Six Students from SMC's Karate class Prepare for Annual Convention

At the far side of the room, floor-to-ceiling windows let in natural light that reflects off the mirrors that line the walls. Students stare at their reflection, full of concentration, as the class begins with a bow before jumping right into warm-ups to get ready for the day's training. From 3:45-5:05 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, room 218 of the Core Performance Center (CPC) on Santa Monica College's main campus becomes a dojo - a Japanese term for a place for immersive learning - where Biology Professor Garen Baghdasarian teaches the Shorinji-Ryu style of Okinawa karate.

From this class, six talented students; Harold Parker, Henry de Leon, Sergio Orea, Ida Burkland, Brenda Anthony, and Andrey Gaydukov, have been selected by Professor Baghdasarian to head to Arizona to participate in the Zentokukai Annual Karate Gathering, a karate convention that will be held in Arizona from May 17-20. In addition to the funding they received from the Associated Students board, two of the students and Professor Baghdasarian have put up around $400 of their own money in order to make the trip possible.

For Baghdasarian, the main priority is getting students to the convention, where they will learn from other Karate masters before it moves to the East Coast in 2019, which will make it cost-prohibitive.

The group seemed to revel in having the opportunity to attend this year. “Anytime you’re training with a lot of masters, the energy is different, student Harold Parker said. "It makes you want to learn the details… you want to be where they are.”

Another student who will be attending, Ida Burkland, said, “I saw some of them… last semester and after that it just made me work harder because I was [like], 'Wow is that something that you can do?’ I’m gonna get there one day.”

Anthony - shy and soft-spoken - is a White Belt with Green stripe. She first tried to pick up martial arts when she found her father’s gi in the closet when she was younger. “You gain a lot of confidence,” Anthony said when explaining why she enjoyed learning martial arts.

Parker, who has been practicing martial arts for most of his life, said, “I like this style [karate] more than any other that I’ve done just because it’s a more practical application of the martial arts.”

The one thing that Burkland wanted everyone to know about the karate class at SMC is, “Our sensei is amazing.” All the other students agreed.