Sept. 18, 2006

Karate Club celebrates 25th year

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

In his weekly column “Morland at Large,” written by Alan Morland, Winsted Journal staff writer, the idea of a karate club was first introduced to the town of Winsted.

That was almost 25 years ago and this year, the Winsted Karate Club will celebrate its 25th anniversary at its annual tournament on Saturday, Sept. 23.

Originally, it was called the Winsted Police Department’s Karate Club because Winsted’s Chief of Police, Jim Petersen, felt the youth of Winsted needed a place to go and something to do in the evening to keep them out of trouble.

The first instructor was Morland himself, and for the very first gathering, July 26, 1982, approximately 50 people showed up for a demonstration between Dr. Jim Neff and Morland.

That evening, 30 students signed up for the class and got their first lesson in traditional Japanese karate.

Since that time, chief instructors following Morland have been Neff, 1984-1987, Louis Stifter, 1987-2001, and Delbert O’Loughlin, 2001 to present.

Karate, in Japanese, means empty hand. It is a martial art or combat method involving a variety of techniques including blocks, strikes, and evasions.

It can be divided into three aspects, kohon (basics), kata (forms), and kumite (sparring).

Karate was first taught in the United States by Tsutomu Oshima, in 1955. Oshima was one of the last direct pupils of Master Gichin Funakoshi, who was the first expert to introduce karate to mainland Japan, in 1916. Oshima made it very clear that karate promotes the use of self-discipline, control, and confidence, and does not endorse actual fighting.

“Originally, this was the most important thing – to reach a higher level, to become a strong human being. Strong doesn’t mean big arms. It means who can be a more strict human being with himself,” Oshima said.

Today, the club is known as the Winsted Karate Club, and it is part of the American Shotokan Karate Federation.

“It is the longest continuous running club in the organization,” O’Loughlin said.

The Winsted Karate Club has been a good base for the Shotokan Karate Federation in Minnesota. “We have our black belts that are now instructors in Hutchinson, Rockford, and Glencoe,” O”Loughlin said.

Other karate clubs in the same organization are in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Arizona, and Ireland.

The Winsted Karate Club has 15 active members now. Students can start at age 7, and there are currently students in their 60s. O’Loughlin knows of some clubs that have students in their 70s and 80s.

O’Loughlin recalls how he began karate at 10 years old. For about three weeks, he would come and just stand outside the gym door of the Winsted public school and watch the class.

“My cousin was in karate and my grandmother just lived up the street. The instructor would ask if I would like to come in,” O’Loughlin said.

“Finally, I came in and pretty much have never left. There have been times when I have been away from the club, like when I was in the Army and my family moved to Florida, but then, I would train on my own,” O’Loughlin added.

O’Loughlin holds a third degree black belt.

The color of the individual’s belt indicates the level they have achieved in karate. The lowest belt is white, the next level is orange, than blue, green, two levels of purple belt, and three levels of brown belt before getting to the famous black belt. There are 10 different levels of black belt.

“When students first begin, we have them punch about one and one-half inches away from their opponent, but as time goes on, they will get closer,” O’Loughlin said.

“In black belt, they make a little bit more solid punch to the body and even to the face, but very controlled,” O’Louglin added.

To test to another level, there is usually a panel of judges who are black belts. Depending on the rank of who is being tested, the judges should be at least one level above the person tested.

There is rotating testing done between area karate clubs, Hutchinson in February, Winsted in April, Glencoe in July, and Rockford in November.

When O’Loughlin was asked at what level a student is capable of protecting himself, he said, “It’s hard to say. Maybe a green belt. The idea in karate is one punch. You don’t want to have this long, dragged out fight, you want to end it as quickly as possible and with as little damage to yourself and the other person as possible.”

Annual karate tournament

The Winsted Karate Club is hosting its annual tournament this Saturday, Sept. 23, at Holy Trinity School gym. Starting time is 11:30 a.m.

There will be two types of competition, kumite and kata.

In kumite, participants are awarded a point or half-point for a good, legal blow. The decision is up to the judges.

Kata is competition of forms. Each level in karate has a different kata form.

“You continue to practice the old form from the previous levels, and learn the new form for the level you are working toward,” O’Loughlin said.

The Keith Racette Cup will be given out again this year at the competition. The award has been presented for more than 15 years and is a traveling cup. It is given in the name of a former student’s son who died from cancer very young and was given an honorary black belt.

Each club present will have five- man teams, and whichever five-man team gets the most points, gets the cup for the year.

“Karate has been a lot of fun for me. I have met a ton of interesting people from all over the world. Some of our members have been to competitions in places like Africa, Germany, Japan, Russia, and Ireland,” O’Loughlin said.

The club is a nonprofit organization. The instructors volunteer their time. The club pays for travel expenses for the instructors, and it tries to raise enough money to pay for the travel expenses for members when traveling to different competitions.

O’Loughlin extends this invitation to everyone, “If anyone is interested, or thinks they might be interested, in joining karate, come to the tournament this weekend and see what we are about.”

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