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Karate kids on Team USA

July 03, 2013 - Ortonville- Hayme Serrato believes karate develops confidence in those who practice the sport.

Now, six local students at Hayme Serrato's Martial Arts Studio, 4 N. Ortonville Road, are getting a confidence boost after qualifying to compete on the world stage.

"This was our first time having students qualify for international competition," said Serrato, who has been teaching karate for 30 years and is in his third year with a competition group that wanted to try something new. "We tried the world circuit and it worked out fairly well. I thought maybe I would have one or two that could (qualify for internationals), but I'm really proud of all of them and they worked hard to compete and prepare for this."

The World Karate Competition (WKC) nationals were held June 7 and 8 in Dearborn, with at least two hundred students (all having achieved black belts) competing from all over the country, in 70 divisions and age groups.

Hayme Serrato's students that qualified for world competition, to be held Oct. 14-19 in Taranto, Italy, are: Gabrielle Andrews, 13, of Ortonville; Andrew Bratton, 22, and Stephen Bratton, 14, brothers from Goodrich; Zach Bunting, 13, of Ortonville; Dakota Quenlin, 9, of Ortonville; and Dustin Redden, 17, of Grand Blanc.

Serrato explains the students will compete in various karate disciplines, including traditional forms; sparring; continuous fighting; musical forms; creative weapons; and traditional weapons.

"It's a strenuous, physical sport," he said. "When you learn karate, you learn how to defend yourself. With confidence, they learn they don't need to street fight anyone. You learn physical and mental strength."

With those two attributes, a student of karate can brush off exterior insults and attacks, Serrato continued, confident in their own capabilities.

Gabby Andrews has been involved in karate for more than four years and loves to compete. She is excited about going to Italy to compete with the best.

"I am hoping to place," said Gabby, who will be an eighth grader at Brandon Middle School this fall. "Just to place would be amazing. I am so excited to go to Italy...I have to practice, a lot more than I am right now, and put my all into it, so when I go and compete it will be even better."

Serrato will travel to Italy with the students, who are currently working out every day and will train for 2-3 hours per day as they get closer to the competition, at which 36 countries will be represented.

"Even if they don't win, I think they will gain life experience with what competition is about and that it doesn't matter what they do as long as they work really hard," Serrato said. "You have to work a little harder all the time to be number one. There's always that person behind you that wants to be number one. Their hard work will pay off. This is a great accomplishment to get to this level. Not too many people can say they got to travel to Italy to compete."

Zach Bunting is prepared.

"I put in a ton of work to get here and it's an amazing opportunity for me," said the Italy-bound 13-year-old. "I thought learning how to fight would make me have more confidence as a person. It has. I'm going to train and focus."

For more information on how to contribute to fundraising efforts for Team USA, call Hayme Serrato's Martial Arts, 248-793-3312.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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