Brynn Carnesecca | Lehi Free Press
Lehi’s Shotokan Karate Academy won multiple awards at the 2023 USA Open & Junior International Cup competition earlier this month in Las Vegas. With experienced sensei Jordan Diaz at the helm, Shotokan students placed in multiple events and age categories.
Shotokan’s owner and sensei, Jordan Diaz began studying karate when he was seven years old. Diaz trained at Pande’s Black Dragon Karate in California and in 2007, he earned his first black belt. At the age of 17, Diaz moved to Utah and continued his karate journey.
“I started teaching karate back in 2011 because friends and family knew that I was experienced in karate and they wanted to learn,” said Diaz.
“Word got around that I was teaching in the area, and we began to get more students. Slowly but surely, the branch began to grow into an actual studio,” he said.
At the peak of growth in 2018, Diaz decided to rebrand his studio to its current title, Shotokan Karate Academy. The name change reflected the style of karate taught, instead of being named after Diaz’s previous sensei, Louie Pande.
Similarly to how dance can be sorted into multiple different styles, karate can be broken down into different techniques and types. Shotokan is in a category all its own, with an emphasis on coordination, control of the body and as few attacks as possible.
“Shotokan focuses on having the most effective technique in the quickest way possible. Instead of hitting repeatedly with multiple different combos, Shotokan focuses on hitting once and getting the job done,” Diaz explained.
To prepare for the competition, Diaz and his students held weekly competition practices on top of their regularly scheduled karate classes. With this additional challenging and helpful preparation, Shotokan came to the USA Open ready to fight.
On April 8 and 9, three full-time instructors, Kassandra Fuller, Andrew Dalton and Diaz, plus seven students prepared to represent their dojo at the event.
At karate competitions, participants can engage in two categories. Entrants can compete in kata, an individual showcase of forms, or kumite, a traditional spar between two people.
After competing, Shotokan impressively placed high in multiple categories and age groups. Fox Masteller placed second in both kata and kumite, Andrew Dalton and Luke Taylor placed third in kata for their respective age divisions and Jordan Diaz himself placed first in kata.
As it was their first official competition season, the Shotokan staff and students were thrilled. “This was an international tournament,” said Diaz. “There were competitors from literally all over the world.
“The best of the best came to represent their countries,” he said.“There were even those who competed in the Tokyo Olympics. For my students to place in their first season of tournaments ever was amazing.” Other participants had been training for years with world-class coaches.
“The best part of this competition was seeing my students’success and growth,” Diaz said. “They all rose from beginners to a very professional level.”
Along with their technical growth, Shotokan’s students grew together and became a true team. Diaz said some students may be on the introverted side, but through tournaments and competitions, they gained increased self-confidence and connections within the karate world.
“As a teacher, personal growth and character development is something that I love to see from my students… and parents love it too. To see their kids go out of their comfort zone, compete at a competition and have new best friends within the dojo is amazing for them,” Diaz said.
To continue the momentum from this experience, Shotokan plans to compete in SLC tournaments on June 10 and August 26. Diaz and his team hope that these events will continue to give students improved karate techniques and teach them life-long lessons.
Shotokan was also recently awarded “Best of Lehi 2023” for distinguished teaching in martial arts.
Shotokan classes are offered for a variety of ages: Tiny Tigers (ages 4-5), Little Dragons (ages 6-7), youth karate (ages 8-12) and the teens and adults class (13+).
In addition to Shotokan, the dojo also offers a jiu-jitsu class for kids. For more information, visit https://shotokankaratelehi.com.