Chris St. John, an apprentice black belt at Graveline’s American Martial Arts in Brooklyn, said it wasn’t a shock when Shelby Fundin left the 3rd Annual Connecticut National Karate Championship at Foxwoods Resort Casino on March 18 with three first-place trophies.
“Having worked out with her, no, I’m not surprised,” St. John said. “Seeing how quickly she came in and excelled, that was definitely a surprise.”
Fundin, a freshman at Woodstock Academy, started doing martial arts last October and entered her first tournament on March 3. In her first appearance in the beginner division, Fundin won the first leg of the Krane Triple Crown.
More wins ahead
Two weeks later, at the Connecticut National Karate Championship, Fundin swept open forms, traditional forms and fighting in the co-ed 14-15 age group.
“All it comes down to pretty simply is she is really good at what she does because she is an athlete and she is coachable,” Joe Graveline, head instructor at Graveline’s American Martial Arts, said.
Fundin earned a spot on the Woodstock Academy varsity softball team this spring. On some nights, she goes straight from softball practice to karate.
“(Karate) is different than the other sports that I play because we’re on a team, but we’re not actually a team. You have to compete by yourself, and if you make a mistake, it’s all on you. It’s a lot of pressure, but I like it,” Fundin said.
The 15-year-old admitted having some misconceptions about the martial art before she started training in October. Fundin thought karate was all fighting, but one of her favorite parts of the sport has been doing the forms, which consists of taking the mat by herself and performing a set pattern of moves.
“I do like the forms now because you know what is going to happen and you just perform it as best as you can,” Fundin said. “It is a lot of pressure because you are out there all by yourself.”
On April 15, Fundin will face her toughest challenge yet at The Ocean State Grand Nationals in Warwick, R.I. The three-day event features fighters from all over the world. Graveline said he will make sure she is ready.
Fundin practices with members of Graveline’s American Martial Arts, dubbed the Brooklyn Strikers, three days a week. Most of the fighters she spars with at practice are older and more experienced, but St. John said the 15-year-old fits right in.
“She’s not like a typical kid,” St. John said. “That is for sure. When you are working out with her she doesn’t seem like she is (15), she definitely seems very mature for her age because of her focus, drive and her abilities. It’s great to see someone so young be able to apply (herself) the way she has.”