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Craig finished second in national karate competition
Mike Craig wasn’t heading down a productive path. Now he’s likely going to be competing for a world championship.
Craig, 38 of Porterville, finished second in Kumite (fighting) in the recent U.S. Federation National Championships in the 21-39 age division in Sunnyvale. The finish likely qualified him for the World Championships to be held on Australia.
While the final decision on who will compete in the world event won’t be made until June, normally the top three finishers in nationals are chosen for the world tournament. “I’m expecting to go,” Craig said. A
About the chance to go to Australia, Craig, who’s the vice president for Porterville Electric, said, “That’s a lifetime experience right there.”
While Craig accepts his second place finish, in a way, he could be considered a “co-national” champion. In the finals, he fought Mario Ikino and the two fought to a 2-2 tie. The judges then decided to award the title to Ikino.
Craig said the fight was “pretty bloody,” noting such events in the fight as Ikino losing a toe nail. Craig then matter of factly said, “It was a pretty decent fight.”
Craig and Ikino are familiar with each other since both train at Way of Japan Dojo in Bakersfield. Craig said he trains six days a week.
Way of Japan had an excellent showing at nationals with four of its five members in the tournament placing at the event. They included another Porterville resident who trains at Way of Japan, Bruce Rolfe, who too second in Kata and third in Kumite in the 50-60 age division. “We did really well,” said Craig about Way of Japan.
About Ikino, Craig said, “he’s an excellent technician. He executes his techniques very clean.”
Ikino is a first degree black belt while Craig is a second degree black belt. There are 10 degrees of black belt and right now there’s one person in the world who’s a 10th degree black belt. Craig said realistically, the highest someone from the United States can become is a fifth degree black belt.
“If you’re not Japanese or half Japanese, fifth degree is basically all you’re going to get,” Craig said. About pursuing the highest black belt possible, Craig said, “That’s a life pursuit of mine.”
Craig said he began karate when he was 19 with Porterville’s Red Sun Dojo. “I was actually wreckless as a youth,” he said. “A good friend of mine pushed me in the right direction.”