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Chuck Norris inspires idea for karate tournament (video, gallery)

By Alexandria Alejandro
July 26, 2014 at 2:26 a.m.
Updated July 27, 2014 at 2:27 a.m.

Peter Bonin holds a board for  Kaitlin Ramirez, 13, of Pleasanton, as she leaps in the air to break it with her foot during the Texas Four Seasons Karate Championship on  Saturday at the Knights of Columbus Hall. Kaitlin also broke a board while blindfolded.

Ralph Jaschke credits Chuck Norris.

After all, the founder of American Karate Institute drew inspiration from the famous martial artist and actor to start the Texas Four Seasons Karate Championship.

"He used to run a California Four Seasons Tournament until he got busy with movies and quit," Jaschke, 63, said Saturday at his school's third event of the year at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Victoria.

"And I thought, 'What a great idea,'" added Jaschke, an eighth-degree black belt. "So I always give him credit with that grain of thought."

For the 103rd time, Jaschke held Four Seasons on Saturday, continuing a tradition of showcasing karate competition in the area.

"It's a chance for many to participate and compete," said Jaschke, of Victoria, who opened AKI in 1984 and then started Four Seasons five years later. "They represent their school. We've had phenomenal competition come through. A lot of people have gone on to win world championships."

Saturday was the third Four Seasons championship held by AKI. Events are usually in the months of January, April, July and October.

There were two events in the Four Seasons championship: kata, or forms, and kumite, or fighting. The divisions were based on age groups.

Jaschke started teaching in 1968, and since then, he's taught close to 20,000 students. Four Seasons draws close to 400 competitors each year, he said.

One of them is Bill Sweeney, a fifth-degree black belt who was a former competitor at Four Seasons.

Now the 43-year-old owner of Refugio Karate Academy, Sweeney trains a national karate team. He used to compete at Four Seasons in his teens.

Saturday, 37 competitors from Sweeney's school, including himself, competed at Four Seasons.

"We've been supporting Ralph's tournament for a long time," said Sweeney, who said he's won seven championships in traditional Korean forms. "Our relationship with Texas Four Seasons is a long-standing one, and it's still going strong. Competing here is a great tradition for my karate school."

Peter Bonin also used to compete at Four Seasons. He now owns Tri-City Martial Arts in Pleasanton.

"It's a very well-run tournament," said Bonin, a fourth-degree black belt. "It's a great event for both students and judges. The kids have an opportunity to learn good sportsmanship."

Bonin hopes that's what his students, like Kaitlin Ramirez, 13, of Pleasanton, will learn from competing at Four Seasons.

"One thing I learn from competing here is having good sportsmanship," said Ramirez, a second-degree black belt.

In the 13- to 14-year-old division, Ramirez captured two first-place finishes in forms: board-breaking and traditional kata.

Cole Neill, 5, of Victoria, is a student of Jaschke's. In 6-and-under division, he took two firsts in forms kata and musical.

"I like competing," said Neill, who has an orange belt. Neill said although musical forms is his favorite, he'd like to take up board-breaking.

"We are very kid-friendly," said Jaschke. "We make sure all the kids get a trophy. And what better way to get them started than to start here?

"It's like an incubator," he added. "You have to start somewhere."

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