2017 USA National Karate...
You are Silver Medalist from K1 Premier League, Coburg, Germany 2015. What is your overall feeling from this action?
I was very relieved when I made it to finals because I competed at the German Open in 2012 and 2014, and both times medalled 3rd place, so when I made it to the finals this year, I felt like I had taken a step forward. Aside from that, I had a very difficult pool. During the eliminatory rounds, I had to go against Sandra Sanchez, ranked #1 in the Karate1 Ranking and current European Champ. She is a very strong competitor and in the past I had beaten her 3-2 in several championships, but at the Karate1 Brazil Open in June, she beat me at final 3-2. It’s always a very close match, so both of us performed our strong katas and luckily this time I was able to win 4-1. Unfortunately, I made it to finals with my weakest kata – Tomari Bassai, and lost to Grace Lau from Hong Kong. She performed a very nice Unshu.
In 2010 you were elected as the new Chief Director of the Shito Ryu Shito Kai Association in the Dominican Republic. It has been five years already. How can you describe this period? Was it successful for your association?
Being elected Chief Director for Dominican Republic has been one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. The Chief Director of Japan assigned me a position that came with great responsibility when I was only 25 years old and an active international athlete. I am truly blessed to have been given that opportunity because I was required to set aside part of my “competition training’’ and focus more on ‘’dojo training’’, which helped me grow into a better karate practitioner and in return into a better athlete. In order to prepare all the belt exams requirements, I had to do a lot of research and study every kata with its bunkai. Fortunately, that helped me understand many things I was doing wrong in my competition training and not long after, I started receiving compliments from referees that my katas were starting to show “real fighting” because I was showing real bunkai throughout my movements.
Yes, it has been difficult because teaching and working with kids take away a lot of energy. But it’s all about finding a balance. I schedule my trainings in the morning and the second session right before my dojo classes. That way my teaching doesn’t affect my training. In September 2015, will be opened my third dojo and in March 2016 will be opening my 4th dojo. Luckily, most of the advanced students help me out.
What is your best memory from the competitions?
When I won the semi finals against world champ – Yohana Sanchez (Venezuela) at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2006. She was the current Pan-American Champ and I had never medalled at Panams. Nobody expected me to win, but I had set a personal goal to win that match so for two months I focused on Chatanyara Kushanku everyday. At the competition, the Dominican Republic coach and technical director instructed me not to fight her because I wasn’t going to win, and I had to save my strong kata for the bronze medal match. But when I entered the tatami, I remembered how much I had trained so I went against my coach’s instructions and did Chatanyara Kushanku. Luckily, I ended up winning 5-0 and brought home the only gold medal for Dominican Republic at those games. That day I learned that if you want to achieve a goal you have to take risks and you have to believe in yourself 100% even if others don’t.
To be a champion, the karate athlete needs many years of hard training. Can you tell us about your beginnings in karate? Where did you start to practice this martial art? Who was your first teacher?
I started training Karate with my father when I was 4 years old. When I was 11, my father could no longer train me because of his work schedule, so I started training with sensei Oscar Zazo, European Kumite champ from Spain. I didn’t like kumite much, so I would focus on kata while others trained kumite. At the age of 17, sensei Zazo’s dojo did a Karate exhibition at a Christmas event and at that event there were some representatives from the Karate Marine Corps Team. As soon as we were done, they came up to me and offered me a spot in their team. At that time, I had never been or even seen a Karate championship so I was very excited that I would be competing. I started training with the team, and two months later I entered the Nationals Qualifiers and ranked 2nd, which gave me a spot on the Dominican National Team. Because of College, my family and I moved to Santo Domingo, where I started training with my current sensei – Masayasu Kametani. The following year, 2004, I won Nationals and started competing at international events. In 2005, I won Junior Panams and got 3rd at Junior Worlds. It may seem that everything happened very fast because I went from never competing to a world medalist in less than 2 years, but behind those results there was a great sacrifice. I had to change my life routine and leave behind an international TV program I starred in, so I can achieve my Karate goals. I would wake up at 5am to train Kihon. Then I would go to school, and I would go back to the dojo and train again from 4 – 9pm. While most of my friends would hang out and party, I would be training. Later on, I transferred to an American Online University so I would be able to go to train in Japan for a couple of months and not get behind in my education. Even though it was a lot harder to study on my own, I graduated from Business Management.
What are your leisure time activities?
I love watching football. I am a big Barca fan, so I try not to miss any of their games. I also enjoy playing with my pug – Dushka. I love going to the beach – especially Punta Cana.
Which cuisine do you prefer? What is your favorite meal?
Pasta – I could eat any type of pasta any day.
Do you have a life motto?
“If you are not by my side during my struggles, don’t expect to be there during my success”. Every athlete has its ups and downs, and every person needs a shoulder to lean on. My career has showed me who my real friends are. Everyone wants to be around you when you are winning and in the papers, but very few stand beside you when you lose or have an injury and need moral support.
Can you please tell us about your experience as a leader of karate seminar? Who can attend your seminar?
Ever since I won my first Pan-American Championship, I have been invited to lead Karate Seminars all over the world. I have worked with national teams, private dojos and given personal classes to athletes, in USA, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Bulgaria, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela. It’s an amazing experience because you realize how many people look up to you and how much they value your advice. That only makes me want to work harder and learn more so I can pass it on to those who admire my karate.
What are your karate plans and karate projects for the next year?
For the past 10 years, I have experienced what its like to be a world athlete. For the past 4 years, I have experience what it’s like to run your own Dojo. And for the past 2 years, I have experienced what its like to be a National Junior Coach. I am a very ambitious person, and I like trying new things. This is why this year I organized my own championship – Copa Dimitrova, which gratefully came out to be a big success. We received the participation of 11 countries, and over 400 competitors, amongst them World Champs and Pan-American champs. I have decided to continue with this new project. For next year, I will be organizing an International Summer Camp with top world-class athletes in Dominican Republic ending the training camp with the second edition of Copa Dimitrova (July 25 – August 1, 2016).
Thank you very much for the interview. We wish you all the best in the future. Karate Live
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