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After the first few lessons, Sierra Luna was hooked — on karate. That was twelve years ago. Captivated by the discipline’s mental and physical challenges, Luna, now a 3rd degree black belt, is a national and international karate champion as well as a UTSA student.

“I was 15 years old, sitting on the floor, listening to this man in a white uniform with a black belt, and I just remember being so nervous,” Luna recalled about her first karate class. The instructor wanted us to know that karate wasn’t just this thing but an art,” she continued. “In my head I thought, ‘This is serious.’ I knew I had to make a choice then, and I chose to stick with it – a year later, I started competing.”

Last month Luna competed in the Association for International Sport for All’s (TAFISA) Inaugural World Martial Arts Games in Richmond, British Columbia.

The TAFISA competition began Sept. 5 and had over 300 participants from 11 countries. Luna placed in all three of the categories she competed in, ranking second in both the Open Hand and the Japanese-Okinawan Wooden Weapon Forms and first in the
Japanese-Okinawan Bladed Weapon Forms.

“It’s unreal,” Luna said. “It’s been a whole month since then, and I still can’t wrap my head around it.”

Luna, 28, was one of only three people from Texas invited to join the United States Martial Arts Team and compete in the TAFISA tournament. She has studied karate for the last 12 years, specializing in the Hayashi-ha Shito-Ryu style.

“I was a sophomore in high school and overweight,” said Luna,who initially took the sport up as a way to incorporate exercise into her life.

“Originally, I was just going to join some gym; I was really lucky the class I signed up for ended up being the style I stuck with.”

Since then, Luna has competed in more tournaments than she can count.

Despite her familiarity with elite competition, each tournament excites her as much as her first. “I love the preparation that goes into tournaments; I love training. That added pressure, knowing I’m working for something — it pumps me up so much.”

In her free time, Luna teaches at the Sanchin Karate Dojo where she trains. After earning her kinesiology degree at UTSA, she plans on working as a physical education instructor at the elementary school level.

“I would like to get a trial martial arts curriculum approved,” she said, “to see if it has any impact on the kids’ attitudes or their grades. Eventually, I’ll open up my own karate school or fitness center.”

Luna is also involved with the local non-profit organization United Communities of San Antonio (UCSA). They work to eliminate bullying, bigotry and racism by promoting understanding and respect, which is something Luna believes in. “My mom’s the executive director (of UCSA),” she explained, “so I’ve grown up with these programs.”

“It’s about self-improvement,” Luna said, reflecting on her recent successes. “I started karate because I loved the idea that I could get better at something throughout my life; I will always love that about it.”

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