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100th Texas Four Seasons Karate Tournament (VIDEO)

By Julie Garcia
Oct. 26, 2013 at 5:26 a.m.

Integrity Defensive Arts student Jeret Swanson, 5, of Victoria, center, smiles after being awarded a trophy for his "one step" technique at the American Karate Institute's 100th Four Season  Tournament in Victoria.

As a small child, Cat Farrior wasn't able to play sports like other kids.

Being born without a right pectoral muscle on her chest made it so that her arm could easily be dislocated.

At the age of 8, Farrior started taking karate lessons at the American Karate Institute in Victoria and hasn't stopped since. She got her black belt after only a few years of training.

"I was really dedicated because of my birth defect. I was never able to do other sports, so I really committed to the one thing I could do, which was martial arts," the St. Joseph freshman said. "I would come almost every day and train really hard, and I guess it just really showed Ralph that I was serious."

Ralph Jaschke started teaching karate in Victoria in the late 1970s, moving his school twice before settling at the location on Sam Houston. He began the Texas Four Seasons Karate Tournament in 1988, thinking it was an interesting concept to host a karate event four times a year.

Jaschke's 100th Four Seasons tournament was at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Saturday.

"Chuck Norris had a Four Season tournament in the '60s back in California; then he got busy and quit," Jaschke said. "I thought about it a long time and thought it would be fun to have a Texas Four Seasons. I left (the thought) until the opportunity arose."

Back in 1988 when he held the first tournament, he never imagined they would make 100.

"As we got closer to the number 80, I thought, 'Well, let's do 100; let's set a record,'" Jaschke said.

Jaschke has been interested in karate since he saw a book on judo as a kid. He took his first class at the YMCA in Victoria in 1967 and elevated to a black belt three years later. At one point, he was ranked No. 12 in the world for his weight class in the sport.

Over his 40 years teaching, Jaschke said he has worked with approximately 20,000 students. He has witnessed kids with no athletic ability become powerhouse athletes. He has had many students go on to join the military, including a Marine - "Probably the smallest Marine they ever had," he said, laughing - and a Navy Seal.

"It's not about how big you are but about what's in your mind," Jaschke said. "They probably picked up some fighting mentality in class, a tenacity. They develop confidence and come away with a fighting spirit."

Many of Jaschke's former students become college-level soccer players and football players, he said. Soccer players learn kicks in karate, while football players learn how to filter their aggression into something useful.

"You have to learn to listen to a coach, an instructor. You have to learn to listen and follow directions. You have to become coachable," he said. "You also learn left from right."

Juan Alcantar, a black belt, competed in the very first Four Seasons tournament at age 14 and was excited to be able to participate in the 100th Saturday.

"I got first place," Alcantar said of that first tournament. "I even have it on video tape."

Now 41, Alcantar introduced his 21-year-old son to the sport of karate and has become a second-generation black belt.

"I just love it; I've always loved it," Alcantar said. "I started karate, so it's always going to be my base, but I do other martial arts like judo, jiujitsu, stick fighting and knife fighting."

After a short hiatus in the mid-1990s, Alcantar has been training like when he started as a teenager. He said he has seen countless students over the years. He's also become a part-time instructor and referee for most of the tournaments.

As for Jaschke, it's been a fun ride.

He has more stories about students and tournaments than he has time to tell, he said.

Because of an acting-related injury - "I was trying a whip for a play I'm going to be in and twisted my arm wrong," she said - Farrior's ar, was in a sling at Saturday's competition, and she was not able to compete.

But for her, it's more than just the competition aspect.

"(Karate) has given me major self-confidence because it made me believe that I was actually good at something," Farrior said. "I was really shy, but for some reason, doing this and being able to get up in front of people and do the forms in the tournaments has made me so much more open."

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