Shannon Laurin represented Santa Clarita Karate, her family karate studio, and traveled to Las Vegas last month where she won the gold medal at the USA Open & Junior International Cup 2022..
Although she earned her black belt at 7 years old and competed in multiple national competitions before, Shannon’s father and martial arts instructor, Michel, said this tournament showed him how special she really was.
Shannon, a fourth-dan black belt, said she competed in the adult division despite only being 15 at the time and with the well-known Russian and Japanese teams participating in the tournament, Michel said it was their first time gauging how competitive she could be against the “best in the world.”
“We had to put her in the adults because nobody under 18 want to fight her,” Michel said. “The Russians, at the time, were the best in the world in full-contact fighting and she just went in there and beat everybody. That’s when I knew she was pretty good.”
After winning multiple international competitions and the grand championships several times in a row, Shannon represented Santa Clarita Karate, her family karate studio, and traveled to Las Vegas last month where she won the gold medal in the 18-34 Female Elite 61 kg Kumite division at the prestigious USA Open & Junior International Cup 2022.
Thousands of martial artists from all over the world compete in the USA Karate Open every year, but only the best of the best compete in the elite division, including members of the U.S. Olympic team, according to Michel.
Shannon said her goal is to compete for Team USA in the Olympics. With this being a Team USA-sanctioned tournament, Shannon knew the pressure was on her to leave the best impression so she can compete in their team trials.
She might have some nerves going into the competition, but once she bows as she steps on the mat, Shannon said she is never intimidated by anyone she faces.
“It’s really important to not underestimate your opponent, but you can’t ever let anyone intimidate you,” Shannon said. “I always go in with the mindset of, ‘I’m gonna win this,’ and I think that’s how you have to be. I’m confident, but I don’t let my guard down.”
Shannon emphasized that martial arts is more of a mental game than a physical one. She said although the sport is physical, if you let your opponent get in your head, then it already puts you at a serious disadvantage.
“It’s like a game of chess,” Shannon said. “I think it’s important to have those nerves because it gives you a little bit of an edge if you use them the right way.”
After weighing in, the competitors are matched up against each other based on which division they will compete in. The competition schedule is set up in a bracket format, meaning each competitor who wins moves on to face another winner in the next round.
During the fights, a kick to the head is worth three points, a kick to the body is two points and a punch is one point. Each competitor keeps fighting until they lose and, for Shannon, moving up the bracket was not an easy climb.
In her first fight of the competition, Shannon was matched up against someone from Team India and started off slow, finding herself down in an 0-4 hole early.