Describing the experience as one of the highlights of her martial arts career, Sara Laterza was thrilled to compete in “Forged in Fire: Knife or Death.” Broadcasting on the History channel, the Adairsville resident’s episode will air Tuesday at 10 p.m.
“I found out about the show through an Instagram post back around September,” said Laterza, adding her competition was filmed in Atlanta in January. “I sent in videos of some of my karate competition sword work and got a call back right away. I did a series of Skype and phone interviews. I got a call two days after Christmas saying I was definitely in.
“…'Knife or Death' was probably the highlight of my martial arts career and one of the best experiences I've ever had. It was so much fun cutting through all the obstacles. I just wish I could do more. I would definitely do it again and am looking forward to seeing myself and maybe some of my students in my episode next week.”
The owner and instructor of Championship Karate, Laterza will appear on the third episode of the TV series, which premiered April 17.
According to www.aenetworks.com, “Hosted by WWE Hall of Famer Bill Goldberg, the six-episode series features fearless competitors as they race against the clock putting their blades and blade-wielding skills through a grueling gauntlet of challenges, such as slicing through flying watermelons, hacking through massive ice blocks and severing various types of ropes, tubes, metals and item-filled crates.
“… In two different timed courses — Knife Fight and the Dead Run — each obstacle challenges competitors to test numerous facets of their blades from strength, durability and sharpness to the speed, precision and overall technique of the blade wielder. After all competitors attempt the first course, Knife Fight, the top two performers face off in the Dead Run, an even more rigorous final test of their sharp blades, coordination and minds. The winner of each episode will earn a cash prize and a coveted spot in the season finale where they will compete in the ultimate showdown to be crowned the first ever Forged in Fire: Knife or Death Champion.
To prepare for the show, Laterza had to obtain and get acquainted with her new weapon.
“I had to order a real sharp sword,” she said. “I had never used a sharp one before and never cut anything, so I was a little nervous. My background is in fighting, sport karate, TKD [tae kwon do] and self-defense, so I was kind of a rookie going into this.
“Once I got the sword, I tried it out on a few PVC pipes in my yard, then left it alone so it wouldn't be [dull] going into the competition. The show was awesome. The course was so much bigger and more elaborate than I imagined. There was some returning cast members from 'Forged in Fire' that I had the pleasure of meeting. I also got to meet wrestling star Bill Goldberg. A few weeks after the show, one of my karate friends, Ernest 'The Cat' Miller, who also used to wrestle, arranged to take my sword to WrestleCon and got it signed [by Bill Goldberg]. I’m going to hang it up at the studio when I get it back.”
With Championship Karate experiencing significant growth over the last several years, Laterza, 31, now is operating two studios in Bartow: 5693 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Adairsville and 611 Grassdale Road in Cartersville.
“I got my start in martial arts when I was 11 years old,” Laterza said. “I loved it right from the start. I've continued to learn from multiple styles and instructors over the years. I started my own program when I was a senior in high school. It was just a small class at my church, but by 2008 we had a pretty decent following and opened up for business in the back of my dad’s place — Tim Hackney Appliance Parts on 411. Within four years, we had expanded, and we're still busting at the seams, so we moved to our current location on Grassdale Road in Cartersville.
“We have since added after-school pickup, summer camps, tumbling and kickboxing to our programs. Last fall, we decided to go back to my hometown and open a second place there. It's a smaller facility, but it's growing fast, and we love that small-town charm. Our new students are doing really well. It's tough juggling two schools with just me and my husband, Kurtis, but we're managing it. Our black belts and leadership team do a great job of getting … things running smoothly. I can't wait to see what the future holds.”