What a kick

Article By GORDON D. FIEDLER JR. Salina Journal | Monday, July 21, 2014 6:44 AM

Salina karate students take love of martial arts international
Fourteen-year-old Mariah Garman-Brown enjoyed watching karate movies when she was younger and fancied herself as a ninja warrior, jumping off walls and performing other killer moves.

Michael Rathbun, 30, was similarly inspired. Both signed up for martial arts lessons, he about 12 years ago; she while still in elementary school.

Today, they’ve acquired the skills to compete on the international level and will be entered in the World Karate and Kickboxing Championships this October in Dublin, Ireland.

Garman-Brown and Rathbun are students of Miller’s Shotokan Karate, 751 N. 12th. They earned the right to compete in Ireland by winning their age and weight divisions in regional and national contests.

“We had to qualify at regionals in Kansas City and nationals in Detroit. Now we get to go to the worlds,” said Garman-Brown, who will have received her black belt by the time she competes.

Not like movies, TV

Like most martial artists, they were drawn to the sport by watching movies and television shows.

“I thought it would be pretty cool to jump off walls,” Garman-Brown said.

However, Hollywood didn’t bear any resemblance to reality.

“I was disappointed when I wasn’t able to jump off walls on my first day,” she said. “But I learned a lot more than I thought I’d ever know. There’s more to karate than fighting. It’s all about discipline, self-control, respecting others.”

Rathbun concurred.

“It definitely helped me out with my confidence,” said Rathbun, who bears a passing resemblance to a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, the Belgian kickboxer and actor.

“When I was young, I was always smaller and I had a chip on my shoulder, something to prove,” said Rathbun, a second-degree black belt. “Now, I’m very confident in what I can do.”

The sport also adjusted Garman-Brown’s attitude.

“I used to have anger problems,” she said, “and I had a low self-esteem and I did not respect others.”

Channeling the hostility

She said she channels the hostility into karate.

“Breaking boards helps,” she said. “I have a lot of self-discipline, I control myself, I’m more polite.”

Master teacher, or “sensei,” Roy Miller III, 54, said these are his first students to qualify for international competition.

He has been studying martial arts for 30 years and has operated a martial arts school for more than 15 years, seven of those at his current location. When he was younger, he’d had the desire but never the opportunity.

“I’ve been wanting to do this all my life,” Miller said. “But my dad was in the military and we moved around a lot and I never had the chance.”

Dropped 90 pounds

He said his uncle introduced him to a Filipino instructor at a time when he needed a lifestyle change.

“I had nothing to do with my life,” Miller said. “I got up to 230 pounds.”

The study of martial arts allowed him to drop to a more healthy 140 pounds and become proficient enough to compete on the national level.

Gordon D. Fiedler Jr. can be reached at 822-1407 or by email at gfiedler@salina.com.