Karate mania hits UAlbany

Takemori looked to add to her collection of five AAU national titles in Saturday's finale when she competed in the Grand Champion division of kata (forms), but she finished second to International Karate Federation teammate Eimi Kurita.

"Even though I didn't win, it was a pleasure to go up against Eimi," said Takemori.

Takemori only gets six weeks out of the year to train with Kurita and the rest of her International Karate Federation teammates. The rest of her time is spent training with her father, Mike, in the basement of their home.

"We pick up (training) videotapes while we're in Hawaii and bring them home, and I study them," said Takemori.

Mike said he's noticed a pronounced difference in his daughter's karate skills over the years.

"I used to be her equal, but in the past couple of years, she's been beating me up," Mike said. "I'm still stronger than she is, but she's faster than I am."

The four-day competition, which also featured kumite (sparring) and kobudo (weapons), was a test for more than just the athletes. Organizers had to keep everything moving smoothly as competitions took place on numerous mats simultaneously.

"This university (UAlbany), the staff here has been so helpful," said AAU Executive Director of Karate Del Saito. "It really makes our job easier. It allows us to concentrate on the tournament."

And for a first-time host, Saito said Albany did a great job.

"The city has been so nice and gracious," he said. "The people have been wonderful to work with. That makes a big difference."

It may be a while before Albany gets another chance to host the AAU Karate Nationals, as it is sought after by several cities every year. But from what Butler said he heard from competitors, AAU officials and spectators, he may have a strong case to help bring the tournament back.

"I've had so many complements on how the city of Albany has given so much hospitality," said Butler. "They've said it's been the best-run tournament in 25 years.""

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