Martial arts team heads for international championships

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LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. - Nine martial arts students from the Lac du Flambeau Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) reservation are headed to the USA Federation of Pankration Athlima Championships in San Francisco. The international martial arts championships will be held in February 2004.

The Lac du Flambeau Flying Dragons are members of the American Kyuki-do Federation. Kyuki-do is a martial arts style that combines tae-kwan-do, hap-ki-do, and judo with American boxing.

The team of dedicated athletes has been consistently placing high in competitions in the Midwest. The Dragons compete against teams from large cities and teams made up of members from affluent suburbs, and usually come away from the competitions and tournaments victorious, despite the odds.

Coached by Dave Sixel, who has more than 20 years of experience in martial arts and a 3rd degree black belt and is himself a renowned judo/jiujitsu competitor, the team practices at the Abinoojiyag Youth Center in Lac du Flambeau.

"The movies always show a lot of kicks and punches," says Sixel, "but it's really about mental and physical discipline. We try to instill the tenets of kyuki-do, which are courtesy, humility, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit." The team members are instructed not to use their skills to fight at school or anywhere else outside the gym, to fight only as a last resort. Self confidence is a by-product of kyuki-do.

Over the years, perceptions of Lac du Flambeau youth have been tarnished by episodes of turmoil. Much like on other reservations, the young people have been faced with many obstacles and some have not overcome them. The high-school dropout rate is high, and adolescents are entering the judicial and social service systems at younger ages.

The martial arts program at the Abinoojiyag Center began in 1994, a year before the construction of the center. About 30 youth participate in the program. Classes are offered each Monday and Wednesday.

At tournaments, students compete in forms - set patterns of movements - and sparring. The progression of skill level is similar to karate; white belt comes first, followed by yellow, green, blue, brown, red, and black. "The kids can set goals for themselves," said Sixel. "Every three of four months, we do testing, and every time a student progresses to a new belt rank there are new forms to learn."

The talent of the Flying Dragon team is virtually unknown. The team is ranked first in the nation so far, and if 2003 were an Olympic year, members of the team would be participating in the Youth Festival, held at each Olympics. Four members, Samantha Maki, Frank Schuman, Santana Chapman, and Ashley Dionne, have earned points toward qualifying for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

The Dragons are holding raffles and other fundraisers to earn funds for the trip to San Francisco. "The community has been supportive, yet I think that not everyone is aware how talented this team is, their skill level is higher than outstanding," said Karen Maki, a parent of two of the team members. "The magnitude of their past and present accomplishments has not quite sunk in."

For more information, contact the Abinoojiyag Center at (715) 588-7656, P.O. Box 847, Lac du Flambeau, WI 54538. Donations would be greatly appreciated. The USA Federation of Pankration Athlima is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization.