Faralynn Boconan dominates competition in high-level martial arts

Aside from her love for all things girly and Hello Kitty, sophomore Farrahlynn Bonocan loves the heart-pounding
intensity of being an advanced martial artist.

Sensei Gene Tibon of Tibon’s Goju Ryu Fighting Arts cheers on second degree brown belt Farrahlynn Bonocan, a sophomore, for qualifying for the 2014 USA Nationals Karate Championships and Team Trials this summer. Tibon is one of her biggest supporters and says Bonocan has always been a stand out ever since day one as a white belt. Her Sensei for five years emphasized her natural technicality along with her poise, posture and her work ethic.

“It doesn’t hurt her chances either being a pretty girl,” Tibon says. “I always tell her that being an attractive person draws eyes so you have to be superb at what you do.”

At first, Bonocan would only sit outside of the dojo window and watch her brother take classes, never thinking she would train alongside him one day. At age 10, Bonocan started realizing her magnetic pull to the sport.

“Something about it was a part of me so I tried it out for the first time and I ended up loving it and I’ve never stopped since,” Bonocan said. She now trains alongside her brother.

Bonocan says her proudest moment is the time she won gold as a white belt at a tournament in Disneyland.

“I’ve never felt any happier, it was the first time I realized I was doing something bigger than myself,” Bonocan said. “When I win I feel like it’s such a great accomplishment to me, but I always say to myself you could do better.”

After starting her new passion for karate, many of her friends and family found it hard to believe and only thought of her as the bubbly girl who could sing. Even Bonocan herself recalls thinking she was too “girly” to do such an aggressive contact sport.

The Karate Nationals, hosted this year by the USA Grassroots Karate Program and Tibon’s Goju Ryu Karate, was held at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno.

“It’s really intense; there’s a lot of that competition vibe in the air,” junior teammate Nicolas Banis said.

“It’s very competitive, it’s very fierce, it’s very brutal. Athletes are not afraid to go as fast and as hard as they can in these competitions.”

Bonocan competed along with 18 other girls in her advanced Junior division of kata (forms) and kumite (one-on-one sparring) — where the best of the best in the country compete for a top place in the nation and to eventually compete for a place in Team USA. It’s an opportunity to represent their home country and to showcase who is number one in the World Championships.

“I was definitely nervous. It was my first time trying out for the team, I didn’t really know what to expect but the experience was worth it,” Bonocan said, fashioned in aka (red).

Bonocan did not place during finals; however, her technical and physical aspects of her rank took her far enough to win her first two matches in both kata and kumite.

“Her katas are on fire; her future competitors better watch out,” St. Mary’s junior teammate Adam Jumaoas, who also competed himself, said.

“It’s both an inspiration and remarkable to see someone I have been training side-by-side with be able to do something just as well as she did,” Banis said. “I just find it completely normal, like if guys could do it girls could do it and it’s cool to see girls involved in something you wouldn’t usually see girls excel in.”

Competing at nationals has only motivated her further to get better and better each day. Bonocan trains to perfect her katas for next year’s Nationals held in Florida.

“Farrah is a hard working lady … I think she has a great chance … If she makes the team she will look to her friends and the community to help support her and believe in her like we do,” Tibon said. “Her strong work ethic at the dojo also applies to being actively involved in her personal life as a role model: a good sense of community and passion, to strive to make things better as well as yourself.”

Karate teaches an individual not only self-defense, but also emphasizes self-confidence, respect, good manners and helping, not hurting. Bonocan hopes to one day earn her black belt.