Aragon blackbelts compete at the national level

Martial Arts

“When I was eight I really wanted to do something physical and active,” says senior Alex Catiggay. “My uncle suggested this kung fu school and that’s when it all started for me.”

Today, Catiggay is a second degree black belt in kung fu, a striking style of martial arts that utilizes kicks, blocks, and both open and closed hand strikes to defend against attackers.

“I usually train four to six days a week,” says Catiggay. “We spar and we also do conditioning on your abs and arms. Usually training regiments involve warm-up techniques and conditioning and applying it to sparring and forms. I also teach and instruct other kung fu students.”

As with any sport, the presence of a strong and admirable coach is key to success. “My instructor Sifu Meng has been with me since day one and has seen me grow and develop since I started,” says Catiggay. “It was his way of teaching and the way he motivated me that kept me going for so long.”

Having studied kung fu for nearly a decade, Catiggay also has a fair share of memorable experiences that he will keep forever. “In October 2009, I competed at the World Martial Arts Festival in Disneyworld, Orlando,” says Catiggay. “I won two Grand Championships, one in Chinese martial arts and one for overall martial arts. After the competition, I got the chance to perform in the evening martial arts showcase as well. I was able to work behind the scenes with actual Disney performers because of the awards that I won.”

As expected when somebody finds a niche that they excel in, Catiggay has high hopes for his future in kung fu. “I enjoy the physical aspect of it and it also helps me with everyday life as well,” says Catiggay. “I have friendships that will last forever because of my experiences. I never expected to continue it for so long but because I enjoyed it so much I never saw a reason to quit.”

Catiggay is not the only person who started martial arts at a young age. “I started eleven years ago,” says senior Alyssa Kujiraoka. “It was sort of a family thing because my uncle ran his own school in Fiesta Gardens.”

That “family thing” eventually led to Kujiraoka obtaining a first degree black belt in tae kwon do, a Korean form of martial arts. It is a striking style of martial arts heavily focused on kicking techniques. While the style may be different, the training and preparation is no less intensive and demanding. “I train three to six days a week,” says Kujiraoka. “The things I do include kicking and sparring drills, conditioning, speed and agility work. If I have a competition coming up, I usually train two to three times a day.”

While Kujiraoka never had a single person to emulate as a mentor, the people she looked up to were of a different variety. “When I first started, I was always the younger one on my team since I had older teammates,” says Kujiraoka. “I would always look up to them and try to fight like them when I was little.”

Also like Catiggay, Kujiraoka has some significant memories that will last a lifetime. “In the last U.S. National in Florida, I ended up in the finals fighting for a spot on the US National team,” says Kujiraoka. “I lost the last match due to a controversial call. Even though I lost, I still learned a lot about myself. I learned how to be a good sport and to be a more gracious person. As a junior, I was noticed by a lot of the US National coaches and I viewed that as the most important part.”

Kujiraoka’s most recent competition involved fighting in the Korean Open for the US Junior team. “In the Open Division, I finished second when I lost to Kazakhstan by one point,” says Kujiraoka. “I also finished third in the Championship Round which featured the top four competitors from around the world. In this case, I represented the United States, one was from Kazakhstan and the other two were from Korea. Now I’m training hard to hopefully fight and compete in the 2016 Olympic Games. That’s definitely one of my major goals in the coming years.”

Posted by Philip Dimaano

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