Final week — for the primary time in 10 years — the celebrated World Fight Video games happened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This match options the highest eight fighters globally, throughout every weight class, for various combative Olympic sports activities. One of many eight elite fighters within the karate class was Stanford’s very personal Mateo Solis ’27, representing Crew USA.
Freshman to fighter
A freshman at Stanford this yr, Solis was barely a month into school earlier than he flew throughout the globe to enter the fight sport powerhouse of the world. “It was powerful to organize,” Solis stated of his coaching at Stanford within the weeks main as much as the competitors. Since karate shouldn’t be an NCAA sport, Solis educated independently from the varsity.
“It’s taken a variety of creativity [to train],” Solis stated. “For instance, at [the Arrillaga gym] there are martial arts mats. I needed to discover that alone.”
Solis was decided to maintain his conditioning up, and located help at Stanford in his new friendships. “I might have my buddy Nathan [Min] assist maintain the pads for me,” Solis stated. “He was greater than prepared to assist.”
Min can attest to Solis’s talents on the mat: “Mateo is really an athlete that leaves every part on the mat every time he trains. Each time we end an train he all the time decides on the finish so as to add extra time to push himself much more which is really respectable.”
Solis carried out on the world stage of karate final week with the American flag on his chest. When requested about what it’s like to succeed in this almost unattainable degree, Solis stated that “the primary factor that retains me grounded is gratitude.” Solis’s story is certainly one of hard-work, willpower and the braveness to redefine what it means to be a “Karate Child.”
‘Karate Child’ to karate child
“I used to be 4 years outdated, and I watched ‘The Karate Child’ for the primary time,” Solis stated. Impressed by the film, he begged his mother and father to enroll him in a karate class: “They did, for my birthday, and I by no means appeared again.”
Solis is from Evanston, Illinois, and the primary membership that he enrolled in is without doubt one of the finest within the nation — Fonseca Martial Arts Dojo. The dojo was based by John Fonseca, the primary karate athlete on this planet to win back-to-back gold medals on the Pan-American Video games, the primary American to medal on the Karate World Championships in over a decade and Solis’s coach.
“It has been an actual pleasure and honor watching Mateo go from a four-year-old karate child to competing in opposition to, and infrequently beating, the perfect on this planet as an grownup now,” stated Fonseca. Karate is a really particular person sport, and Solis’s journey to the elite ranges concerned a variety of psychological self-discipline.
“When you step out onto the mat … it’s all as much as you and your individual efficiency,” Solis stated. “The wins really feel so good and the losses are simply completely crushing.”
Fonseca labored with Solis on utilizing the losses as stepping stones to success.
“I … remind [Solis] to cherish the expertise, to maintain issues in perspective, to be taught from the losses however to allow them to go rapidly, and to not care an excessive amount of what different individuals assume,””Fonseca stated. “I emphasize to play for the love of the sport and for no person else, and that ‘failure equals suggestions.’” Fonseca stated he suggested Solis to give attention to outworking everybody and that accolades would comply with naturally.
And so they did. One month earlier than Solis got here to Stanford, he was topped the back-to-back karate champion on the Pan-American video games in Santiago, Chile. “I educated as arduous as I may,” Solis stated. “I knew that if I competed at my finest that I may take the gold. It was so pleasurable. I simply received again to what I initially began karate for.”
Artist to athlete
Solis began karate to change into an athlete.
“I discover karate to be a powerful sport as a result of it requires unimaginable athleticism, pace, explosiveness, agility, response timing, all whereas sustaining correct management to maintain your self and your opponent secure,” Fonseca stated. “However most significantly, the karate athlete should management their feelings and display respect to their opponent and the officers it doesn’t matter what happens.”
Whereas this appears apparent to Solis and Fonseca, who grew up within the intense world of aggressive karate, not everybody thinks of karate on this method.
“[A stereotype] that actually caught with me is certainly one of my trainer’s in seventh grade,” stated Solis. “I informed her that I used to be going to a giant match and that I needed to miss a variety of faculty, and she or he principally disregarded my standing as an athlete and known as me ‘an artist.’”
Solis doesn’t consider himself as an artist. “I’m simply as a lot of an athlete as individuals on the soccer staff or on the basketball staff … It’s simply not well-known sufficient.”
However Solis is altering that. In January 2021, Solis based Tatami USA, a karate information firm with the same format to ESPN sports activities media feeds, targeted on shedding gentle on karate as a sport. “I noticed that individuals on the skin world don’t have an excessive amount of of an understanding of what karate is about,” Solis stated. “I’ve this imaginative and prescient of karate being seen as what it ought to be: a aggressive Olympic-level sport.”
Solis is actually a testomony to the message he’s targeted on selling. As Fonseca stated, “Solis is an distinctive athlete whose work ethic, grit and willpower have enabled him to rise to every problem.”