Demonstrating skill

Several martial artists gathered Tuesday evening to demonstrate the skills they have honed through years of training to gather interest in a karate class at Fuller Hall.

Local black belt karate instructor Maria Lopez was one of three demonstrators, also including ninth degree black belt Tim Snyder and black belt Chris Hetzler. Snyder is the owner of Sei Shin Kan Karate, based out of Lincoln, Nebraska. Both Lopez and Hetzler were trained by Snyder. Lopez, who now lives in Fort Dodge, said she became interested in karate after attending a demonstration in Lincoln.

“I was really intrigued by the mentality and exercise behind it,” Lopez said. “It was nice to combine exercise and mental strength and focus through that.”

She practiced for two years before becoming a black belt. Lopez practices karate originally conceived in Okinawa, Japan, and all of their certifications come from the island. She is a certified black belt and instructor, or sensei. It was through personal dedication and the help of Snyder, her master teacher, and other students to become an instructor.

A career engineer, Lopez moved to Iowa in July. She has not set an exact date on when the karate classes might begin. However, she said she would like to start as soon as next week with a time slot set aside at Fuller Hall on Tuesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. this fall in the gymnasium. The class will cater to both children and adults, as Lopez said she’s taught karate to people from five years old to their oldest student who was 76 years old. During the demonstration, Snyder said a karate class would bring both physical and mental benefits to the public.

“We feel that karate has something to offer a community if it’s taught traditionally and properly,” Snyder said.

For the demonstration, Lopez and others from the school showed the audience several karate routines. Karate, meaning “empty hands,” was shown in addition to kobudo, or traditional weapons of Okinawa. When the small, independent island nation of Okinawa was conquered by Japanese samurai, their conquerors outlawed the people from using weapons. However, Lopez said the people of Okinawa used farming equipment as improvised weapons. One of the weapons, the Eku, is simply a boat oar.

“We study a traditional style that is closer to what was used on the battlefield and how they would be applied in a practical setting,” Lopez said.

At this time, Lopez said she only plans to teach karate at Fuller Hall. She is certified in kobudo as well, but understands that there is some discomfort in bringing weapons into the recreation center. However, a class may be offered if the karate class is well attended.

“They way that we practice is very traditional,” Lopez said. “It’s not in a violent sort of way where we’re teaching people to use weapons. We’re not going to be doing contact either, especially with new students.”

Lopez said she was honored to bring her teacher from Lincoln to demonstrate both karate and kobudo to Webster City residents. Anyone interested in the karate class may contact Fuller Hall at 832-9193.