HARRISONBURG — Three students at Brian Mayes Karate in Harrisonburg stand out among the roughly 220 students at the school, and not just because of their matching shiny blue jackets.
The students came back to class as state champions Nov. 5, after receiving honors from the Virginia Karate Alliance at a Virginia Beach ceremony over the weekend.
They competed in five statewide tournaments throughout the fall and summer to achieve the title.
But they have one other notable similarity: they’re all young girls. Only one male from Brian Mayes Karate won the same title this year.
While karate is still a male-dominated sport, female involvement is picking up, said William May, chief instructor at the studio.
“It’s just as beneficial for girls as boys,” he said, noting that the advantages of learning martial arts skills range from gaining confidence and making friends to losing weight and exhibiting more self-control.
The youngest of the bunch, Alyssa Mongold, 8, has reaped many benefits from her ongoing martial arts experience.
“I made friends, and I learned respect and self-discipline,” she said.
‘She Fell In Love With It’
Mongold, a third-grader at John C. Myers Elementary School, started practicing at the studio when she was only 4.
“She wanted to try it, and she fell in love with it,” said her mother, Sherry Mongold.
Brian Mayes Karate was the first studio Sherry brought Alyssa to, and it was the perfect fit from the start, she said.
“They just teach [the students] to be good people,” she said, noting that her daughter had just received a gift certificate to Cici’s Pizza from May for earning all A’s on her report card.
“I can reinforce those values that [the kids] have at home,” May said. “Sometimes they just have to hear it from someone else.”
May coaches many of his younger students, including the three Broadway girls, throughout a sizeable chunk of their childhood.
He calls Alyssa “my girl,” adding, “She’s just a joy to be around.”
“I can’t say anything bad about these girls,” he said.
In class, he jokingly calls her “Meanness” in reference to the scowling face she makes from behind her pink helmet.
‘She’s A Winner’
He also speaks highly of the other two female state champions: Krysta Armentrout, 14, a ninth-grader at Broadway High School and a black belt and Tiffany Mathias-Bowman, 12, a seventh-grader at J. Frank Hillyard Middle School.
Krysta, who’s been taking karate lessons for almost six years, was not the most coordinated student when she started out, but she’s become strong and powerful, according to her coach.
“I’ve gotten a lot of confidence out of it,” Krysta said.
Tiffany was quiet when she first started coming to the school almost two years ago.
“Now she’s just bubbling over with great attitude,” May said. “She’s a winner.”
Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or firstname.lastname@example.org