Member of Junior USA Karate team hopes to compete in 2024 Olympics
Photo taken by junior Ian Estrada's parents

Train insane or remain the same.

This is one of the philosophies junior Ian Estrada follows as he trains rigorously to become an international level athlete that he is now.

“The feeling I get when I compete [in karate competitions] excites me,” Estrada said. “I get happy when I win, but if I lose, I just want to go back and practice harder [to win].”

He is one of four members in USA’s National Karate Junior 16-17 Solo Male Elite Kata and also one of the three in the Male Team Kata.

“I’ve been in Team USA for four years now,” Estrada said. “It’s cool traveling around the world with my friends while doing what I love.”

His coach Chad Eagan has great faith in his potential.

“Ian is on track to being one of our Top Male Athletes in the USA,” Eagan said. “So long as he keeps consistency in training, I believe he has a great chance.”

Estrada first started karate when he was 7-years-old at Nihon Karate Dojo.

“My dad did kung fu a long time ago, and he wanted me to do martial arts because I was really quiet when I was young,” he said. “[Through karate], he wanted me to become comfortable talking to people.”

Already ranked seventh internationally in the Junior Kata Male category, Estrada, in his 11-year career, has earned many different titles —winning Nationals three times, third in Pan American games for individuals and fifth in the World Championship for team. While competing, he gets the opportunity to travel the world with his teammates to compete in different karate tournaments.

“After the tournament, we usually have like two or three days to do whatever we want over there and enjoy,” Estrada said. “My favorite experience in these two to three days [of ‘vacation’] was when I walked around a city in Spain with my friends.”

Though he has made significant accomplishments already throughout his career, his path to success was not smooth. Although he is doing a very successful job right now, Estrada, a person who uses victories in tournaments as a source of motivation, faced struggles in the past, as he started losing in individuals, which, at times, even made him consider quitting.

“When I was younger, I was winning very often, but after I was 13, it was a dry spot for me until I hit 16,” he said. “So, it might be surprising, but winning the bronze medal at the Pan-American individuals last year in August was my most satisfying victory because I think I began winning more in solos [after that].”

In addition, Estrada raised money using GoFundMe so that he could gain funds to pay for both his and his sister’s travels. Although the money raised there is not enough to pay for all his costs, it gives the family enough to allow the two athletes to be able to attend all their foreign tournaments.

“Since I travel so often, my family sometimes does not have enough money, so we use the GoFundMe to get the extra bit of money [we need] to pay for our travels,” he said. “Last time, we raised about $1,000 for our trip to Brazil, and that definitely helped our family pay for the rest.”

Although he does not have any detailed plans yet for his future, Estrada knows that after high school, he will go to Japan, the country that invented karate.

“It’s not a specific university, and I’m not sure yet where to go, but I know I definitely want to attend a university in Japan,” he said. “I traveled to Japan from time to time [before], and I really want to practice there because they have really good karate programs.”

Since karate was officially declared a Summer Olympics sport starting 2020, Estrada hopes he will be able to use this new opportunity to go to Paris, the host for the 2024 Olympics, and represent the United States.

“Making it to the Olympics would be a goal in itself, but, of course, I really want to win and get medals,” he said. “Since we still do not know how the Olympics will qualify athletes for karate, I’m not really sure what my chances are, but I hope it is high.”

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