Raleigh karate school's national champs eye Olympic gold

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Triangle karate school cranks out champions. Could Olympic gold be next?

Trophies and medals litter the walls at Bushido Karate Shotokan, a north Raleigh martial arts school, and Olympic gold could be next.

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Karate will be recognized as an Olympic sport for the first time when the Summer Games hit Tokyo in 2020, and some of the top Team USA talent could come from the Triangle.

Three students at Bushido Karate Shotokan just became national champions.

"Most of the time people think, 'Oh karate, that's just for kids and they're only babysitting,' " said the dojo's owner and sensei, Juan Manuel Rodriguez.

"Not in my school," he stated.

Rodriguez is an international champion himself - learning karate from his father, who was once coach of the Argentinian national team.

Of Bushido Karate Shotokan's 70 students, 20 won state titles qualifying for the national championship - but it's expensive, so only five could go. All of those placed, and three brought home gold.

Rodriguez teaches students of all ages and abilities, including those with physical or mental impairments, and he's hoping to teach more students with special needs.

You can find more information on Bushido Karate Shotokan's website here

One of the winning gold medalists from his school is now qualified for the Paralympics.

"People will think how a disabled person can do karate," said Anastasia Hayes, who is blind in one eye.

"Karate, what's amazing about it is that it's not only fighting, it's also, it's a spiritual art," Hayes said. "It develops a person."

It's possible she could lose her sight completely before getting to compete, but still, the national champ isn't letting anything stand in the way of practice.

"Not knowing what tomorrow's going to bring, the Olympics in 2020 is like a dream come true for me," Hayes said.

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