Yup’ik Teen Wins At National Martial Arts Championships

World Champ x 3 Micheal Martinez, photo by Mary Yunak Martinez
World Champ x 3 Micheal Martinez, photo by Mary Yunak Martinez

A young Yup’ik man with roots to Kotlik on the Lower Yukon has distinguished himself in the International competitive world of Martial Arts. Thirteen-year-old Michael Martinez, son of Mary Yunak Martinez, has won first place in three out of four divisions at the U.S. World Open Martial Arts Championships that were held in Disney World, July 5 and 6.

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The competition was televised on ESPN. Each event had 25-45 athletes from all over the world like Japan, Korea, and China. Martinez won world titles in Traditional Forms, Continuous Fighting, and Clash Sparring.

“Ever since I was very young I’ve always been interested in the martial arts, for example watching the ninja turtles, and watching Okamoto’s, his demonstrations across Anchorage,” Martinez said..

“And Michael was really impressed with that,” says Martinez’s mother, Mary, “He had asked me to sign him up for Okomoto’s martial arts, training isn’t about kicking and punching and it requires attention, so I waited until he was seven to sign him up.”

Martinez has been training in Anchorage since then, the past six years, to become the world’s best. His sensei Mr. Okomoto says, “ he represents the best things about what martial arts can do, and hopefully what our school does.”

Okomoto says Martinez won with a nine point nine nine (9.99) score out of ten in the Traditional Forms contest. He describes what that means.

“It encompasses blocks, punches, kicks, strikes, normally a student would demonstrate their skill in performing techniques as well as their balance, coordination, mental focus, emotional dexterity,” says Okomoto.

Martinez also brought the first place trophy home for Continuous Fighting, and Clash Sparring, which he describes as engaging with three techniques, involving stepping back, and engaging again. He placed third in the weapons division, using a Kama, which is a sickle type axe.

“I see myself improving and getting better, a new, like, way of life, I would say, a new understanding of a different type of activity,” says Martinez.

Okomoto says his graduates have gone on to pursue acting and stunt work in Hollywood, and doing bigger and better things.

“I think some of the greatest stories I have are of some of the students who never entered a ring, never went to a tournament, but used martial arts to help them do better in school, better in sports in general, and then as they became young adults helped them to make good choices as young adults going forward,” says Okomoto.

The Okomoto School of Karate was founded by Mr. Okomoto 30 years ago in Anchorage, and has expanded to three other schools as well as an on-line martial arts program. Micheal plans to compete at the Junior Olympics in August.

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Sophie Evan is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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