Shoppers were treated to an exhibition of elite karate at the Agana Shopping Center on Sunday afternoon.

The Japan Karate-Do Federation Friendship Karate Tournament has been held annually on Guam since 2013 and is a partnership between the Japan Karate-Do Federation in Katsuura city, Chiba prefecture, and Okinawa Shidokan Karate of Guam.

Nine students from Japan studying under sensei Tamio Kurukawa competed against local karate practitioners, who are training under the guidance of sensei Seigi Shiroma from the Shidokan dojo in Dededo and sensei Frank Mesa from the Shidokan dojo in Maite.

The three-hour event combined "kata," or "form," demonstrations by students and teachers as well as a kata competition.

“It’s like a friendship contact to exchange the art of karate,” Mesa told The Guam Daily Post. “It is good for the Guam students and also empowers us to try to give back to Japan.”

The Guam contingent featured seven members: Susan Byler, Keira Byler, Mildred Gabriel, Janice Malilay, Florence Mesa, Josephine Garrido and Randall Workman.

Keira Byler competed with Okinawa Shidokan Karate of Guam while visiting the island for the summer. Keira Byler received one of three gold medals awarded. Her grandmother, Susan Byler, also competed, earning a silver medal.

“I really like this style because it teaches you how to use your hands and it’s good for self-defense,” explained Keira Byler, a blue belt.

The elder Byler said she started karate two years ago to spend time with her granddaughter. Already a practitioner of tai chi, Susan Byler said karate is “good for fitness and self-defense.”

“It is something you can enjoy, no matter what age,” she added.

The Japanese students showcased their impressive skills with 13-year-old Ryo Fujikawa and 12-year-old Karina Mitsuhashi headlining the tournament. Fujikawa won gold for his kata performance and Mitsuhashi took home a silver medal.

Fujikawa said he started practicing karate as soon as he could walk. The years of practice were on full display as he demonstrated his strength, agility and enthusiasm for the martial art.

The young black belt said he loves the competition and the challenge, adding he hopes to one day rise to the rank of sensei.

For the Japanese students, the annual trip to Guam is part karate, part vacation. With the competition completed, they plan to enjoy the island before returning to Japan today.

“Vacation and friendship ... we enjoy coming to share. Guam is very nice,” said Kenziro Wasada, a member of the Japan Karate-Do Federation.

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