Karate students win at games
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Jeremy Hall had been there before. Pebbles Cross was there for the first time. Susan Bateman, Diana Jones and Brenda Peters were there for each other.
They and more than 20 other members of Jeff Bateman's School of Karate represented Suffolk in the 16th annual Virginia Commonwealth Games last weekend in Roanoke.
"(The event) was small at first," said Jeff, who's sent a team every year the Games were held. "Now they have thousands of participants. We had one of the largest groups there."
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On Friday evening, all the competitors marched into the Roanoke Civic Center for the opening ceremonies. Then Bateman and Hall, Bateman's stepson, went up on a stage to perform a quick demonstration.
A light hit Bateman, and he went into a bo stick routine. Then Hall and another classmate did a little play-kumite (fighting).
"I was thinking about what the crowd wanted to see," said Hall, a second-degree black belt in his eighth year of Commonwealth competition. "I did some jump-spinning kicks, twists and turns to look good for the crowd."
The next day, the battles began. Hall, competing against other under-18 black belts, racked up bronzes in kumite and weapons and a silver in forms. Then he decided to try something new.
"I'd done breaking a couple of times for fun, but never in competition before," he said.
Hall tensed himself up, then slammed his fist and elbow into three pinewood boards. Then he smashed his hand into a stack of four boards, breaking three. It was good enough for his only gold medal of the year.
While Hall had brought home several prizes in the past, Cross was picking up her bo stick for her inaugural competitive performance.
"I tried to focus on my stance," said the Forest Glen Middle School student. "I worked on handling the stick and not letting the judges see my mistakes."
It worked; she got the top spot and moved on to forms.
"I was less nervous there," she said. "I knew it pretty well. (When I got finished), the judges and everyone else were clapping."
That's because she'd just won her second gold n and there was only kumite left. Because no other orange belt girls in Cross' age group were there, she had to battle a more experienced blue belted competitor.
"She came charging at me, but her arms were at her sides, and that gave me an opportunity to kick her," Cross said. "She looked shocked, and her hands were out to the side, so I kicked her again. I did whatever I could."
She did enough; the 12-year-old scored a gold sweep in just her first year of competition. Fellow Bateman students Virginia Bragg and Wayne Chellis also got tops in all their events.
Meanwhile, Susan, Peters and Jones put the final touches on a team routine they'd learned from Jeff's mentor, world-renowned instructor Tadashi Yamashita. For the past four months, the threesome had worked twice a week on a two-minute routine of forms and sai (a three-pronged weapon) demonstrations.
"I had a fear of either turning the wrong way or dropping the sai," said Peters.
The team stepped forward, and went through their event for the five judges, all black belts. A few minutes later, they'd racked up three scores of 9.9 (the maximum score) and two of 9.8.
"I was nervous to begin with," Jones said. "But I was happy that we did it."
They'd have to do so again; the team ended up knotted with another squad.
"It was more intense the second time," Peters said. "I was beaming ear to ear when we finished."
She had reason n this time, the ladies had scored five 9.9s and a gold medal. It was Susan's only prize of the year; Jones and Peters each got golds in weapons and forms and silvers in kumite.
"We proved that it wasn't a fluke, since the second time was as good as the first," Susan said. "I'm already planning next year!"
In totality, Bateman's students brought home 61 medals in the event; 32 gold, 15 silver and 14 bronze.