MANATEE -- A small academy in Manatee County that teaches 400-year-old martial arts is producing world champions.
Dojo Martial Arts, 4220 59th St. W., and its leader, Master Kevin Bergquist, 34, recently brought home three world championships, 16 trophies and four medals from the International Sport Karate Association's U.S. Open World Championships in Orlando.
The feats were accomplished by just five Manatee County competitors -- Ethan Crews, Jaaron Langley, Mason Ware, Dustin Elliott and Antonio Mendez.
The event featured roughly 3,000 competitors from 42 countries.
The U.S. Open -- the largest open martial arts tournament in the world -- is always held the first weekend in July at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando.
Elliott, 35, won two world championships, in continuous fighting and point fighting, Bergquist said. Ethan Crews, 5, won the third title in forms.
"Dojo did phenomenal," said Bradenton's Laurissa Langley, whose son, Jaaron, 7, won medals in four art forms, including creative weapons, continuous sparring, clash sparring and point sparring.
Competitors in the U.S. Open can use any martial art form, which gives Dojo Martial Arts a leg up since it specializes in seven arts, including traditional karate, sports karate, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, capoeiro, ninjutsu, kali silat and kick boxing, Bergquist said.
Ethan trains every day at the local academy and on the weekend at home.
"Ethan was up against about 20 other competitors in Orlando and took the world championship in the 5-and-under Forms Competition," Bergquist said. "I was so proud of him. He went out with real bravery and sharpness of motion. It was only the second tournament he has ever competed in and he won a world championship."
"Forms can be described as beating up the air with your arms, legs and hands," Bergquist said. "You learn the historic forms. The ones we practice are 400 years old."
Ethan displayed the forms of Yamagawa Ryu Karate that originated in Owinawa, which is now part of Japan, Bergquist said.
"We trace our lineage to
the Shaolin Temple in China," Bergquist added.
Elliott showed uncommon drive, his master said.
"In continuous fighting they receive points every time they land a blow," Bergquist said. "Dustin wishes to become a professional Mixed Martial Arts professional in the Ultimate Fighting Championships' cages matches."
The Orlando event was broadcast live on ESPN2, Bergquist said.
"It will be replayed through the year," Bergquist added.
Langley gives Bergquist credit for the local academy faring so well in the U.S. Open.
"Kevin is all about respect, integrity and discipline," Langley said. "He teaches them that it's more than just using forms and weapons. It's being well-rounded and honorable ladies and gentlemen. They want to learn and be like Kevin. He never raises his voice. He works with them and they respect him."
For more information on Dojo Martial Arts, call 941-807-1734.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.