Photo by Brian Paglia
McDonough six-year-old Heru Kamau won first place in creative forms and creative weapons at the U.S. Open ISKA World Martial Arts Championship, making him a world champion.
Heru Kamau went to Orlando, Fla., thinking he was going to compete against some of the top karate competitors in the Southeast, which was interesting enough for the McDonough native looking for a challenge.
It turned out Kamau got a whole lot more than he expected.
The U.S. Open ISKA World Martial Arts Championships this past weekend turned out to be exactly what it sounded like — a world championship, featuring competitors from Argentina, Guatemala, Jamaica and more.
No problem for Kamau. He still went out and put on an impressive performance, finishing first in creative weapons and creative forms.
“I’m a two-time world champion,” Kamau said in a phone interview from Orlando. “It feels awesome to be a champion.”
Kamau, who competes out of Championship Martial Arts in McDonough, put forth a near-perfect performance, according to his father, Ra Kamau.
Competitors drew scores from three judges for their performance. Out of Heru Kamau’s six scores, five were perfect.
“It exceeded everything that we could’ve imagined,” Ra Kamau said. “It turned out to be a world tournament and he responded. We’re happy for him.”
Things didn’t start out so well for Heru.
Normally, his confidence belies his young age. Since taking up karate at 4, he’s advanced through belt ranks at surprising speed, becoming the youngest competitor with the lowest belt to make CMA’s elite demonstration team. He’s wowed judges and competitors with his advanced technique. He’s won a bevy of trophies.
But Heru Kamau had never come to a place like the Coronado Convention Center.
“This was the biggest space he’d ever competed on,” Ra Kamau said.
Despite the intimidating venue, Heru stuck to his normal pre-competition routine. Ra and Heru found an isolated place to begin practice, away from the cacophony of competitors and fans. He stretched, did some light performances of his routines and did some more.
But there was no escaping the crowd at the Coronado Center. Spectators saw this precocious talent and gathered to watch. Ra Kamau could tell his son was getting distracted.
Usually, Ra Kamau said he can usually talk to Heru and keep him focused. Not this time.
“I noticed I was losing him,” Ra Kamau said. “He was drifting away.”
Ra Kamau asked Heru what was bothering. For once, Heru Kamau’s confidence seemed to waver.
“I said I didn’t feel I was good enough to be there,” Heru Kamau said.
So, Ra Kamau tried a different tactic. Rather than avoid the sights and sounds, he and Heru ended their pre-competition routine and walked around the Coronado Center. They took in the vast space of the building. They watched other competitors. Enjoying the moment took priority over preparation.
Just before Heru’s competition, a few more words from his father helped him prepare.
“My dad talked to me, cheered me up and we walked around the place,” Heru said. “I knew I had to be really confident to get a trophy. I started to get more confident.”
Once Heru took to the mat, it showed.
“He blew everybody away,” Ra Kamau said.
For now, Heru is dividing his time between preparing for the Goldbar Karate Championship on Saturday and enjoying Orlando.