"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.