Submitted by the Winsted Karate Club
In an age of millionaire amateur athletes, public displays of outrageous behavior and greed, one wonders where to find a true sports hero.
Surprising to some, the answer is right here in our local community Louis Stifter, member of the 1997 U.S. Shotokan Karate team, which just this month placed second in the World Championships held in Riverside, Calif.
Twenty-four countries participated in the international competition individually and in teams for both kata (forms) and kumite (fighting). The U.S. five-man kumite team beat Canada, Czechoslovakia, and Sweden, last year's world champion, before facing the dominant Germans. With Stifter as lead man, the U.S. started with a win but the Germans still took the day with a score of 3 - 2. Stifter and his teammates, the first U.S. team to make the finals and to place in the world championships, were elated and left the Germans more than mildly surprised.
Stifter began training 14 years ago as a teenager at Winsted Karate Club, instructed first by Al Morland and then by Dr. James Neff. The "empty hand" martial art, with its history, self-discipline, respect and tremendous power, was an immediate match for Louis who had "bigger" brothers and experience with school bullies. An extra-curricular sports activity very quickly became, and remains, a way for life for him.
In 1988, Stifter became chief instructor for the Winsted Karate Club. Dr. Neff stayed with the club as director, as well as mentor and friend to Louie who was emerging as a national competitor.
Stifter trained with local instructors, at the American Shotokan Karate Federation headquarters at Brookings, S.D. under its director, Richard Gould, a seventh degree black belt, and across the country with such instructors as Ray Dalke from California and Les Safar from New Jersey.
The hard work culminated in Louie winning his first AJKA National Championship in 1992. The next step was international competition. From 1993 to 1997, Stifter has been a member of the U.S. team traveling to England, Germany, and, this year, to California. He also maintained a spot as one of the top three competitors in the national tournaments.
Like champions of yore, Stifter's rise to glory was marked with the obstacles of daily life and with the corresponding attributes of driving energy and endurance.
There were no endorsements from Nike or sponsors to aid in his training or travels. Nor did he have regular access to top competitors to sharpen his training and skill. But train he did, and does, with anybody and everybody from nine to 50 years old, five to six times a week; as well as lifting weights three to four times a week and participating in seasonal fitness activities. Not to be forgotten is the homemade maki-wari board in his basement.
In addition to his own training, Stifter teaches and inspires at the Winsted Karate Club and devotes time to fund raising for the club and himself. In the early days, it was not uncommon for Louie to personally make the rounds selling sandwiches.
In his "other life" Stifter is a successful auto parts department sales representative for Holt Motors, Inc. He also manages a marriage and makes time for his parents and relatives.
Louis Stifter is a world competitor, a champion,
and truly a fine human being a real sports hero. Sound too
good to be true? We're just not used to it.