TKA students focused on bringing home more championship gold

Shelby Hunt and Joshua Haltom practice

Students from Mike Berryhill’s Texas Karate Academy (TKA), 7310 Highway 105 in Beaumont, will have an opportunity to bring home the gold to Southeast Texas once again at the Amateur Organization of Karate (AOK) state championship Saturday, Dec. 14, in Galveston.

Championships are nothing new to students from the academy. Merely a month ago, TKA students dominated at the Texas Karate Organization (TKO) state championships Nov. 6 in Galveston, winning six state championship rings. Green belt Shelby Hunt, 9; advanced red belt Joshua Haltom, 10; purple belt Natalie Haltom, 8; and 7-year-old advanced red belt Carson Gebhardt all competed in the TKO state championships in both one-on-one fighting and kata competition. Kata is the Japanese word for “form” used to describe a pattern of choreographed movements and the level of kata difficulty increases with an advancement in belt level.

At the Nov. 6 tournament, Hunt won 1st place in both fighting and kata, Natalie Haltom placed first in both fighting and kata, and her brother Joshua Haltom placed 1st in fighting and 2nd in kata. Gebhardt placed 1st in fighting and second in kata. All four students will be participating as AOK finalists in the AOK state championship Dec. 14 along with newcomer and beginner yellow belt James Crisp, 5.

“I’m very proud of our TKA students’ hard work and dedication on what they have accomplished,” said Mike Berryhill, fourth-degree black belt instructor and owner of TKA.“Making it to the AOK state finals is a huge accomplishment since you have to earn your way to compete there. Not only did they do that, but most of them are sitting first in points in their division. They also took six state rings from another organization in November. Placing in the Top 5 against all of Texas and other regions is already a great accomplishment in itself. I know they will all do very well in December when they represent our East Region and Southeast Texas. I am extremely proud of all them for even making the finals and the titles they have won already.”

Oct. 4, Gebhardt, who has won five Texas titles, was crowned world champion in Reno, Nev., after defeating 6- and 7-year-olds from all over the world.

“He’s just so focused,” said Carson’s father, Todd Gebhardt. Todd said Carson is also a straight A student at China Elementary and settles for nothing but the best — not only in karate but also in school. “He wants to get 100s on everything. If he gets 95s or 97s, he gets upset.”

“He works hard and he’s very dedicated,” added Penni Gebhardt, Carson’s mother.

Penni said she doesn’t worry about Carson getting hurt while competing in karate, although he has had his nose bloodied a few times. Todd and she are very proud of their son winning a world championship at such a young age, Penni said.

“World was the icing on the cake,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

The Gebhardts said Berryhill has been a key element in Carson’s success.

“Sensei Mike has been really, really good. We’re very pleased with him,” Penni said.

“He’s a fair instructor,” Carson added.

Carson’s dedication to karate is evident in the goal that he set for himself — to become a black belt by the time he turns 9 years old on June 13, 2015.

“He picked the date himself when he was 4,” Penni said.

Further confirmation of Carson’s desire to achieve is visible upon entering the second grader’s room, where championship belts and katanas line the walls and almost a dozen karate trophies can be seen next to his bed.

Carson said his favorite aspect of karate is competing in the tournaments and, in addition to practicing three times a week on his kata, he studies video of himself performing his form in order to perfect it and ensure success in tournament competition.

He also said he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his favorite UFC fighter and WWE superstar Brock Lesnar and become a WWE superstar himself. Differing from Lesnar, however, Carson said he plans to use karate in wrestling matches similar to how C.M. Punk uses Muay Thai.

Todd said Carson should earn his brown belt sometime in 2014.

“Carson has accomplished a great deal in the martial arts,” Berryhill said. “At such a young age, he has dedication and the will to work hard for what he wants and believes in, which will take him very far in his martial arts and in his life.”

For more information about Texas Karate Academy, call (409) 892-9352 or search Texas Karate Academy on Facebook.