It’s been a big couple of months for SM East social studies teacher David Muhammad.
In March, he fulfilled a lifelong dream by representing the United State in the North American Cup, a karate tournament that pits the best practitioners from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. Two weeks ago he welcomed his first child, a daughter, into the world. And in a week and a half, he’ll hop on a plane for Peru to fight in the Pan Am Championships, the highest level of karate competition in the hemisphere.
Muhammad has been training in karate since he was a kid, and works with his father, Rudolph, who owns the Integrity Martial Arts dojo in south Kansas City. Qualifying to represent the U.S. in the North American Cup and the Pan Am Championships was the result of years of hard work. But Muhammad knows he’s fighting on a totally different level, now. He fought five matches in the North American Cup and won one.
“There’s a pretty big jump in competition,” he said. “When you compete in the U.S., there may be a couple of guys at the tournament who are top notch. At these, everybody who is there is the best from their country. This is what they do. And they do it very seriously.”
Most striking, Muhammad said, was how big some of the competitors in his weight class — 84 kilograms — were.
“I got there and saw some of the guys standing around, and was like, ‘Oh, they must be in a different weight class,’” he said. “But then I found out they were in mine. These guys are like 6’5”. I’m 6’ on a good day.”
Muhammad said he’s been working with his father and remotely with a coach in Colorado on strategies to overcome the larger competitor’s reach advantage. Fatherhood may have thrown a wrinkle in his training schedule leading up to the Peru competition, but he says he’s immensely grateful to be a dad.
“We’re sleeping three hours at a time,” he said. “But it’s been awesome. It really puts life in perspective. My goal now is just to come back in one piece so she can recognize me.”
Muhammad is raising funds to help offset the cost of the trip to Peru via a GoFundMe site.