Cary-Grove sophomore Kai Hayashi, 15, had a lot on the line at his first international karate competition in January.
To pay for his trip to Munich, Germany, a lot of people contributed to an online fundraiser. Hayashi said he didn't want to disappoint anyone who helped him go and trained even harder preparing for it.
"I didn’t want to go there and lose in the first round," Hayashi said. "This was a big push for me. You can’t train this hard and lose the first round."
Hayashi, who trains at Focus Martial Arts in Lake in the Hills, took home a gold and silver medal at the International Open World Karate Confederation Championships Jan. 25 and 26. He won gold in Kata in the 14- 15-year-old division. Kata, or forms, involves detailed patterns of movements.
Hayashi said he prefers Kumite, or sparring, in which he won a silver, but has had more success in kata.
"I like to win in kumite more," Hayashi said. "It’s just more fun."
Kata is very exacting, Hayashi said, and requires a lot of focused practice.
"It's really tedious," Hayashi said. "I don’t really think about it (during competition) and I end up doing well."
Although kata and kumite are karate activities it is very difficult to excel in both. They draw upon different skills, movements and goals.
Hayashi said the elite athletes typically choose one over the other. That may be a choice he has to make in the future but not now.
"You can’t be good in both, (but) we always compete in both," Hayashi said. "You need to focus on one more than the other."
Hayashi also was competing as part of the U.S. team with other athletes from across the country, so the pressure was there to perform well for his country.
"We competed individually but we were the U.S. team," Hayashi said. "We cheered each other on."
Hayashi also had to adjust to international rules. To prepare, he integrated international rules, one of which was the absence of headgear, into his training.
"One of big things was to know the rules before we went in there," Hayashi said. "I’ve fought without headgear before, and its not a big deal to me."
Even with the training, competing in a foreign country did take its toll.
"I’m a really calm guy. Things don’t affect me, but it definitely was nerve-racking," Hayashi said.
For now, it's back to the gym for training and a dream to be able to compete on the world stage again.
"You‘ve got to train hard to do well," Hayashi said. "You just can’t expect it just to come to you."
• Rob Smith is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.