By Maria Jose Subiria
A local martial artist who says he has 1,500 trophies and a number of world championship medals under his black belt, is planning to throw in the towel after 25 years of competitions.
But Rickey Murray, 35, owner of New Tradition Martial Arts, located at 725 Ga. Highway 138, Riverdale, is planning to compete in two world championships before he retires from competition later this year.
"I prepare for competitions three months out. I get in physical condition by swimming, weight lifting, meditation and wind sprints [100 yard dashes]," said Murray. "I change my diet, and eat organic and lean foods ... I generally lose 15 to 20 pounds."
The Jonesboro resident said he is planning to compete in the World Karate Association World Championships in Spain Oct. 24-30. He said he is also planning to compete in the World Kick Boxing Council World Championships in Ireland Nov. 1-7.
Before an athlete can compete in a martial arts world championship, it is required they enter the competition's team trials, according to Murray. Because he has repeatedly placed in the World Karate Association World Championships before, he said he was exempted from that competition's team trials.
"I at least want to win one more world title before a retire," said Murray.
For Murray, focus is crucial to preparing for a competition seconds before he faces his opponent.
"Generally before competition, I have some time out for myself. I just concentrate on being in the moment," said Murray.
Murray said he mostly competes in the sparring division, because the skills required come naturally to him. He said competing in the form division is more difficult for him.
"In form you're not fighting, and you have to execute moves in a certain pattern. You have to be a little more precise," he said.
Aside from competitions, Murray enjoys teaching the sport to 70 students at his seven-year-old studio, New Tradition Martial Arts, with his fiancé Chantel Curry. Murray said his fiancé has practiced the art of karate for 24 years and both teach karate, jujitsu and some Tai Kwan Do to children and adults.
"Around the year 2000, I realized that's what I enjoyed doing," Murray said. "I like helping kids realize their full potential. A lot of kids don't realize what type of potential they possess."
Murray said he incorporates positive character development in his teaching by focusing on topics like respect, responsibility and honesty, during his classes.
Murray said he developed an interest in karate at the age of 10, and admired movie stars like Bruce Lee. He said he wanted to be in show business, but as he matured the sport grew on him.
"I was naturally talented at the sport, and I got a black belt when I was 16," said Murray. "I felt great, and it was a big accomplishment for me to get to that level. I am currently a sixth-degree black belt."
Though he was passionate about karate, he said he attended the Atlanta Metropolitan College and received an associate's degree in paralegal studies in 1998. He said he continued his studies at Clayton State University.
"I pretty much took a year off to train in Tai Kwon Do, and I qualified for the Olympic trials in 2000," said Murray. "I felt good, but I didn't go to the trials, because the United States was taking two weight divisions at the time, and I was heavier than those."
In 1998, Murray said he received the world title in the International Karate Circuit Board Championships in Phenix City, Ala. The following year he said he became the world champion at the Federation of International Karate Association in Atlanta.
Murray said he believes that without the discipline and character he development through karate, he wouldn't have been able to achieve his career and personal goals.
"I don't think I would've opened up a martial arts school ... I don't think I would've had the confidence in competitions," he said. "Success doesn't happen by accident. You have to put work into it."