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When Colton Woodard isn’t studying, he’s chopping, punching and high-kicking his way to become a professional athlete in the sport of karate.

“My long term goal is to better myself and the level of competition, and inspire others to really up their skills for Team USA and to also promote the sport and to help it grow and get some recognition. So once we get into the Olympics, it will be a more of a home sport like baseball and football,” said Woodard, a junior pre-clinical major.

The Olympics won’t be held until 2020 in Japan. Until that time, Woodard has some big plans for the United States and UCF. He will be representing Team USA in the World Karate Federation Karate 1 League held in Okinawa, Japan Nov. 28 and Nov. 29.

“If I win, not only will it be an honor for myself and the United States, but I would then be considered professional and could never compete in the amateur circuit again. There would be some notoriety with that, and I would try to reach even higher goals for myself in other competitions,” Woodard said. “I’m going to be making a pilgrimage in Japan and bring our values—how Knights do things. Even if I don’t win, I’ll make a lasting impression.”

He was chosen to compete internationally after winning a silver medal at the 2015 Amateur Athletic Union Karate National Championships.

Woodard started learning different styles of karate when he was 2 years old. At the age of 5, he won his first world championship. He’s been trained by his father throughout his life and karate expert Soke Kuniba from his teenage years to adulthood. Today, he is considered a godan, which is a fifth-degree black belt, in Shito-ryu under Kuniba.

Not only does Woodard enjoy competing, he teaches karate at the Socrates Preparatory School in Casselberry and, beginning today, he will share his skills with UCF students. The original UCF Karate Club was formed in 2004 and disbanded in 2008, but Woodard plans to revitalize the forgotten club.

“It’s going to be a sport’s league, so we’re starting an Olympic-level competition for all divisions, all experience levels and we’re going to have it registered with the Amateur Athletic Union as a legitimate organization,” Woodard said. “As a community, I feel that the skills I’ve acquired and trained hard for shouldn’t just be kept a secret. I feel like they should be shared. It’s something I would love for anybody who’s interested to pursue because it’s a great way of life.”

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Michael Paglia, a senior general business major and treasurer of the UCF Karate Club, is a long-time friend of Woodard and also trained under his father.  He and Woodard will be training students in the karate styles of Shito-ryu and Kumite as well as training them with weapons.

“I hope in the next two years to establish a collegiate league. I would love to have teams of 12, like UCF team of 12 versus USF team of 12, and start a legitimate league for colleges,” Woodard said.

Dena Ford, an undergraduate adviser for the College of Sciences and primary adviser for the UCF Karate Club, knows Woodard has big goals in mind for the club.

“He’s very enthusiastic, extremely positive,” Ford said. “I think what stood out to me was that Colton knows how passionate he is about it and he couldn’t do it alone.”

Ford met Woodard through campus activities and discovered a commonality.

“We have the same foundation, Shito-ryu,” Ford said. “I know the impact and connection it can make with students with a commonality. I think there’s so much power in that connection.”

Woodard wants the karate club to be a stepping stone for students’ and UCF’s futures.

“We’re going to do our best to get some state championship titles for UCF and hopefully have some of our competitors move on to the national level and, who knows, maybe will even qualify for international competitions next year, which would be great,” he said.

The first practice was today at 9 a.m. in the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center. Practice times will be Monday 9-11 a.m., Tuesday 10-11 a.m., Wednesday 9-11 a.m., Thursday 5-7 p.m. and Friday 5:30-7:30 p.m.

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Veronica Brezina is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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