For the first time in two years, Two Keys Self Defense studio in Gonzales is heading to the Louisiana Pro-Am Karate & Kung-Fu Nationals tournament next month in Marrero with nine students ranging from ages six to seventeen years old.
Chief Instructor and owner Master Michael Davila has been preparing the students since December in order for them to be ready for what is the first tournament for a majority of the students. In order to prepare for the tournament, Davila has had his students doing sparring exercises and practicing self defense moves and various techniques three nights a week.
"I wanted to get my students to where they could be competitive," Davila, the sixth-degree black belt, said. "I felt that they are ready as they are ever going to be. I decided to go ahead and enter them because I want the kids to experience other styles and see other people and what they do."
Davila also had seventh-degree black belt and instructor Larry Billingslea teach a tournament fighting clinic to the students to show them different karate styles and perspectives.
Eleven-year-old Ephraim Craddock is one of the seven students who will be competing for the first time in the tournament. He has been practicing karate since he was six, though he took a brief break, and has been doing it ever since.
"I like the discipline you learn here," Craddock said. "It's a good workout instead of just sitting on the couch doing nothing.
He said he is nervous about competing, but also extremely excited because once completed, he can begin taking his test to receive his black belt.
Ten year old Jaina Davila said she is excited for her first tournament and has been practicing hard and feels she is ready to compete. She is currently a green belt and aspires to receive her black belt soon.