#PinoyPride: Fil-Am wins five medals in world karate

WINNER. Chris Crisostomo sharing the podium with athletes from Slovak Republic and Italy


Chris Crisostomo sharing the podium with athletes from Slovak Republic and Italy

Chris Crisostomo, a Filipino-American karate teacher from Diamond Bar, California, recently bested martial arts athletes worldwide by winning five medals for Team USA.

Held in Benidorm, Spain, the WKA WTKA World Unified Championships on November 5 to 8 brought together 3,000 competitors from around the world. Chris won in five performance divisions: Traditional Weapon (gold), Musical Weapon (gold), Musical Form (gold), Creative Form (gold) and Creative Weapon (silver).

Chris has won the following awards in these recent tournaments as well:

In 2014, Sensei Chris was rated North American Sport Karate Association’s (NASKA's) World Top Ten in 2014. It's been his lifelong dream to represent Team USA at the WKTA WKA World Championships, and he was able to do so this year with the help of funds raised by friends and family.

I spent some time with Chris after his victory in Spain to talk about his journey.

WINNER. Chris Crisostomo sharing the podium with athletes from Slovak Republic and Italy


Chris Crisostomo sharing the podium with athletes from Slovak Republic and Italy

A childhood passion

As a child, Chris used to imitate the moves he saw in Bruce Lee movies. This prompted his father to enroll him in karate classes in Red Dragon Karate in Diamond Bar, California.

Chris admits that becoming a professional martial arts teacher and athlete wasn't in his life plans but as he got older he saw the excitement in his students when they earned their next belt or won a trophy at a tournament. In 2005, his fellow black belt Dustin Lenaburg brought up the idea of opening a school of their own. They've since developed a strong competitive school called
Champions Karate Dojo in West Covina, California.At age nine, Chris then started training with instructor Shihan Mohamad Jahanvash, who has been his mentor, guiding him through martial arts training and competitions for the past 26 years.

For many years Chris had put competing on hold to focus on his karate school, but when his students started competing, he thought it would be a good idea to compete alongside them, acting as a role model. He also uses local and national tournaments as a venue to promote his handmade martial arts weapons business he shares with partner Mike Goodwin, 10th Degree Weaponry.

Benefits of martial arts 

Chris credits teaching and being active in his classes in maintaining skill and fitness as a martial arts athlete. Aside from being a great way to maintain physical activity and relieve stress, he believes karate and martial arts also help individuals to be more focused and goal-oriented.

Based on his experience with kids, Chris has also observed that martial arts give youth a sense of integrity, respect for others and for themselves, and a sense of self-confidence. Chris believes that one's success only comes with the support he or she has around him. In his case, he gives credit to his family and friends who stood by him and provided the resources he needed to succeed.

As a karate instructor, Chris enjoys his job so it doesn't feel like work to him. He enjoys watching his students succeed and reach their goals, but his chosen career also comes with challenges.

Early this year Chris dislocated his toe during a misstep in training, earning him a trip to the ER and several weeks in rehab. Aside from the physical toll of being in an active profession, Chris also struggles to maintain a balance between his passion and being a businessman in order to support himself.

I asked Chris what advice he can give to the martial arts community in the Philippines. He said, "Let practicing be fun for you. At times you'll have to train very hard but if you surround yourself with the right people, it will never get old and boring."

What does it take to become a champion?

In order to become a champion, Sensei Chris says that the hard work must be put in during training so that when it comes to competition time, you'll be able to trust in your abilities. He follows a motto in his dojo: "You either accept your limitations or you become a champion."

Chris says that his 26 years of being a student, teacher, and competitor in karate have taught him many lessons. As a competitor, he has learned that one only needs to strive to be the best person he can be and that patience will reward him in time with his moment to shine.

As an instructor and a student, he believes that the learning process should be constant and that he will always be learning no matter how old he gets, transferring his knowledge and wisdom to his students the way his mentors have done for him.

Chris Crisostomo's parents both hail from Sariaya, Quezon and migrated to the US in the 1970s.He credits his parents' Filipino work ethic and his late father's sportsmanship for his success in both his professional and personal life. He accepts students of all ages in his karate school, CK Dojo. – Rappler.com

WATCH: Chris Crisostomo during his Gold Medal performance at the WKA WTKA Unified World