Local Dojo Brings Home Medals And Looks Towards Olympics

Local Dojo Brings Home Medals And Looks Towards Olympics

Martín Di Felice

Karate is making it’s Olympic debut in the 2020 games in Tokyo. 
The news has sent waves of excitement throughout the karate world, including here locally where one local dojo is able to celebrate their sport’s inclusion in the games and their own athletes ability to bring medals home from major competition. 

They say an Olympic gold medal can be worth millions depending on who wins it and what it means. 

But the medals, Diaz Karate students brought home from the national tournament we’re told, are priceless. 

"So, pretend you’re walking down the street and there’s all these bullies," explains 9-year-old Jeremy Lopanec. "Use self-defense to fight against them and keep yourself safe."

"It teaches them how to be able to deal with other people, teaches them how to defend themselves," says Diaz Karate co-owner Michael Diaz. "How to stay out of trouble, sportsmanship, how to take a loss, how to deal with loss, how to deal with winning… I tell them, you can’t always win, but if you train hard you have a better chance of winning." 

Diaz Karate located in Cathedral City trains athletes of all ages to compete in national and international events. 

The fact they can now train for the Olympics, has the dojo excited, but co-owner Carla Hernandez says the real goal for their training it beyond sport.

"It’s great when we see little kids that start with us when they’re 5 and now their graduating from college, or going to college," says Hernandez. "We want them to succeed in life so karate gives them an etiquette. To be polite, keep trying…" 

Their most recent trip to nationals netted the group 11 medals including 6 gold. 

"I won because of my power and speed," says Lopanec. 
"And what did that feel like for you?" 5-year-old Camila Cabiedes who won silver and bronze medals. "Um, strong… ‘You felt strong?’ Yes." 

And while these kids can now dream of becoming Olympians, they say the most important part of karate is what they learn about life. 
"Every day I might not know what going to come," Lopanec explains. "But you’ll be ready?" He was asked. "Yes," was his confident reply. 

Karate is one of five sports that will be added the 2020 Olympics. Baseball, softball will returning while surfing, sports climbing and skate boarding are all new sports set to attract a younger generation.