University of Arizona aerospace and mechanical engineering graduate student Makoto Kamiya works in the UA's Micro Air Vehicles, or MAV, lab, specializing in control of small aerial vehicles, such as "insect" robots, which are designed to behave aerially just like insects.
He studies and works on research for these small unmanned flying robots, which could eventually be used in reconnaissance, patrolling the border, and crop dusting.
If you think Kamiya's studies are impressive, wait until you read about his hobby: He's a national champion and international instructor of karate.
Recently, Kamiya won first and second place trophies at the Ozawa Cup 2012 karate tournament in Las Vegas. The first place trophy, awarded by the World Karate Federation, or WKF, was for an open sparring competition called kumite. His second place prize was in the 80 kilograms or more weight division of the same kumite sparring competition.
Makoto Kamiya, right, is a graduate student at the University of Arizona aerospace and mechanical engineering department.
While the training for this level of tournament competition involved much hard work, Kamiya says his victories really came as no surprise. Why? Because Kamiya's pre-tournament meditations had already shown him what the first place trophy would look like in his possession.
"I meditate every night before going to bed, and do image-training, so that I can image when I get the first place trophy, and it's as clear as possible," Kamiya said. "That works a lot to motivate to win."
Kamiya's karate experience includes competing in USA Open tournaments in Las Vegas, events that have produced national champions from around the world. He's also competed at the Tokyo Karate Championships -- known as one of the highest level of karate championships -- and he's competed on the Tokyo Champion Karate Team.
He's an official fifth rank black belt from the Japan Karate Federation, or JKF, and he holds an official instructor license from the JKF as well. Kamiya started karate when he was 7 years old. Now 32, he's 6 feet tall and weighs approximately 184 pounds. He's been studying karate for 25 years.
Kamiya credits two adults from his younger life as the reasons he started -- and stuck with -- karate training.
The first adult is his father, a martial arts instructor for the Japan Special Forces Group who teaches martial arts to specially trained counter-terrorism Japanese soldiers. "He wanted me to be a strong guy, and then forced me to start karate," Kamiya said. "But I preferred staying home and reading to fighting with others, back then."
When he was 12, he met a world renowned karate instructor, and that's when Kamiya says his fascination with the study of karate really began. "He brought me abroad to teach and learn karate. I was crazy about being stronger. At a certain point, I liked winning in tournaments," Kamiya said. "Thanks to him, I still learn karate."
Maintaining karate tournament shape, Kamiya said, requires individual commitment each day. "I work out in the early morning, and on every hour in the daytime I try to do core trainings for five minutes, as refreshment," he said. Most nights, Kamiya practices on the sand court at a local park for several hours. On weekends, he tries to practice at least five hours each day.
Prior to studying aerospace engineering at the University of Arizona, Kamiya had traveled and taught karate in India, South Africa, Australia, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
His karate students from each of these countries all have at least one thing in common: they work hard to learn so they can be as accomplished as possible in the martial art. Kamiya said many of his karate students go on to qualify for the national teams of their respective countries.
He teaches karate in Tucson also, where he says his students have gone on to win state championships, with hopes of eventually qualifying for the U.S. national team.
Once Kamiya finishes his graduate studies in Arizona and returns to Japan, he promises to return to Tucson every two years to teach and grade former and new students.
"My students around the world always give me power to keep practicing," he said.
UA graduate student Makoto Kamiya, second from left, celebrates his first place win at the Ozawa Cup 2012 karate tournament in Las Vegas.