Featured Athlete: Black belt earns post as sensei

Evan Dalian, staff writer

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After nine years of hard work, one student-athlete has the opportunity of a lifetime. Sophomore Doug Bates, a black belt in karate, has been offered a job, at the age of 16, to become a sensei himself in the near future.

“My sensei has taught me hard work and discipline are worth it,” Bates said. “He pushed me to finish something I started when I was 6.”

Bates just recently completed his training in becoming a black belt. It took almost a decade of off-and-on training to get where he is today.
After about eight years of learning an American form of karate with the same two senseis, the senseis moved and Bates’ training came to a halt as a brown belt. He then reached out to his current sensei, Colby Lalli, and asked him to help him complete his training to become a black belt. Bates then had to learn a completely new system of karate called Kenpo within a six-month time frame.
“My first impression of [Doug] as a student was that he had a solid base in regards to his basics, good power and good memory,” Lalli said. “I think more than anything, I could see the potential that he had for the martial arts…he was a hard worker.”
Now that Bates has completed his training, his sensei has presented him with a unique opportunity. The organization that Bates does karate through, Activstars, has offered Bates a job at the age of 16.
“I believe Doug has a bright future in the martial arts,” Lalli said. “What most people don’t realize is that the martial arts is a way of life, not a job or career. His future is forever changed, and as long as he continues to love to teach and bring karate to the kids he teaches and instill in them the same discipline and hard work that was instilled in him, he can pass on the legacy.”
Bates must go through a six-month training period of learning how to run his own classes before he is able to teach classes on his own and have his own students. Bates is currently paid $12 an hour assisting the sensei as an instructor in training.
“I think he would be a great teacher,” said freshman Daniel Cortez, who did karate with Bates for approximately five years. “He seems like the type of guy to take every step and explain it thoroughly. I know he can do a good job as a sensei. He’s very focused and when he became a brown belt, he began teaching. It’s been a couple of years so he should have [had] enough practice.”
Bates helps teach two classes a week with approximately 50 students each class. He enjoys teaching because it is his way of giving back. As a younger student, he knows he did not yet fully realize what karate meant. But, after he put so much time into learning, now it is his time to teach.
“Karate is a great way to learn how to protect yourself and others around you,” Bates said. “For kids, it’s a great way to learn discipline, manners, respect, etcetera. Karate is all about showing honor to your authorities. If you disrespect the principal, you get in trouble. If you disrespect the sensei, you are disciplined.”

In his karate gi, sophomore Doug Bates demonstrates the fighting stance. Bates was offered a job at the age of 16 as a sensei at Activstars. Photo by John Biehler