Photo by Diana Percy
Social studies teacher David Muhammad lunges forward at his opponent. Punching with his right fist, he attacks the opponent. To throw him off, Muhammad kicks up his right foot and strikes the left side of the 6’5” competitor. At this practice against a fellow student of the dojo, Muhammad prepares for the Olympics, the most important event in his karate career.
Karate isn’t currently a part of the games, but it is a part of the Olympic Program. If karate is introduced in the 2020 Olympics, he is going with the team to fight as an alternate. This means that the soon-to-be Olympic team can train at the Olympic facilities, but aren’t permitted to participate in the Olympics itself. The International Olympic Committee, has stalled on having karate in the games because of the different types, such as Wado-ryu and fighting – the event Muhammad partakes in.
Two years ago, Muhammad joined the Senior United States National Team to compete around the world in fighting. The team has gone to places around the world such as Brazil and Las Vegas. His team competes in competitions against other countries, and it took Muhammad four attempts at making the senior team.
“Since David has been doing [karate] for so long, he brings experience to the team,” said Senior United States National Team teammate Kamran Madani “He is such a positive light for us, and that keeps the team together.”
Muhammad has been involved with karate since before he could read and write.
His father, Rudolf Muhammad, has been his mentor since Muhammad was just beginning as a white belt, and Muhammad received his black belt when he was 11. Considering it takes five years to earn a black belt, he started preparing for the belt at age six, much younger than most karate students.
“I remember him playing with the Ninja Turtles when he was three years old,” Rudolf said. “That’s when I saw his potential.”
After that, Rudolf began teaching Muhammad simple techniques such as kihon and kata, the forms and foundations of karate, in their living room. Once he bettered his skills, Rudolf took Muhammad to his dojo, or studio, when he was about six years old to observe higher level fighters.
“I can’t say that I remember my first class, because karate is all I know,” Muhammad said. “So that’s why my passion is so deep.”
As Muhammad began receiving the different belts that represent higher levels, his passion for karate only grew stronger. As a sophomore in high school, he started to teach different classes to younger white belt students at his father’s dojo. Not only did this give Muhammad the accomplishment of teaching children the art, but it helped him to better his own skills and his love for karate increased.
Despite being an alternate, Muhammad’s goal for this year are to win the Pan American Championships, a competition between all American countries and Canada. People who medal in the competition are considered to be the best in the Western Hemisphere.
“I would also be competing as an alternate in [the championships],” Muhammad said. “It’s frustrating because you have to train like you’re going, but realize [participating] is a long shot.”
Even though one of the other fighters on the team most likely will be able to go to the championships, Muhammad is still honored to have the opportunity to even go to the competition.
“[Medalling] would one of the best accomplishments of my life,” Muhammad said. “It would mean that I could potentially help others pursue their dreams.”