Herald and Journal, Sept. 27, 1999

Stifter and Neff represent U.S. karate in Russia

By Mary Neff

The World Shotokan Karate Championships were held Sept. 4 and 5 in Moscow, Russia.

Louis Stifter, chief instructor of the Winsted Karate Club, competed and also served as captain of the U. S. team. Dr. James Neff, director of the Winsted Karate Club, was the coach for the U. S. team.

Competition was fierce in this international competition, with 18 teams from all parts of the world, including Europe and the Netherlands, Russia and Canada.

Many of the teams are supported financially and politically by their countries and are close to professional level. In addition, many of the European countries' teams compete with each other on a monthly basis, thus increasing their exposure and experience with various levels of talent.

Several of the teams have specialized coaches for each of the categories of competition, and many of the coaches are paid professionals.

According to Neff, Stifter fought well in individual kumite (free fighting) competition. He beat Albert Pozniak of Poland and, in overtime, lost to Jean Marc Descotes, the strongest man on the French team.

In team kumite, the U.S. faced France during the first round. Stifter was the only one of five U.S. team members to win his round. The U.S. team lost to France, which went on to place second in the world.

At this level, kumite is performed barehanded and no protection is required, although most competitors wore mouth guards. Medical personnel were standing by to lend assistance as necessary.

The U.S. team had eight members from California, one from Washington, one from Michigan and Louis Stifter from Minnesota. Overall, the U.S. team made a good showing. Three team members reached the quarter finals in male individual kata, one team member reached the semifinals in female individual kata, and two team members reached the semifinals in female individual kumite.

One member also earned second place in the world in female individual kumite.

This was the first opportunity Russia had to host this international championship competition and they rolled out the red carpet to the visiting teams and their friends. Escorts and buses provided transportation from the airport to the hotel, and to the stadium.

Very fine accommodations were available at the international Cosmo hotel, which had been built when the Olympics were held in Russia in 1980. Former prime minister Sergei Kiriyenko welcomed the competitors and wished them well during the opening ceremonies.

The opening ceremonies and the finals were broadcast live to 145 million viewers. Repeats of the broadcast were played for days after the event.

Ray Dahlke, vice president of the World Shotokan Karate Organization and head of the U.S. program, Dr. Neff and others are discussing ways to better prepare the U.S. team for future world championships.

Selecting the team early in the year and coaching the individuals for the rigor and mind set required for international competition would add a necessary element. Assigning a team coach or coaches early on would add focus and help clarify goals.

Obtaining financial support from public entities would provide the resources for the team to train together on a regular basis. Currently, the American JKA organization is supported solely by volunteers and donated funds. Many team members and coaches use their own financial resources to support their participation.

The Winsted Karate Club has trained children and adults in Shotokan karate since 1982, and is fortunate to have the support of so many friends in Winsted and the surrounding communities.

A beginners class in the Winsted Karate Club is starting today and Thursday, in the Winsted Public School. For more information, call 320-485-2388, 320-562-2305 or 320-587-7988.

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