Grad Has Sights Set on Winning World Karate Title
Jun. 17, 2010
If UT Dallas graduate Maxine Lisot fulfills her own expectations this summer, she’ll be a world champion.
Lisot, who graduated magna cum laude this spring with a degree in psychology, won the USA Karate Federation’s 2010 World University Team Trials, held at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, on April 2. As a result she heads to Podgorica, Montenegro, to compete for Team USA this summer at the 7th World University Karate Championships, July 15-18.
The work ethic she applied to her undergraduate education is the same one she uses in her athletic career: Nothing short of perfection is ever good enough.
“I should have graduated summa cum laude,” she said. “I’ve done that all my life. If I get an A minus, I should have gotten an A. My parents will tell you I’ve always been this way.”
Lisot, who was born in Los Angeles but has lived in Richardson for most of her life, first tried karate at age 13. Bored and looking for something to do, she thumbed through the Yellow Pages and found a listing for the Academy of Classical Karate in Plano. She hated it immediately and wanted to quit after the first class, but her parents forced her to stick with it until she attained a certain rank.
“I didn’t compete for a long time—I hated doing it,” she said. “I wasn’t a varsity athlete back then. I was a varsity couch potato—but I kept at it. Somewhere around 2005-2006 I began noticing, ‘Hey, I’m pretty good!’ so I started training to compete.”
In 2007, Lisot fought in the black belt team trials division to qualify for international competition. She lost every single fight that first year. After the National team trials she received some unexpected news that inspired her to keep going: She had been selected as an alternate on the national team for a competition in Quito, Ecuador.
“After that, it was as if a fire had been lit underneath me,” she said. “I lost in Quito, but it inspired me to train harder and planted a seed in my head to continue pursuing some goals.”
Although those goals, for Lisot, inevitably mean the pursuit of perfection, she is determined not to draw too much needless attention to herself. That’s something she’s taken away from this most Japanese of pursuits.
“A lot of it is practical, in that you have to show good character and you learn good sportsmanship,” Lisot said. “Other sports have that, but karate expands on it. You gain this quiet, subtle confidence. Nobody has to necessarily know where it’s from, but they know it’s there.”
That same quiet confidence, intense focus and commitment that Lisot learned from karate has translated into a successful academic career. “I worked really hard to finish with Latin honors,” she said. “Part of that came from the idea that ‘I want to be the best in karate, so I want to be the best in everything else.’ I was able to intertwine both aspects of my life.”
Conversely, knowing the background behind her drive for success was the most valuable thing Lisot brought into her sport from her academic life. “I learned in abnormal psychology that the pathological aspects of being an athlete—the willingness to work through pain, for instance—are common traits among successful athletes. Once I learned that, I could see how it applied to my situation.”
Dr. Thom D. Chesney, associate provost for student success and assessment and associate professor of arts and humanities, saw some clear correlations between her academic and athletic pursuits when she was enrolled in his introductory creative writing course.
“Maxine’s occasional late arrival for class due to an injury suffered at a weekend match or a visible bruise served to remind us that while karate plays out in white uniforms, the outcomes are frequently black and blue,” Chesney said. “Her portfolio highlighted not only her wins and losses on the karate mat, but also—in a parallel fashion—some challenging academic battles over plot devices, clichés, and conforming to the terms of a villanelle. She’s a winner at both—though admittedly still striving for the top.”
If her past accomplishments, academic and otherwise, are any indication of what’s to come, then the top—in the form of a medal at the upcoming world championships—may be within sight.