Local club competes in Nikkei games

August 30, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

Over the past month and a half, members of the El Centro- based Spinning Top and Punch Judo and Karate Club have made names for themselves by taking on some of the toughest martial arts competitors in California and throughout the nation.

Eight club members had the chance to compete in the U.S. Judo Federation's Nikkei games, one of the biggest martial arts events in California, at the Pyramid on the campus of California State University, Long Beach.

Diana Santa Ana, age 9, Ismael Rodriguez, 9, Guillermo Hernandez, 13, Jose Rodriguez, 13, Michael Luna, 16, and Mya Rodriguez, 17, all of El Centro, all medaled in their events, meaning they finished higher than fifth place.

Leading the club at the Nikkei games was Mya Rodriguez, who took first in the sparring competition and the kata, which is a pre-arranged individual fighting exercise, both of which were in her own division. She also took second in the grand champion kata competition, an open competition for all black belts.


"When you're there, you're pretty much competing against yourself," said Rodriguez. "We all work really hard, practicing about 10 hours a week, preparing for these tournaments. You just have to stay focused from the beginning to the end."

Rodriguez was the only club member to win her events, but Luna finished second in sparring, with Jose Rodriguez taking third in the weapons demonstration. Taking fourth place were Hernandez in sparring, Ismael Rodriguez in the kata and Santa Ana in the kata and in sparring.

In July, Luna, Jose Rodriguez and 17-year-old Adam Foxx and his sister, 14-year-old Katie Foxx, both of Brawley, all competed in the Junior Judo and Karate Nationals in Monterey. Luna, Rodriguez and Adam Foxx all qualified for the nationals by accumulating 20 points at other competitions throughout the year. Katie Foxx was the only one of the four invited to the competition based on her performances at other events.

Things didn't go as well in the nationals as Rodriguez was the only member of the club to compete in more than two matches, finishing with 3-2 record. He was one win from making it to the medal round, where he would have had the opportunity to compete for a top-five finish.

"Going into it I was just nervous and scared. And I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh my God, what did I get myself into,'" said Rodriguez. "But when it was all over, I was kind of disappointed with myself. I really could've done better than I did."

While all who competed in the nationals were disappointed with how they fared, they agreed it was a learning experience for future competitions.

Said Luna: "I know I didn't do good, probably because I was a little nervous. I think what I took away from that was to be more aggressive at other competitions."

Even though the Spinning Top and Punch club has had success on the mats, it is without a roof over its head.

Originally part of the El Centro Police Activities League, the Spinning Tops club has been practicing in a residential driveway in El Centro since Aug. 8.

On Aug. 6, Susan Marquez, who runs the Spinning Tops club, was relieved of her duties as instructor.

According to El Centro PAL director Eric Scoville, the Spinning Tops group is going to merge with another PAL martial arts club to train together under one roof.

Said Scoville: "We didn't end their program, we just decided to merge two together. And I think her students are loyal to her. That's why they decided to follow her."

Scoville declined to comment on why Marquez was released.

Said Marquez: "We've been practicing out there in the heat two hours a day and we're looking for any help we can get. I think with everything that's gone on, these kids have really gotten stronger because of it. But they're still the ones that are suffering because of this."

Those looking to help the Spinning Tops and Punch Judo and Karate Club should call 337-4503 or 352-4464.

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