Eagle’s Sebie Witt will travel to Hungary and Slovakia to represent US in international karate tournaments
EAGLE — The first time Sebastian Witt toddled into a karate studio, he was still wearing diapers. He took his first karate lesson before he attended kindergarten.
To say that karate has been a big part of Sebastian’s — Sebie, to his family and friends — life is an understatement. He has been involved in the sport for 12 of his 16 years, and karate has taken the Eagle Valley High School sophomore to tournaments all over the United States. He has earned scads of trophies and singular honors. Now he is preparing to take his fighting game international.
In March, Sebie and his parents, — Mary and Paul Witt, of Eagle — traveled to Fort Lauderdale, where he tried out for the Amateur Athletic Union National Team. During two days of tryouts, more than 70 athletes were evaluated on their karate skills as well as overall physical capabilities. Sebie was selected as one of about 20 athletes to compete in both kata (forms) and kumite (sparring) at the World Combat Games in Budapest, Hungary, and the World Union of Karate Federations World Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia.
“I am really excited and really honored to get such a big opportunity,” Sebie said. “I have never competed internationally, so it’s a really big deal. It’s becoming more and more serious the closer it gets.”
Karate is a family sport for the Witts. Fifteen years ago, Sebie’s dad and his two older brothers began classes with James Lee’s School of Champions in Eagle.
“I have been involved in karate since I was 2 years old, first just watching my brothers while sitting on my mom’s lap,” Sebie said. “I started my actual karate training at 4 years old under James Lee.”
“When he started he already knew things because he had been watching his brothers and dad,” Mary said.
“What we didn’t know is 15 years later, we would still be involved in this,” Paul said.
As Sebie tells it, he couldn’t wait to start classes and join his brothers. Once he began training, he never wanted to stop. His skills got stronger and he started winning tournaments.
Back in 2016, Sebie competed at the U.S. Karate Alliance World Championships in Phoenix. He was fighting in the 12- and 13-year-old advanced class and took the top prize in four of the five events he entered. He placed second in the one event he didn’t win.
His success didn’t stop there. As the winner of his age division, Sebie went on to compete against all the other division champions for the Grand Champion weapons crown. Sebie proceeded to beat out all other weapons class winners age 17 and younger.
Sebie was subsequently named to the U.S. Karate Alliance Junior National Team. The team members set national point standings benchmarks for students from schools around the country.
But even with all his tournament experience and success, Sebie didn’t know what to expect when he headed to Florida last month for the Amateur Athletic Union tryout.
“This was the first time we’ve ever been involved with the Amateur Athletic Union, so it was nerve-racking,” Mary said. “Parents weren’t allowed in the arena for the entire two days of competition and evaluation, so we really had no idea how things were going. But we had confidence in Sebie and in his training.”
“I thought my forms were probably my stronger event,” Sebie said. “Plus, being from a higher elevation probably helped me do better on the physical assessment.”
At the end of the evaluation, Sebie had earned one of only three spots available for forms competition and his weight class spot for sparring.
In addition to the European tournaments, Sebie will continue to train and compete in tournaments in the U.S. Among them are the US Open and Junior Nationals in Las Vegas; USA Karate’s National Championships in Chicago; Amateur Athletic Union regionals in Chicago and nationals in Fort Lauderdale. At these events, the Amateur Athletic Union National Team coaches will evaluate and train their athletes. Sebie is excited to hear what they have to say.
“You can only go so far without listening to other people,” he said.
But there is one thing that Sebie refuses to change — his attitude.
“I have been taught by my sensei to never ever give up and to always give 100 percent,” said Sebie.
Working his way
Sebie’s Amateur Athletic Union trip to Europe will no doubt be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it won’t come cheap. The Witts estimate the journey will cost around $15,000.
“I am doing any and all work I can do around town to earn money,” Sebie said.
That includes yard chores, pet-sitting and more. He is also selling his mom’s famed crabapple jelly and teaching classes at James Lee’s karate school.
The Witts have established both a local account at 1st Bank (Sebastian Witt Karate Account) and a GoFundMe page for locals interested in helping with his expenses. The local dojo will host a bingo night fundraiser for Sebie on Saturday, May 18, from 4–7 p.m. at a location to be determined.
“I’m really excited and really honored to get such a big opportunity,” Sebie said. “I am excited for the opportunity to test myself and I am excited I get to represent the U.S.”
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