite part.”
She had competed at these same state games before, but Bateman was especially concerned about her this time.
“What I was worried about her,” he said, “was her competing again because when they do the weapons and they do what they call opening kata, they have to compete with boys also.”
Bateman came up with an idea to help her face this new challenge.
“What I did was, about a week before the tournament, I had taught her something new, a new kata to do,” Bateman said.
The result after only a week’s training: a bronze medal in the open hand kata event.
“So, that was kind of amazing for her to be able to pick something up more advanced than she’s used to and then do so well with it,” Bateman said. “I was pretty impressed. I was proud of her that she did so well.”
Dorhett brought home the gold in her kumite event and another bronze in her weapons competition.
Kolipano took nephew Shandan to this same competition last year for the first time.
“He didn’t expect for (him) to do well at all because he was brand new at it,” Bateman explained. “(But) he competed and he won (a) gold medal last year. It kind of pumped him up.”
This year, Shandan faced stiffer competition in the older age division, but still earned a bronze in the kumite event.
The elder Kolipano won gold in the weapons kata event, silver in open hand kata, and silver in kumite.
Bateman has begun to feel his age after nine knee surgeries over the course of his career, but he still delivered a superior performance.
“I’ve been to tournaments before and I go every year. And this year, I competed for my last year,” he said. “I wanted to go and compete just to see (if) I could do it again, and I won gold medal again.”
Anyone finishing in the top three of an event at the Commonwealth Games qualified to compete in the 2013 State Games of America in Hershey-Harrisburg, Pa.
This means that the Kolipanos, Bateman, and the other five team members have earned the opportunity to take the national stage next summer.