Over the summer, senior Melody Bake participated in the USA Karate Team Trials in Greenville, South Carolina to compete for a spot on the US Junior National Karate Team. There she competed in the 18 to 20-year-old division for kumite, a form of karate focusing on sparring, and in the 16 to 17-year-old division for kata, another type of karate focusing on form. She ended up getting second place in both divisions. On top of making the junior national team, winning second place also qualified her for the Junior Pan American Karate Championships and the North American Cup, as well as runner-up for the semi-annual Junior World Championships in Spain this November.
At USA Team Trials, Melody competed in rounds of kumite and kata over the course of four days. In kumite, competitors are evaluated on the moves they execute on their opponent during a two-minute round. Points are assigned relative to the quality of the execution and the move’s difficulty level. In kata, competitors designate and execute a specific sequence of moves every round. Her advanced techniques allowed her to go all the way to the finals in both kata and kumite, where she lost two very close matches to get silver medals.
“Since I was competing in the 20-year-old division for kumite, I lost to a girl who was three years older than me,” Melody said. “But I don’t see that as a good enough excuse for my loss. This will push me to train even harder in hope to win gold at the North American Cup.”
To prepare for tournaments, Melody commits huge amounts of time to polish her technique and physique. On a typical day, Melody wakes up at 5 a.m. for a morning workout. After she gets out of school, Melody directly commutes to the dojo to train for two hours. Though most karate fighters compete exclusively in either kata or kumite, Melody has chosen to specialize in both, making her training that much more rigorous. She does track and field, weightlifting and Judo lessons for cross training. She also often listens to seminars given by elite karate instructors at her dojo on the weekends to deepen her insight.
Melody was first introduced to karate when her parents signed her up when she was four. Though she soon discovered her talent in the art, it was not until the summer of 2009, when she made in onto the national team for the first time, that she fell in love with karate. Ever since then, she has been passionate about the competitive aspect of karate.
“I was so excited once I made the team because it made me realize that I can compete at such a high level,” Melody said. “That was when I knew I wanted to improve even more and do this all throughout my life.”
However, Melody struggles to balance karate with the rest of her life at times. If she has to miss school to participate in a competition, she has to make up all of her schoolwork while still maintaining her tough training schedule. As she also teaches karate at her dojo, Melody finds it hard to catch a breath on some weeks.
But Melody finds that it is all worth it. Karate has enabled her to bond with friends and foes alike. She also believes that karate has positively influenced her morals and beliefs.
Though she did not qualify for the Junior World Championship, Melody remains optimistic as ever as she prepares for the North American Cup in March, where she hopes to win a gold medal.
“The lessons I’ve learned in karate have such an impact on me as a person,” Melody said. “My sensei has taught me to ‘win with humility and lose with dignity’ and these words have stayed with me every time I step into the competition ring. Traditional karate is all about being humble and respectful.”