KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany- U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tom Neal, operations sergeant, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, will compete in the World Championship in Calgary, Canada, Oct. 16-22. Neal practices martial arts under the German branch of Ryukyu Tanzenbukan, a style of karate, and will compete in the traditional weapons and forms categories.
Earlier this year, Neal received his invitation to join the German National Karate Team after qualifying as one of the top ranked individuals in a separate competition. Typically, the team is made up of local nationals, but Neal earned his spot on the team fair and square.
“It’s a great honor to represent another country,” said Neal.
Neal’s career in martial arts began nearly 30 years ago in 1995 when he witnessed a presentation of a local Kenpo karate dojo.
“It was then that I knew I wanted to pursue the martial arts,” said Neal. “I was drawn to the physical skill of it, training and conditioning the body to perform magnificent feats through form and fighting. Likewise, the mental and spiritual development involved in the dedication, resilience, and focus fostered during training has been a consistent benefit.”
Neal is trained in much more than karate. He also practiced Taekwondo, Kuk Sool Won, and currently practices Okinawan Kobudo, and Okinawan Goju-Ryu. For the last 10 years, he has taught all ages and currently teaches at the Loveless Karate Academy, a local academy in Kaiserslautern.
“Karate is an endless study, the more one learns, the more one realizes that there is much more to learn,” said Neal.
Neal is an accomplished fighter from Charleston, South Carolina. While serving in the Army, he competed in five world championships and three national championships in the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, and Spain.
As a fourth generation Service Member, Neal is familiar with frequent moves and traveling. His father retired as a master sergeant from the Air Force. Growing up near military communities allowed him to see the opportunities in serving and he believed the Army could support his martial arts pursuit.
“It [The Army] could carry me many places that I could meet people from around the world and continue training,” said Neal.
In 2006, Neal enlisted as military police, and as he promoted over the years, Neal changed career paths to transportation management coordinator. He currently works in logistics and planning at 21st TSC and recently coordinated the U.S. Army Europe and Africa Best Squad Competition in the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas. Neal states the Army benefits, fitness facilities, and career paths contributed to his extraordinary journey in martial arts.
“It has allowed me the flexibility to train and study at my dojo, as well as the time off to travel to tournaments and to Asia to train in the Ryukyu Islands,” said Neal.
Neal practices a healthy lifestyle with his wife and two daughters, and to train for the WKU World Championship 2023, Neal plans to stay true to his beliefs and maintain his discipline.
“I keep myself very healthy, clean and try to do what is conducive to a strong athletic lifestyle,” said Neal. “Even if you defeat 100 men, there is someone better than you out there, train as if you are about to meet them.”
Neal expressed excitement for representing Germany and competing in a top tier championship.
“I'm going stand on the tatami, with some of my best competition and I just got to do what I know in the practice and, hopefully, let it pay off,” said Neal.