Story by Boice Lydell
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Felipe Alvarez
photos by Bill Bly
Date of birth: January 12, 1989
Age: 17
Place of birth: Guatemala City, Guatemala
Residence: Guatemala City
Marital status: Single
Ethnic origin: Guatemalan
Style: Kenpo
School: Schumann’s Kenpo
Instructor: Salvador Schumann
Year started in martial arts: 1995
Year received blackbelt:
Sport karate coach: Salvador Schumann
Favorite technique: 540
First national win: 1998 El Gran Jaguar
Toughest forms/weapons opponent: Joshua Durbin
Toughest fighting opponent: Jose Jorge Santiago
Sport karate titles:
2005 - 15-17 Choreographed musical forms
2005 - 15-17 Japanese forms
2005 - 15-17 Kenpo forms
2001 - 11-12 Creative forms
2001 - 11 & under Japanese forms
2000 - 11 & under choreographed musical weapons
Sport karate career highlight: 2000 Super Grands Rookie of the Year
Martial arts goal #1: To be a good example for his students
Martial arts goal #2: To highlight Guatemalan competition
Non-martial arts goal: Gymnastic forms
Favorite tournament: El Gran Jaguar
Favorite Super Grands: 2005 because he won three world titles
Favorite sport karate players:
Past forms: Juancho Rodriguez
Present forms: Jason Bourelly
Past fighting: Juancho Rodriguez
Present fighting: Edgar Cordova
Most admired martial artist: Erick Schumann
Most admired persons: Salvador Schumann
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: Superman
Favorite actor: Jack Nicholson
Favorite magazine:
Favorite book: Angela’s Ashes
Favorite music: Sport Karate Magazine
Favorite musician: Daddy Yankee
Favorite hobby: Playing with his computer
Favorite sport: Football soccer and gymnastics
Address: 29 Avenue, Zona 15, San Lazaro, Guatemala City, Guatemala

Back in the late 1990’s Erick Schumann’s team of NBL and Amateur players from the tiny Central American country of Guatemala were undoubtedly the finest sport karate competitors in the world. Winning titles in nearly every rank and event from forms to self defense, weapons and fighting, the Schumann Kenpo Karate Team earned the coveted yearly number one sport karate school in the world award eight times. Blackbelt world champions Juancho Rodriguez, Mauricio Valenzuela and Edgar Cordova monopolized the recognition of the famed team while their multitude of Amateur competitors was a blur of latino names where the multitude of blue & white clad winners from Guatemala and Schumann’s Kenpo stuck in one’s mind more than any individual player. Meanwhile sport karate competition in general in the late 1990’s was grooming a talented six to nine year old group of talented under blackbelt players, many of whom are still competing today filling the top spots in the most challenging 15-17 year old NBL blackbelt divisions that there has ever been. While Americans Joshua Durbin, Johnny Shaw and Cass Sigmon seemed to get most of the Amateurs hype a seemingly quiet (he’s anything but that now) little curly haired Guatemalan had racked up a total of six Amateur first place wins and countless runner up positions by the decade’s end. A year younger and many times one rank less than the rest of the fledgling players, it was until the 2000 Super Grands in his first time in blackbelt that Felipe Alvarez had heads turning as a separate entity from the rest of the Guatemalan team and from players in general.

While Kyle Gray, Josh Durbin and Chris Gallio had already set the pace as the future blackbelt champions of the 11 and under division, Alvarez was a late comer jumping from his 1999 intermediate divisional entries directly into NBL blackbelt competition in 2000. But he stirred up the pot qualifying for the Super Grands Grand Finale run-offs in three divisions walking away with the title in musical weapons. Precedent was now set and Alvarez would be considerated a future world title contender despite the fact that he almost never ventured from his home country of Guatemala to compete. As the 2001 Super Grands rolled around sure enough, Alvarez made his fifth appearance and second time in blackbelt competition. Again straight to the top as he conquered creative and Japanese forms world titles and first runner-up in both creative and musical weapons. But while he was gaining notoriety he was also overshadowed by a whopping five titles won by Joshua Durbin. Alvarez failed to return in 2002 and ensuing multiple victories by Kyle Gray, Johnny Shaw and Cass Sigmon virtually wiped out the Alvarez memory over the next few years.

While Alvarez hadn’t quit the martial arts his disinterest in schoolwork prevented his continued tournament competition. Alvarez was the quite imaginative kid, starting karate training at 6 years old because he visualized becoming a Power Ranger. Advancing from Power Ranger, he took to the Ninja Turtles craze before finally becoming a Superman fan in his teenage years. And, as with many people, even adults, he claims the Superman craze is forever. In fact he even thinks he is the man in blue tights and red cape. Well... not all the time, just in karate class. I asked him about the flying part and he responded that wasn’t a problem, he does it all the time at his karate school. Oookayy... and for his next trick? We talked about the Superman thing and he recited nearly every movie and aspect of the hero’s life. He even has a lamp in his parents house that when turned on it projects silhouetted images of the immortal man onto the walls in their living room. In any case, Alvarez’ love of martial arts and his world of make-believe didn’t help his scholarly endeavors, so his appearance at the Super Grands was axed by his parents until his grades improved. Apparently the grades finally did as Alvarez reappeared early in the 2005 season competing at a couple NBL regional tournaments in the US, then showed up without much fanfare at the Super Grands. But despite a three year hiatus and having missed the 12-14 year old division in the Super Grands altogether, the contenders in his 15-17 year old division had to sit up and take immediate notice when he competed. He not only held his own but advanced to the Grand Finale stage to vie for the title in three divisions, and, not unlike his mentor, pulled off a super human endeavor to win all three for the biggest comeback in NBL history.

Comebacks, as well as surprises, seem to follow Alvarez. At this year’s El Gran Jaguar for instance his coach, Salvador Schumann, coaxed him into competing in point sparring even though he hadn’t been training in sparring all year. In his first match he devastated his opponent 10 to 0 and became so daring by the end of the match that he attempted to score from a hand spring. Much to the surprise of everyone spectating he pulled it off with his coach in ectatic disbelief. But then he lost his next match by almost exactly the reverse amount.

With six titles under his belt, or should we say added to it, he intends to pull off an equal showing at this year’s Super Grands, but the 15 to 17 year old divisions are stacked with the likes of Josh Durbin, Daniel Pitlock, Chris Martin, Josh Bailey, Justin Lewis, Torren Davis, Sergio Calva, Venya Bruk, Brittan Kabela, AJ Maunder, Chris Urcinola and Joseph Pruiett just to name a few, and lets not forget about the return of Kyle Gray in competition this year as he just might show up for comeback kill as well. Never-the-less Alvarez seems to persevere and if I were any one of the rest of his nemeses I’d strongly consider wearing a ring or pendant with a little green stone called kryptonite.