Community Sports

Monday, Mar 11 2013 07:59 AM

Arvin's very own 'Karate Kid,' Isiah Lopez

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Isiah Lopez finishes up his karate practice in Arvin, center, by putting on a sweatshirt. His brother Rafael Pantoja, left, also takes karate and his step father Rafael Pantoja, right, gets ready to take him home.

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  2. 2 of 7

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    One of Sensei Craig Garrett's Arvin karate classes, (center rear). He has been teaching karate in the Arvin/Lamont area for the past 38 years and also has his students compete regularly in karate tournaments in other cities. Garrett also host a tournament in Arvin each year and is well respected and well known in the karate circles. Isiah Lopez is in the very center of the photo.

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  3. 3 of 7

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Karate student Isiah Lopez, 13, is a fast learner according to his instructor, or sensei, Craig Garrett.

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  4. 4 of 7

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Fifth degree black belt karate instructor Craig Garrett leads a class with Isiah Lopez in the class. Lopez has Down syndrome and is a fast learner. Garrett wants to encourage others with similar disabilities to learn karate. He is afraid most parents will stay away from this type of contact sport if their child has any issues like Isaiah.

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  5. 5 of 7

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Isiah, left, works out during karate class with other students, some black belts, brown belts, green, etc. He has been taking classes for five months along with two of his brothers. Longtime sensei in the Arvin/Lamont area, Craig Garrett, leads the class.

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  6. 6 of 7

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Fifth degree black belt karate instructor Craig Garrett helps one of his students, Isiah Lopez, which direction to turn while sparring with another student.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Parents and family members can sit in the school cafeteria in Arvin and watch their children's karate lessons in Arvin. Here Isiah Lopez, gets ready to spar with a fellow karate student in Craig Garrett's Contemporary Go-Ju Karate class in Arvin.

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BY CASEY CHRISTIE Californian staff photographer cchristie@bakersfield.com

He's not a black belt yet, but he has tested twice in seven months in his karate class and is moving up the ranks.

Isiah Lopez, 13, may have a tougher time than most learning karate from longtime sensei (karate instructor) Craig Garrett, but you would never know it.

Isiah has Down syndrome, a little mental retardation and ADHD, attention deficit hyper-disorder, according to his mother, Margarita Cabanillas. But he is an excellent karate student and is progressing right along.

"He is able to stay occupied, gets to relieve pressure and is able to focus on his behavior," Cabanillas said.

She has five children and three of them are enrolled in the karate class with Garrett.

"It's a great class for him, and I recommend it," she said.

Isiah has been taking karate in Arvin at the Bear Mountain Elementary School on Hood Street from Garrett for more than seven months.

He is currently still a white belt, but has already received two stripes after the last two tests he has taken.

During a class in December Lopez seemed to fully concentrate on his karate skills including much time spent sparring with other students.

"The experience with Isiah has caused me to look at the word 'normal' again," Garrett said. "I wished I had more students like Isiah.

"He's made me re-evaluate normality. I'd take five students like him in a heartbeat, because he does what he is asked to do," Garrett said.

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