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American Kang Duk Won draws over 200 for 40th annual karate tournament


They came from across the state, Ohio and Ontario, Canada.

Dressed in white uniforms with different colored belts indicating their level achieved in karate, they competed in kata (forms), sparring and weapons divisions.

Some left with trophies, while others left with just experience and friendships made over the last 40 years at the annual American Kang Duk Won Karate Tournament.

“We started at the YMCA in a little gymnasium on the third floor,” said Master Frank A. Palumbo, Jr. “It’s grown to where we fill up the JCC gym.”

Mr. Palumbo was not dressed in white. Instead, like other masters, he was dressed in black, giving demonstrations and judging competitions throughout the day.

“There’s 60 locations represented here today,” he said, “but we all study the same art.”

The tournament hosted more than 200 participants and is the only competitive event the students attend throughout the year.

The event sees repeat participants year after year,

“We come from all over, but we all know each other,” he said.

The Zehr family of Lowville was one such group. Their attendance has spanned two decades, with participation growing along with their family.

Taking a break from her judging duties Saturday, Rebekah Zehr explained how, at the age of 23, she met her future husband, Darin J., through her involvement in karate.

Mr. Zehr had begun his involvement years earlier, as a teenager. After the Zehrs had started a family, they brought their firstborn, Gabriella, to the annual tournament.

Gabriella, now 18, along with her siblings Jarin, 16, and Isabelle, 13, competed Saturday.

“It’s something we’ve done as a family all along,” Mrs. Zehr said. “As soon as they were old enough, they were in uniforms following their dad to classes.

Karate differs from other sports, Mrs. Zehr explained. “There’s not a lot of sports you can do as a family. In other sports, you can go to games and watch your kids, but how many sports can you all do together as a family?”

The Zehrs take classes offered weekly at the Copenhagen Central School.

“It’s helped me excel,” Isabelle Zehr said of her training. “It helps me focus. I can focus on this and it helps me focus in other areas.”

American Kang Duk Won Karate traces its roots back to one of the earliest schools of taekwondo, a Korean style. Its ancient roots go back to a central Chinese boxing style and have evolved through the centuries to include the influences of several of the most notable Japanese, Okinawan and Korean masters of recorded martial arts history.

For more information or to find a class location, visit

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