Karate mania hits UAlbany

One of Tony Butler's dreams became reality last week.

The founder of the Albany-based American Institute of Japanese Karate watched more than 130 of his students compete in the AAU National Karate Championships at the University at Albany's SEFCU Arena.

I've been trying to bring this event to Albany for the last six years, said Butler, who also organized the national tournament. "I've been working with the city's Department of Recreation, and we have over 300 kids in the program. Many of them are from the city, and they just don't have the money for the expense of traveling to this tournament. So, this event helped 135 of my kids compete."

Butler's students were glad to have the opportunity.

"I think it's really good because last year, we traveled all night long to get there," said 8-year-old Abby Scheuermann of Albany.

"It's better because now I have more people to watch me and support me," added 11-year-old Chelsea Marshall. "It's more fun because there are more people who get to come."

Butler said having the city's support for both the tournament and his karate club " the program utilizes Albany's community centers " is a blessing.

"Our youths in our community here need structure, and what we offer in our programs is discipline, structure and a change in lifestyle," he said.

Several hundred competitors between the ages of 5 and 35 traveled from all over the United States to compete at nationals, including a contingent from Hawaii's International Karate Federation team that won the club title.

One of the key members of the Hawaiian team wasn't from the island state at all. She was Rexford resident and Niskayuna High School student Nikki Takemori.

"I think it's very special because it is my hometown, and it makes me work harder because even though I train in Hawaii, I'm from here and I want to do well," said Takemori.

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