When I found out that Kate Roin ’06 was such an accomplished athlete, I quickly looked under the sink and behind the toilets to see where she was hiding her ego or entourage. Turns out she has neither; Kate is just a nice, well-adjusted college sophomore majoring in political science who aspires to go to law school, and also happens to be a world-class karate athlete.
When Roin was seven, she attended her first karate class at the request of a friend. By the ninth grade, the black belt competitor was going straight from school to the suburban Chicago Karate Academy, where she trained several hours a day, five days a week. When she wasn’t training, Roin was teaching karate to children, adults and the physically and mentally handicapped. During her junior and senior years of high school, Roin left school at noon to train for 20 hours per week, and taught for another ten hours weekly.
At Amherst, Roin spends two hours a day, often seven days a week, training and weightlifting in addition to teaching. For all of her training and competing, Roin only has a few broken fingers, a recurring tendinitis problem in her knee and several hundred trophies to show for it. However, Roin does not stress the physical aspect of her sport.
“When it comes to being in the ring, so much of the sport is mental,” said Roin. Karate teaches control and self-discipline above all. “If you think you’re going to lose, you have a zero percent chance of winning the match. You can be best athlete on the floor, but if you are a complete mental basket case, you will not win,” she continued.
Roin’s discipline and composure earned her a coveted spot on the junior national karate team. Now, the 20-year- old is the youngest member on the four-person adult national team.
Roin’s impressive mental control is obvious even outside the ring. She misses on average three weeks of classes each year and most recently missed a week of school while traveling to compete in her final junior nationals competition in Japan. Nonetheless, Roin did not skip an academic beat, as she managed to keep up on all of her assignments in between nine rounds of fighting over two days.
At Japan’s Goodwill Tournament just last week, Roin captured second place in both the kumite (sparring) and kata (routines) events.
In the All-Japan Open later in the week, Roin won the silver medal for fighting, beating out more than 1,000 other competitors. In the most recent World Championships, Roin helped the four-woman United States team take third in the world in fighting.
Japan is not the only place Roin’s talent has taken her. She has also traveled as far as Russia, Spain and Hungary. However, Roin remains grounded. The black belt’s levelheadedness becomes apparent after just a brief conversation. She calmly brushed aside my numerous “what if” questions, and instead explained, “I am trying to take karate a few years at a time. I want to return to the World Championships next summer in Brazil, compete for another year, then hopefully head to law school. I try to take life, and karate, one step at a time, and see what I can and cannot handle.” She continued by rightly mentioning, “It seems to have worked out really well so far for me.”
So take a look around you, and you might just find that those admissions office heroes are closer than you think. And a word to the wise: be nice to them. Roin has never used her fighting skills outside the ring, but I’m not planning to tempt fate any time soon.