Final week — for the primary time in 10 years — the distinguished World Fight Video games happened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This match options the highest eight fighters globally, throughout every weight class, for various combative Olympic sports activities. One of many eight elite fighters within the karate class was Stanford’s very personal Mateo Solis ’27, representing Crew USA.
Freshman to fighter
A freshman at Stanford this yr, Solis was barely a month into school earlier than he flew throughout the globe to enter the fight sport powerhouse of the world. “It was powerful to arrange,” Solis mentioned of his coaching at Stanford within the weeks main as much as the competitors. Since karate shouldn’t be an NCAA sport, Solis educated independently from the varsity.
“It’s taken a variety of creativity [to train],” Solis mentioned. “For instance, at [the Arrillaga gym] there are martial arts mats. I needed to discover that alone.”
Solis was decided to maintain his conditioning up, and located help at Stanford in his new friendships. “I’d have my buddy Nathan [Min] assist maintain the pads for me,” Solis mentioned. “He was greater than prepared to assist.”
Min can attest to Solis’s skills on the mat: “Mateo is actually an athlete that leaves every part on the mat each time he trains. Each time we end an train he all the time decides on the finish so as to add extra time to push himself much more which is actually respectable.”
Solis carried out on the world stage of karate final week with the American flag on his chest. When requested about what it’s like to succeed in this almost unattainable degree, Solis mentioned that “the primary factor that retains me grounded is gratitude.” Solis’s story is considered one of hard-work, willpower and the braveness to redefine what it means to be a “Karate Child.”
‘Karate Child’ to karate child
“I used to be 4 years previous, and I watched ‘The Karate Child’ for the primary time,” Solis mentioned. Impressed by the film, he begged his dad and mom to enroll him in a karate class: “They did, for my birthday, and I by no means seemed again.”
Solis is from Evanston, Illinois, and the primary membership that he enrolled in is among the finest within the nation — Fonseca Martial Arts Dojo. The dojo was based by John Fonseca, the primary karate athlete on this planet to win back-to-back gold medals on the Pan-American Video games, the primary American to medal on the Karate World Championships in over a decade and Solis’s coach.
“It has been an actual pleasure and honor watching Mateo go from a four-year-old karate child to competing towards, and sometimes beating, the most effective on this planet as an grownup now,” mentioned Fonseca. Karate is a really particular person sport, and Solis’s journey to the elite ranges concerned a variety of psychological self-discipline.
“When you step out onto the mat … it’s all as much as you and your individual efficiency,” Solis mentioned. “The wins really feel so good and the losses are simply completely crushing.”
Fonseca labored with Solis on utilizing the losses as stepping stones to success.
“I … remind [Solis] to cherish the expertise, to maintain issues in perspective, to be taught from the losses however to allow them to go rapidly, and to not care an excessive amount of what different folks assume,””Fonseca mentioned. “I emphasize to play for the love of the sport and for no one else, and that ‘failure equals suggestions.’” Fonseca mentioned he suggested Solis to deal with outworking everybody and that accolades would comply with naturally.
And so they did. One month earlier than Solis got here to Stanford, he was topped the back-to-back karate champion on the Pan-American video games in Santiago, Chile. “I educated as laborious as I may,” Solis mentioned. “I knew that if I competed at my finest that I may take the gold. It was so fulfilling. I simply obtained again to what I initially began karate for.”
Artist to athlete
Solis began karate to change into an athlete.
“I discover karate to be a formidable sport as a result of it requires unbelievable athleticism, velocity, explosiveness, agility, response timing, all whereas sustaining correct management to maintain your self and your opponent protected,” Fonseca mentioned. “However most significantly, the karate athlete should management their feelings and reveal respect to their opponent and the officers it doesn’t matter what happens.”
Whereas this appears apparent to Solis and Fonseca, who grew up within the intense world of aggressive karate, not everybody thinks of karate on this approach.
“[A stereotype] that basically caught with me is considered one of my trainer’s in seventh grade,” mentioned Solis. “I advised her that I used to be going to a giant match and that I needed to miss a variety of college, and he or she principally disregarded my standing as an athlete and known as me ‘an artist.’”
Solis doesn’t consider himself as an artist. “I’m simply as a lot of an athlete as folks on the soccer crew or on the basketball crew … It’s simply not well-known sufficient.”
However Solis is altering that. In January 2021, Solis based Tatami USA, a karate information firm with the same format to ESPN sports activities media feeds, targeted on shedding mild on karate as a sport. “I spotted that folks on the surface world don’t have an excessive amount of of an understanding of what karate is about,” Solis mentioned. “I’ve this imaginative and prescient of karate being seen as what it needs to be: a aggressive Olympic-level sport.”
Solis is definitely a testomony to the message he’s targeted on selling. As Fonseca mentioned, “Solis is an distinctive athlete whose work ethic, grit and willpower have enabled him to rise to every problem.”