Herald and Journal, Aug. 30, 1999

Louis Stifter to compete for old in Russia

By Luis Puga

Louis Stifter will be testing his mettle against the best as a member of the U.S. Karate Team at the World Shotokan Karate Championship in Moscow, Russia this week.

Stifter, chief instructor of the Winsted Karate Club, will compete in the kumite portion of the international competition.

In kumite, opponents strike at each other, earning points for legal blows. The blows are not actual contact, but rather delivered with so much accuracy that they land within a few inches of the opponent's body.

Actual contact will results in a disqualification.

Stifter admits that contact happens from time to time. That probably explains why Dr. James Neff, a Winsted resident and director of the karate club, will be traveling with Stifter as the team's dentist. Neff has also been invited to assist with coaching, but has not yet decided if he will.

This is the fourth time Stifter will seek a title. He will compete as a part of the five-member U.S. team as well as in individual kumite.

Said Stifter, "I think team competition gets a little bit rougher and more stressful because it is not so much for yourself, but for the team."

He added that the team title is held in higher regard than the individual title.

Neff said that often countries will hold back some of their best fighters from competing in individual kumite to keep them fresh for the team competition.

As a team, Stifter has seen the U.S. come close to winning gold. In last year's competition, the team came in second to Germany, a strong international team.

The competition will most likely be made up of many European teams, including formidable teams from England and Sweden.

Stifter said there might also be many teams from former Soviet Union countries, that could not compete in previous years because they could not obtain visas for travel.

Stifter has been preparing for the competition for some time. Initially, he concentrated on weight training to develop strength. For the last month and half, he has dropped most of his weight training and concentrated on karate and running.

Strength is important in competition. Stifter recounted an experience in which he became tangled with an opponent in a previous competition.

"The guy gave me a little shove like I was nothing," he said.

He's also been developing his speed and timing for the ipon (single elimination) competition in Russia. In ipon, one mistake could eliminate a fighter putting a great deal of stress on strategy.

For both men, and their wives, this will be their first visit to Russia. Traveling will include a safety concern as the country is steeped in some political turmoil with Muslim separatists, as well as and a general economic downturn.

Stifter said another concern is crime, but he believes the importance of tourism to the economy will keep anything from happening and feels that Russia will be an interesting nation to visit. After the competition, the team will have an opportunity to explore the culture of the land.

Overall, the U.S. team looks pretty good according to both men. The team has some size and Neff points out that there are enough veterans on the team who are experienced with international competition.

Stifter said that experience helps in knowing the other teams styles and methods of competing.

The tournament will be at the university in Moscow Saturday, Sept. 4 and Sunday, Sept. 5. It will not be televised, and Stifter and Neff will return Sept. 9.

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