Shekea Coleman, a 12-year-old resident of the Hoboken Housing Authority, won first place at the 2013 All American Open Tae Kwon Do – Karate – Kung Fu Championships on March 16. Shekea beat roughly 40 competitors in her division of 10- to 14-year-olds to emerge victorious at the 48th annual competition, which was held at Paramount Gym at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus.
“I’m so proud of Shekea,” said Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director Carmelo Garcia. “She truly embodies the heart of a champion!”
Shekea is a product of the housing authority’s after-school karate classes led by Sensei Ray Rodriguez, who’s been training for more than 25 years. Rodriguez also competed at the tournament and won third in the master’s division.
The housing authority’s karate program was created as a way to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble.
“It’s pioneering programs like this that build discipline and confidence,” said Garcia.
The All American Open Championship was started in 1965 to promote the principles of the American martial arts. It has been held every year since and draws contestants from all around the world. The All American Open is presently recognized as one of the nation's major tournaments.
The event was held in Madison Square Garden Center in New York City for 23 consecutive years, from 1967 to 1989. It was at the 1967 All American Open where Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee first met.