Eight years ago, Pinnacle Martial Arts was a small school that didn't compete in international competitions. This year 23 team members from Pinnacle won 29 world titles at the National Blackbelt League Super Grands Karate World Championships in San Francisco and was named by Sport Karate International as the number one sport karate school based on their 2010 competition results throughout the year and their Super Grand results.
"We have over 300 students now," said Shellie Ericson, owner of the studio. "We went from a handful, to over 300."
The 23 students that competed at the event earned their way to the Super Grands by competing in tournaments through a year-long season. Points scored at those tournaments earned them an invitation as a seeded competitor at the Super Grands.
"Every team member finished in the top four, and we had students who won multiple world titles," said Ericson. "Karina Hiploleto, led the group by bringing home three titles."
The majority of the Pinnacle students competed in a variety of forms, or choreographed martial art routines in a variety of styles, without an opponent present. Some also competed in sparring, with Jordan Slama winning a world title in the underbelt continuous sparring division.
Other team members that won world titles at the event included black belts Josh Durbin, Mikelle Smedley and Michelle Sims. The Pinnacle underbelts scored numerous titles as well with Ashley Morris scoring five world titles, Branson Harward earning three, and Tyler Nelson, Michael Gheller, Joey Gheller, Maddi Gibson, Sam Pforts and Melissa Lowder earning two a piece. Kole Harward won a world title as well.
Ericson said that students at the academy are trained in many different styles including TaeKwonDo and Shotokan, which gives students an advantage over the competition and in life.
"We don't niche ourselves into one category like most martial arts schools; we teach a variety of styles and they're full systems of those styles, to our students," she said.
"What we wanted to do was not only have a school that was family-oriented, but a school where people learn to take care of themselves if they have to. I've been in a number of schools that we call belt factories where kids learn things, but not how to take care of themselves in a situation. We wanted our kids to be able to get out of uncomfortable situations and to learn respect for all different types of martial arts," said Ericson. "If you learn all the different areas it makes you an overall better martial artist. People told me I couldn't teach kids more than one style, but I do. And it helps them to not be bored. Where we mix it up so much, the kids never have a dull moment."
Morris,16, said that her three years of competing have been anything but dull and she's learned to appreciate all the different styles of karate.
"When you learn them, you learn the history behind them, and it opens your eyes to how diverse karate actually is, and I think it definitely helps on a mental level. I'm not just doing it, I know what I'm doing," said Morris.
Mandy Harward, mother of Branson, 9, and Kole, 7, said that she started her boys in karate to help them release some of their energy, but the sensei at Pinnacle have also taught them discipline, history and respect and self-confidence.
"Our kids are more well-rounded," said Harward. "Knowing the different styles really gives them a balance and insight into all types of cultures, not just one or the other."
Each of the world title winners said they like different things about karate. Branson said that he likes the "cool music and cool tricks" and Kole said he likes doing his back handspring, which he learned to do in two days.
"I absolutely appreciate everything I have been taught, especially learning to defend myself" said Morris. "I do not take it for granted. I absolutely love it."