Detroit's Karate Kids


While too many of today’s youth are firmly affixed in the basements of their dwellings, playing video games, watching cable television or music videos, there are some who are out and about trying to ascertain and uncover their gifts.

Cajoled by family, friends and others, a collective of four young athletes from Detroit’s Metropolitan Karate Academy (MKA), which trains out of the Northwest Activities Center, are making real life videos. The linchpin behind the “Elite Four” is MKA’s master instructor, Curtis Butler. He said “consistent training and dedication” has led to competitiveness, adding, “This sport is more than about the kids. It needs the parents to be involved.”

The parents and athletes have put in enough effort, practice and time to where the return on their personal investments in self has produced for each a coveted spot on the USA National Karate Team.

They are headed to Dublin, Ireland, Nov. 1-4, to compete for the Gold at the World Championships against 45 other national teams. The four are Christopher Highgate, age 11, a 5th grade student; Archie Highgate, age 10, also a 5th grade student; Justin Generette, age 13, an 8th grade student; and Sha-kai Springer, age 15, an 11th grade student.

“The four that made the team competed in a qualifying a few months ago,” said Charles Highgate, father of Christopher and Archie. “The competition was administered by United States representatives of the World Karate Kick Boxing Council. The sport is competed in the Olympics as tae kwon do. This is a very demanding and physical sport.


The four qualifiers will compete in the sparring competition.

“That is the most difficult thing in the sport,” he said. “It’s tough because you have an equally talented opponent in front of you trying to outscore you. The ‘Weapons’ and ‘Form’ phase of the sport is about the artistic presentation. Sparring gets down to the nitty gritty.”

Parents and supporters are elated and proud, the real battle is under way right now.

“What we are lacking is media attention,” Butler said. “Unfortunately, television is giving us blood and guts, but that is not what we are about. We are about training and controlled competition.This is a sport that involves discipline and technique.”

While MKA’s new members of the elite USA National Karate Team have earned the right to compete internationally, they are kicking against time as they try to raise close to $20,000, for
transportation, passports, uniforms, competition fees, lodging and other incidentals necessary to compete in this prestigious event in Ireland.

As a result, team members are hosting a series of fundraisers to help cover travel expenses, and they are reaching out to the community for support in helping these four young athletes realize their dream of representing the USA. There are numerous fundraising events going on now through the end of October. A complete list can be found on the website or Facebook. This letsgo- do-this team of parents and supporters want and need the community to become a Team USA sponsors or donate any amount they choose.

Led by Sylvia Crawford and Terri Lee, they have taken on the monumental task of trying to organize the communications effort needed to get people to want to help. “My own experiences as a basketball mom makes me understand full well how expensive it is to expose your kids to some sporting endeavors,” Crawford said.

“I do not have a kid in the competition, but I just want to see these young kids get the opportunity to partake in this wonderful international tournament. We are at the very early stages of getting enough money to get the kids, a parent and the instructor over to Ireland. We have a long way to go, but I’m hopeful that people in the Detroit area will help make these kids’ dreams a reality.”

Contact Lee, (248) 632-2262, or Crawford (248)233-6112, or go to, or e-mail for more information. Donations can also be made online at the website or checks can bemade payable to Going Pro LLC, P.O. Box 44682,Detroit, MI 48244. For further information visitUS Team at; World Kickboxing Council at; and Metropolitan Karate Academy (MKA) at

Leland Stein can be reached at

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