Thank goodness for the window in Morgan Hathorn’s house that let her see her Covington neighborhood. It’s probably the reason why she’s now a karate world champion.
Hathron, a 13 year old student at the Newton County Theme School, recently won individual gold in the Under 50 kilograms, ages 12 and 13 division of the World Karate Championships in Orlando, Fla., staking her claim as one of the top martial artists in the world in the karate discipline of shorin ryu.
The championship journey is one Hathorn began, in earnest, five years ago at age eight. But the desire for it was birthed in her even before then.
“When I was younger, I used to sit at my window and look outside and watch the kids in the neighborhood playing and having fun doing karate,” Hathorn said. “I looked at that like, ‘I wanna do that,’ but my parents always told me, ‘You gotta wait until you get a little older.’”
Morgan’s mother, Denise estimates her daughter’s fascination with karate began at around age three.
“She was always watching,” she said. “Always wanting to get out there and do it.”
The person who was drawing all of these karate-minded kids to the neighborhood was Micah Williams. He is the owner of the Mbs Karate School in Covington. The dojo is now situated among a complex of small offices and businesses, but before that, it was housed in Williams’ living room.
“We have about five students now,” Williams said. “We’re small, but we try to concentrate more on quality than quantity. And for those that began when we were back in the living room, I think I see a different kind of hunger out of those students.”
Williams certainly recognized it in Morgan from the beginning. Williams, who has 31 years experience in training youth in various forms of karate, said he recognized Morgan’s potential greatness almost from day one.
“I always saw it in her,” he said. “But I don’t think three years ago she would’ve thought she’d be in the place of being a world champion. But that’s why you can’t be afraid to put challenges out in front of a kid when you see the kind of potential that kid has.”
Morgan Hathorn found the current peak of her potential when she walked off the mat in Orlando as a tearful champion.
“Just the feeling of knowing that you’re one of the best in the world, it’s just surreal,” Hathorn said. “It’s amazing. I walked off of the mat crying that day because I was so proud of myself. I accomplished something real.”
The shorin ryu discipline of karate, according to Williams, derives from Japanese tradition. It’s “80 percent hands and 20 percent kicks,” he says, and is something that demands a ton of time and commitment to perfect. Williams said Hathorn puts close to 40 hours a week training at the dojo, not including what she does on her own at home.
In addition, she is active in her church, plays piano, teaches karate summer camps to children and is a straight-A student to boot. Hathorn said she wants to eventually study to be a pediatric neurosurgeon.
“Just being chosen to be a member of the team, to represent the USA – it’s like a one-in-65 shot to be chosen,” Williams said. “So with all the work that goes into it, plus all the other things she does and excels in, it’s pretty impressive what she’s been able to do.”
For Hathorn, the world championship accolades mean even more to her, given the disappointment she faced the year before. When Hathorn went to compete in the 2015 world championships, she didn’t place at all. She attributed it to the nerves of being on one of youth martial arts’ biggest stages for the first time.
“I’m always nervous, but when I went in 2015 I was overly nervous,” she said. “I think it affected the way I fought. But this year I was very calm and it made me fight differently.”
In addition to her individual gold, Hathorn also won a bronze medal in the world championship’s team division. But as sweet as these recent accomplishments are, both Hathron and Williams believe that the best is yet to come.
“I see no limit,” Williams said. “It’s all in what’s in the student’s heart. I can see her being a multi-world champion, and perhaps even having her own school. She can do whatever she wants in this.”
And Hathorn says she’s content to go wherever the world of karate will take her.
“I’m not sure, but I’m willing to wherever this road leads me,” Hathorn said. “I don’t think I’ll ever stay out of karate. I’ll always want to be tied into it. I believe I can be whatever I set my heart to be. I know there’s nothing too high that I can’t do. As long as I keep practicing and pushing, I can be whatever I want to be.