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Planning manager adds 'world champ' to his titles

Dietl takes prize in stick fighting competition

Aug. 21, 2012

Franklin - Mayor Tom Taylor is quite proud of Joel Dietl, the city's planning manager.

"It's not every day that you can say one of the city's employees is a world champion," he said.

Dietl won a world title at the Inaugural World Stick Fighting Championships held July 16 to July 20 at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. His division was for those older than 40, weighing between 200 and 220 pounds and competing in double-stick sparring. Stick fighting is a 300-year-old martial art that flourished in the Philippines.

"It's really a very nice achievement," Taylor said. "And it's something that I didn't know he was involved with. I simply asked him how his weekend was, and he told me."

Long-term passion

Dietl has been a competitor in and a teacher of martial arts for the past 20 years. He teaches at Four Winds Martial Arts in West Allis. Business owner Tom Sipin said Dietl's achievement is significant.

"It's really impressive," Sipin said. "Joel competed against very good competition."

Despite the accolades and admitting it felt good to win the competition, Dietl downplayed the achievement. He noted that the Global Blade and Stick Alliance, an offshoot of a larger organization, includes fewer competitors than the previous, larger organization.

"It's a new organization, which means there used to be a far greater number of those competing," Dietl said. He added that he has won other competitions at the regional and national level, and noted that he had entered both the single- and double-stick sparring competitions, but did not go as far in the single-stick class.

Two-sided activity

Dietl explained stick fighting both as an art form and a fighting technique.

"There's an art side for demonstration," he said. "There are forms and combinations and techniques that emphasize flexibility and endurance. But it also is a fighting art like judo and karate."

Stick fighters use 28-inch to 32-inch flexible bamboo sticks. They wear long pants, T-shirts, a helmet and chest, thigh and forearm protectors. Upper arms remain vulnerable to the sticks.

"It's clunky," Dietl said.

Points are awarded for hits and form.

Reprieve from boredom

Dietl said he got into martial arts because he was a bored with weightlifting and running. Those exercises now help him keep in shape for martial arts.

"I like it because it keeps me healthy," Dietl said. "People say I look younger than I am (he's 49), and it's a good stress buster."

As planning manager, Dietl works with a lot of details and a variety of people, so the physical activity helps keep him grounded.

"My next goal is to compete in two years when the competition is in Italy," Dietl said. "It will be great to go over there and compete with more Europeans."

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