Chris Welbon’s competitive karate students must now pivot from a successful Florida tournament as they prepare for AAU National Championships in July
Chris Welbon began his karate training over 30 years ago at just eight-years-old.
And as he grew within the sport, he’s helped young athletes grow in a similar fashion as the head instructor within his own dojo for the past 23 years. Of the hundreds of students that study and train karate at Welbon’s dojo in Plant City, just 26 of them are members of his competitive tournament team.
During tournament season — a six-month span that includes five major tournaments between January and July each year — perhaps no time requires more focus and intensity than right now as that competitive team turns their eyes toward AAU National Championships in July.
While training continues throughout the year, a stronger emphasis is placed on each student’s strength, conditioning and technique as major tournaments creeps closer.
“(We want to) just to kind of push ourselves over and above what your mind thinks that you’re going to be able to do,” Welbon said about preparing for major tournaments. “Our job as trainers is to get these students to work through the toughest struggles they can, that way when they get into competition it seems easy.”
The 22 members of Welbon’s competitive group that will head to nationals in Greenville, South Carolina do so on the heels of success in their most recent Florida tournament, earning 15 gold medals, 15 silver medals and 6 bronze medals as a group.
But success in the eyes of Welbon is about far more than just the awards and medals that glimmer as they swing from the necks of his students when their competitions come to an end.
“I don’t really care so much about whether they’re winning gold, silver or bronze,” Welbon said. “I just want them to go out and be successful. I want them to go out and love karate. I want them to have fun, I want them to enjoy it. If they go out there and they get last place and they had a great time and they gave it their all, I’m happy. It’s the students that go out there and win gold and they have a bad attitude, those are the ones that we want to help.”
Welbon wants students to build character and grow as individuals in the same way that they build technique and grow as competitors. And as a focal point of that growth, he leans on and instructs through his faith.
“Our dojo is build on God, it’s always been built on that,” Welbon said. “It’s always been built on faith-based surroundings, it’s what we have. We talk about God in our trainings, we have a Bible verse that we recite at the end of each training class and I think that’s what makes us different, there aren’t a lot of other martial arts schools that do that. That’s a good thing and overall I think just the character-building skills that we try to instill in all of the students (sets us apart). It’s not just about the kicking and punching. You build the inside of the person, the strength of their character, the martial arts will become good.”
So as his team locks in on the pinnacle of their tournament season in July, Welbon prepares each student to train and live through that singular verse that they recite after each class, 2 Timothy 1:7.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”