Buckley teen set to take on the world

Eliana Munden will represent the USA Juniors Karate Team this summer in Israel. Photo by Mark Klaas

Competitive karate has taught Eliana Munden many things, but none more important than discipline and control.

Under the guidance of her father and coach, Eliana has emerged as one of the country’s best for her age group and skill level at the martial art.

“Personally, in the past I’ve had issues holding my emotions steady and taking care of my anger properly,” said Eliana, 17, a junior at White River High School in Buckley who trains at the Auburn Valley YMCA with her dad, David, a karate program instructor there. “And karate definitely is a big help with that. It helps you keep a level head, which is something I’m definitely thankful for.”

Eliana and David will represent the USA Juniors Karate Team for the 20th World Maccabiah Games this summer in Israel. Team USA expects to be more than 1,100 strong, joining 8,750 Jewish athletes from 80 countries to participate in 43 different sports at the international showcase July 4-18.

Father and daughter leave in May for training camp in New York before heading overseas.

Eliana, who will compete at 116 pounds in the 16-17 age group, follows her brother, Joseph, who captured a silver and a bronze medal four years ago at the games in Israel, an Olympic-style event.

“I’m so happy that I got this opportunity. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Eliana, who was selected to the 12-member team after delivering steady, top performances. “I got to see my brother train for this. It’s a real exciting time. I am super thrilled to have the opportunity.”

Karate is a family affair for the Mundens. Each of David and Lisa’s six children, at one time or another, has practiced the sport.

“It’s great. The people are great. It’s like a second family,” Eliana said. “You go there (to compete), you can release steam and it’s really good focus… It helps you with balance and strength and it’s a really good way to heighten your senses.

“Obviously, it’s self-defense, and it teaches you how to control your emotions, how to control your anger,” she said.

David, a black belt, has won his share of competitions and now spends his time working with youngsters at the Y. He and his wife also own and operate a martial arts supply store.

Eliana, who began to learn karate at age 6, has come far in such a short time. She trains for more than eight hours each week, perfecting her kata (forms) and kumite (sparring) moves, representing Japan Karate Federation Northwest.

“It’s just determination. She’s stuck with her training for a long time. She trains hard and consistently,” David said.

“For sure, she has my sarcastic sense of humor. It can be fun, good and wonderful, but when it’s time to work, she flips the switch.”

Before making the trip to the Middle East, Eliana plans to compete next month in the USA Karate-sanctioned U.S. Open in Las Vegas, Nev. She is coming off a bronze-medal performance in kata at a state qualifier for the nationals.

As for having any aspirations for making the 2020 Olympic Games?

“Possibly. It could be a chance some time in the future,” Eliana said, “but, for now, I would like to focus on what’s directly ahead in my line of sight.”