Islip’s karate kid
Adam Rotbart after he won one of his national titles. He hopes to have similar success in November at the Junior World Championship in Indonesia.

Photo provided by Rotbart family

Islip’s karate kid

Story By: RICK CHALIFOUX
10/1/2015


ISLIP—Adam Rotbart, a sophomore at Islip High School, is a shining example of how far confidence, passion and determination can take someone willing to set goals and commit to their dreams. At just the age of 15, Rotbart is poised to participate in the World Karate Federation (WKF) Junior World Championships in Jakarta, Indonesia, from Nov. 12-15.

Since beginning his karate career at the age of 4, Rotbart has competed in numerous city, state and national competitions, and has garnered around 15 national titles. His latest victory took place in August, when he won a bronze medal as a member of the USA Junior National Team at the Junior Pan American Championships in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Now, Rotbart—a second-degree black belt who is currently ranked third in North/South America and 18th worldwide—is determined to bring home a gold medal and the Junior World Championship Title as the only American in his age and weight class (14-15 years, +70kg).

“He’s going to face the best of the best,” said Jennifer Rotbart, Adam’s mother. “The fact that Adam has gotten to this point at his age is incredible. He’s very devoted to his goals, and the determination he has just blows you away sometimes. He’s just a different kind of kid, and I feel very blessed to have him.”

When Rotbart was just 4 years old, Jennifer said that she was approached by his Sensei Mostafa Elrakabawy, who he still trains with six to seven days a week at Grand Champions International Karate in Bay Shore.

“About a month into class, the sensei asked to talk to me and my husband [Erich] about Adam,” said Jennifer. “He said that there was something different about the drive and energy he could see in my son’s eyes, and that he wanted to take him to the upcoming City Qualifiers. He ended up winning his first gold medal at 4 years old, and it’s been an incredible ride ever since.”

Rotbart explained the key role that karate has played in his life, and why he has chosen to devote so much of his time and energy to being the best.

“I love karate because it makes me a better person,” said Rotbart, whose particular style is Kumite. “You learn respect, discipline, hard work, perseverance and confidence. It’s a lifestyle 100 percent, and it’s made me who I am. I love exercising and personal fitness and I always try to motivate other people. When I was young, I was always very good at every sport I tried, and I believe that’s because I started karate.”

Rotbart is also involved in a number of other sports and activities. He is a member of Islip’s junior varsity football and varsity bowling teams, participates in the SCPD Third Precinct Explorer Program, developed an acting career, volunteers at local animal shelters and soup kitchens, and is looking to join the Islip Fire Department.

“My parents motivate me [to get involved], but the biggest thing is that I hate being bored,” said Rotbart, who also teaches younger children at his karate studio. “I can’t stand sitting in a room and doing nothing, so I like being involved in a lot of activities.”

While fighting, Rotbart said that success depends upon the ability to focus and be in the moment.

“You have to black out everything, no matter what’s on your mind,” said Rotbart, who is also set to train for American Ninja Warrior next summer. “If you’re not focused for just one second, you can get knocked out and lose the fight. It also takes passion. If you don’t want to be there, you’re not going to be there because there’s someone else who wants it more than you do.” 

Aside from his family and friends, Rotbart noted that the examples set by sensei (five-time World Champion) and his fighting coach Elhadji Nour (one-time Junior World Champion) serve as key sources of motivation.

“They push me a lot, and in my mind I always say that one day I’ll be as good or better than them,” he said.

Rotbart’s ultimate goal is to become a sponsored, full-time karate competitor and participate in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which just recently added karate to its list of events. Unfortunately, trip expenses are not provided for competitors his age, so Rotbart’s family has set up a GoFundMe page and has an upcoming fundraiser at Lily Flanagan’s in Bay Shore on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 7-9 p.m. to help cover the cost of the trip to Indonesia. All contributions go towards flight, hotel, Visas, food and other miscellaneous travel expenses.

To contribute to Rotbart’s GoFundMe page, visit www.GoFundMe.com/c46x6xh9k4.

To purchase a $20 ticket for Rotbart’s World Championship Fundraiser at Lily Flanagan’s (includes raffle, music, beer, soda, food and snacks), contact Jennifer at 455-0100.