Kullen Yurchak: Southern Lehigh’s Karate Kid


Patricia Yurchak

Senior Kullen Yurchak was awarded a black belt by his Shotokan Karate instructor.

Griffin Schmoyer, Staff Reporter

Normally when people think of sports in high school, they think of football, track and field, basketball, and field hockey, to name a few. You may not expect someone to be highly trained in a martial art. Senior Kullen Yurchak is, and he happens to be a black belt in Shotokan Karate.

“I started Shotokan Karate- that was my first [martial art] – when I was in fifth grade, so it’s been almost seven years now, and then a couple of years into training that I picked up kickboxing for about a year and then Jiu-Jitsu for a summer and then probably eight months after that,” Yurchak said, “But lately it’s just been Shotokan.”

Shotokan is a Japanese discipline of karate founded in 1938 by Gichin Funakoshi, and is developed from many martial arts into the tough, hard-hitting style it is today.

“Korean arts tend to focus more on kicks, Chinese arts [really flow], with big motions rather than hard, fast, rigid strikes and Shotokan, within the Karate umbrella, is more technical, deep stances, more power sort of things. It’s called a ‘hard style,’” said Yurchak.

Yurchak has been competing with Reality Martial Arts for about five years now, and while he doesn’t compete much at the state or national level, he has plenty of competitive experience under his black belt.

“We don’t really go to big events…but in the fall or spring we’ll have two or three tournaments, and I’ll try and go to as many as I can,” he said. “We typically do pretty well.”

Yurchak said that he prefers the Shotokan tournaments, which are a lot more fun because it’s people that train like he does, so it’s a lot heavier competition, a lot more hard hitting.

“Then there are open tournaments where you fight more Korean styles, which is more mainstream nowadays, a lot more kicks, so you have to adapt differently,” he said.

But that still begs the question, why martial arts over more popular high school sports like football, track and field, or basketball?

“I tried out a lot of stuff when I was younger,” Yurchak said. “I tried lacrosse, I sucked at it, soccer, I tried out all sorts of things. But for some reason, I never could stick with anything.”

It was after a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) karate lesson in fifth grade that martial arts sparked his interest, so he did some research around the area, and it brought him to Reality Martial Arts in Quakertown.

“I like how it’s less focused on you in a team and more focused on yourself,” he said. “You can go there and do your own thing, make some friends, but work on improving yourself rather than worrying about the team and ‘oh, am I gonna let my team down?’ It’s always just up to you.”

While it seems like something that may take up a lot of time, Kullen still manages to balance his karate endeavors with school and his social life.

“We train like three times a week for about an hour each time, and then I go in earlier on Saturdays to help teach beginners, so it’s about four and a half to five hours a week,” he said. “It offers that outlet for me…this time that doesn’t take up too much of my day which is nice, some quick physical activity that I can set my mind to and get myself away from school and other things.”