ll references from the 1980s movie “The Karate Kid” aside, it could be safe to say that 14-year-old St. Mary’s-Colgan student Joe Otter may be the real deal.

All references from the 1980s movie “The Karate Kid” aside, it could be safe to say that 14-year-old St. Mary’s-Colgan student Joe Otter may be the real deal.
The Pittsburg youth has been involved in karate since the day he turned 4.
Exactly the day he turned 4 because that was the age when kids could become start to become involved in karate.
“Ever since I was very little I would watch my dad teach class and I thought that it was cool and the day I turned 4 I told him that I was going to class,” Otter said.
His father, James Otter, is the director of the Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Genbu-Kai School of Pittsburg. He said that getting younger people involved in karate is paramount to keeping people active.
“I think it is the goal of our chief instructor, Fumio Derura, to let young people and adults know that karate is a thing for your life,” James said. “You don’t just do it for a short period of time. I hope that I can do it when I am 100 years old.”
He added that karate is very beneficial to youth like his son.
“We find out with a lot of young kids that it teaches them focus in a society where people switch from one form of entertainment to another,” James said. “That is one of the good things of the development process I think.”
Joe knows that karate is more than just punching, kicking and fighting with weapons.
“It is more than just fighting,” Joe said. “We teach self-defense and sometimes the best defense is running away. You may think that is being a coward but not really because sometimes that is being pretty smart.”
Joe, over the course of his 10 years in karate, has competed across the country and even had the opportunity to compete in the heart of karate’s origins last year in Japan.
“We went with a group of about 12 of us and competed in a very large tournament that had about 500 competitors,” James said. “He won a few matches and was about in the middle of the pack and they were all junior black belts and they train very intensively over in Japan.”
There was more than just the competition for Joe.
“It wasn’t just competition because we stayed and saw the sights and it was beautiful,” Joe said.
The rules in Japanese competition kept Joe off-balance during his first competition overseas.
“I really didn’t know the rules and not knowing the rules I did not do as good but I made it through three rounds and lost to a guy but I was happy that I made it through,” Joe said.
Currently, Joe holds the rank of a junior red belt.
“There is a black belt for adults but, for kids, there is a red belt and it is the equivilent of a black belt,” Joe said. “You have to work your way up for, pretty much four or five years to get there.”
That means he is not far from his goal of obtaining the elusive black belt.
“In two years I will be able to test for my adult ranking and, depending on how much I know and my ranking I will either get a green or a brown belt,” Joe said. “Then you train and wait a year and test for your black belt and you have to go to California to test for that.”
Joe is in a small group of young adults that are involved in the sport of karate and that group is even smaller at his school at Colgan.
“I have three classmates that do this and we all talk about it,” Joe said. “The ones that don’t think that it is pretty cool and they want me to do karate moves all the time.”
That has not stopped the references to the pop-culture hit movie “The Karate Kid” of 1980s fame.
“I have gotten a couple,” Joe said.
Jokes aside, Joe has actually had the opportunity, through his chief instructor, to meet Noriuki “Pat” Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi, in the movie trillogy.
“I got to meet him and it was prett awesome,” Joe said. “He was pretty laid back.”
Regardless of the competitions, the references and the degrees of belts that Joe may obtain, he said that his involvement in karate goes above and beyond all of that.
“I think this keeps me physically fit and I am not sitting around the house watching TV being a couch potato,” Joe said. “I am learning skills ... it is not just karate it is learning about life skills and how you present your kata can be about how you present things in life.”

Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140