Brandon Hong fights his way to the international level


Marianna Marsden

Sophomore Brandon Hong has been involved in karate for over 10 years which proves his passion for the sport. During practice he works on developing his technique along with helping other children in the class.

Little did four-year-old Brandon Hong know that a Bruce Lee movie would set his life on a distinct path.  It seemed only fateful that since there were no kung-fu classes offered near his vicinity, that he moved toward shotokan karate.

Commonly misperceived, shotokan karate doesn’t focus upon the offensive and fighting; in fact, it represents just the opposite.

“Karate is defense against attacks,” Hong said. “You can use martial arts as an advantage to help others.  It also helps to teach you discipline and how to keep under control– or how to train yourself to do so over time.”

Over the course of his karate career, Hong has come to appreciate this therapeutic side of karate.  While he does enjoy shotokan as an art, Hong cannot deny his participation in a fair number of competitions.

“Two years ago, I competed at UC Riverside against several other dojos, and there were other people from other countries,” Hong said. “I placed third in about 50 people.  It was shocking because I did mess up a few times. It surprised me that I placed third.”

Unlike any other sport competition, karate competitions include two main events: kata and kumite.  Kata is an imaginary fight where a person stimulates fighting against others while kumite is basically sparring against another person. The winner of each kumite round is chosen based on a point system; if the judges see contact made, it’s a point for one side. Matches are based on four points.

“I compete in both,” Hong said. “I prefer kata, because in kumite, you have to spend more energy.  Also, in kumite, the rules are sometimes unfair. People under 16 can’t make contact to the face and if you do, it’s disqualification.”

After 11 years of competitions, practice and many sprained ankles, Brandon has achieved his black belt– the highest honor that could be awarded to karate students.  But throughout his karate career, his coach has taught him that his learning experience is far from over.

“A lot of senseis say that when you reach black belt, your training has just begun,” Hong said. “It doesn’t mean once you’ve reached black belt you’re done, or that you stop karate.”

Hong isn’t disappointed by this, and as a candidate for the next year’s Japanese Karate Association international team, he hopes to travel for karate in the near future.

“In terms of Brandon’s karate career, it’s up to him,” karate sensei Russell Adderson said.  “He has all the tools to go to the next level.  I think they look very good to cross that threshold into the international level.”