Thirteen martial artists ages 10 to 40 from Martial Arts & Me in Johnstown will compete in the Dublin, Ireland, Open International Karate Championships next month.
"This is the first time in Fulton County a martial arts school has had a team of competitors competing at this level," said Joe Pazzaglia, owner and chief instructor at Martial Arts & Me.
"This event has a long history and boasts over 17 countries and 4,000 competitors. I was a bit reluctant at first with the idea of putting a team together because I knew the kind of commitment and work it would take from everyone," said Pazzaglia.
Jason Sweet, left, and Pat Darling spar. They are among the team members going to Dublin, Ireland.
The team, however, made the commitment to train for the competition and raised the money to pay for the trip.
The event will last about a week. In addition to competitions, the event will include seminars taught by renown martial artists.
"Our competitors have been training nearly every day for a year to prepare for this event," said Pazzaglia, who will be a part of the team going to Ireland. "They have all been working very hard, and I am very pleased with the progress they have made. I am feeling really good about where we are at right now. We have some honing and polishing to do yet, but still have a few weeks left."
The group will compete in forms, self-defense and fighting minimally. Some will compete with weapons.
"All of our competitors have made enormous sacrifices to prepare for this event. Some have had significantly less time with family, gave up a sport, vacations or activity just to train," Pazzaglia said.
The coaches include Pazzaglia, Mary Hallett, Dave Smith and others. They have been training the competitors throughout the year.
Jason Sweet of Gloversville and his son Frank will be among the team members.
"This is a huge competition," said Sweet, 33, a Gloversville firefighter.
He said he's been training for the competition five or six times a week in class for about a year.
He will participate in fighting, self-defense and kata -?a demonstration of a designated form of martial arts. He and Pazzaglia also plan to teach other martial artists how to defend themselves when being attacked by someone with a gun.
Sweet, who began studying martial arts with his son nearly four years, said he's looking forward to spending quality time with his son in Ireland.
The former military police officer said this competition will be the toughest he's ever competed in.
He praised Pazzaglia for assembling the team.
"He [Pazzaglia] has such a passion for the martial arts. It spreads to everybody at that school," Sweet said.
The team members have been raising money for about a year to pay for the trip.
"To date, we have raised close to $9,000, but we are still about $4,000 shy of our goal," Pazzaglia said. "We are having one last major push over the next couple of weeks and hoping for the best at our fundraisers and from the local businesses and community."
Among the fundraisers has been a bottle drive. People may donate bottles and cans at the studio at 40-42 W. Main St.
The group's next fundraiser will be a take-out spaghetti dinner at Al's Pizzeria on Main Street in Gloversville on Nov. 8 from 4 to 7 p.m., and Pizza Hut on Nov. 11.
The competitors will leave for Dublin on Nov. 14 and return Nov. 22. For more information about the event or to donate money, go to Martialartsandme.com or call 762-1533.