KILN, MS (WLOX) - It was a suspenseful scene at East Hancock Elementary this Saturday morning.
"(There's) definitely not a dull moment," Derek Pruitt said. It's definitely moving, you never know what's gonna happen. A kick here, a punch here, stance here, you really don't know."
The school played host Saturday to the 2018 AAU District IX Karate Championships, as participants from Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama came to the Coast to show their stuff.
Rannie Ladner (0:29) - "It's a lot of work and it requires a lot of discipline," said Rannie Ladner, director of Gulf Coast Shotokan Karate School who co-sponsored this event. "In my opinion, I think we (are lacking) that a lot in today's generation, and that's what karate does so much is instill discipline and respect."
Featuring over 80 students, including some as young as four years old, the event is another example of Karate's growing popularity along the Coast and beyond.
"Parents as well as students are understanding the importance of martial arts," said Pruitt, director of Pruitt's Marshal Arts, the other co-sponsor. "Teaching discipline, that dedication, and of course that self-defense that comes along with it. (The popularity is) increasing each year."
In fact, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will be the first to feature karate as a recognized sport. Damian Boldt, a Louisiana native who walked away with two gold medals today, says the upcoming games are a great opportunity to showcase everything karate has to offer.
"I think what we're really most excited about is for people to see the athletes in karate and go wow, that's really cool," Boldt said. "But when they get into it, there's so many other great (life) lessons to be learned."
Participants who earned a medal today advance to the regional championships in Louisiana in May, and will look to punch their tickets to the national competition in Florida this June.