Karate club at IWU ranks in top 3

By Farah Bassyouni Apr 7, 2023

IWU Karate students celebrate at tournament, Fall 2022

Credit: hotokan Karate Association Facebook

Three Illinois Wesleyan students represented IWU Shotokan Karate at the Jennifer Malloy Memorial Karate Tournament on Feb. 26 and all three placed in top three rankings. 

Senior Margaret Pavlik won first place in kihon/basics and 2nd place in women’s kumite/sparring in the adult intermediate division. Senior Gabby Tsarouhis won first place in kata and third place in kihon/basics in the adult novice division. Senior Emile Ottinger won second place in kata and second place in kihon/basics in the adult novice division. 

The tournament is divided into three categories: kata, kihon and kumite. Kata means forms, which are a series of choreographed moves you do that represent your rank or your belt, Kihon means basics and Kumite is a spar between two people. 

“My introduction to Shotokan Karate began when I decided to enroll in the IWU Karate gym class,” Tsarouhis said. “As a woman, I felt like learning karate would give me a sense of confidence in myself and abilities.”

The class is an introduction to karate techniques and the focus is to help students learn the basics of karate like punching, kicking and blocking. 

“I was attracted to karate because I had always wanted to do martial arts when I was a kid, but my mom didn’t let me because she thought it was a “boy’s sport.” So when I came to college and had the chance to do martial arts, I jumped on it,” Tsarouhis said.  

There has been a long history of the karate club at Illinois Wesleyan University, but in recent years the number of members has decreased. 

“In my freshman year there were only two other club members at the start of the fall semester,” Pavlick said. “Next thing I knew I was an executive club member. I was made vice president my sophomore and junior year, and am the current president. With the encouragement of our instructors, we registered for this tournament.”

For Pavlick, karate became a place to be a leader and learn confidence. They competed in one another tournament last semester, and got to see different dojos’ techniques and meet other people interested in karate. 

“The tournament is a great place to learn how you are doing in comparison to others who are a similar rank to you, and sometimes showcasing that just because someone is a higher rank than you does not mean they are better,” Pavlick said. “While I felt I was performing well, there are still areas of improvement”

Karate is listed as a special physical education class in the IWU catalog, and students work towards obtaining a red belt. The course is offered each semester. The Central Illinois Shotokan Karate dojo started in 1967 as a small club in a building next to Illinois State University, and then started clubs at IWU as well. Students can learn karate, what the dojo describes as an “empty-hand” martial art, from their sensei as well as some of the Japanese vocabulary and cultural aspects associated with karate. 

“I most definitely will be continuing it after I graduate. I just hope to find a dojo as inclusive and family-like as the Bloomington-Normal dojo. I have made such good connections with Bloomington-Normal residents with my involvement in this dojo, and I will miss them very much when I leave,” Tsarouhis said.

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