International Karate Champion Jordan Bonenberger joins class of 2022


Butler has educated and graduated ballerinas, basketball players, opera singers and race car drivers. The school’s faculty include esteemed authors, scientists and professionals in their fields. However, many do not know that Butler has an internationally-ranked karate and kickboxing champion on campus.

Jordan Bonenberger is a first-year actuarial science major who has been training in mixed martial arts and karate since he was seven years old. Coming from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, he holds 10 national titles and six world titles in events varying from continuous fighting to “weapons forms” divisions.

The victories didn’t come without obstacles. Bonenberger achieved his success despite a hearing impairment he’s had since before he was four years old.

“It gave me a lot of confidence as a kid,” Bonenberger said, “I am super short, hard of hearing and have kind of always been a shy kid growing up. One of the things I love about sports is [hearing] rarely impacts me on the field or in the ring.”

Now he teaches karate classes and demonstrates at seminars. His confidence has helped his nervousness when public speaking, something he couldn’t do as a child.

He grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, where he started doing gymnastics until he was seven. But once it came time to compete in events he decided to opt out of gymnastics. All he wanted to do was learn how to flip.

His desire to “just do flips” inspired him to start learning karate, and it has been an uphill adventure since. Once he moved to Wisconsin he began his intense training in karate.

Bonenberger has trained in multiple fighting styles with a variety of different weapons under the karate umbrella, but he specializes in “sport karate” and working with a bo staff.

Sport karate involves no physical contact and is based heavily on demonstration. Kickboxing involves an opponent and physical contact.

He has held a third degree black belt in karate since before his 11th birthday. His upcoming training in Indianapolis can shape whether Bonenberger will pursue a spot on the United States Olympic Team for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Bonenberger’s next competition will be Oct. 5 and 6 of this year in Minneapolis. He is preparing for the Diamond Nationals World Karate Championships.

Students can sometimes find him at the HRC practicing, but he also goes off campus so he does not get pinned as the guy “doing weird stuff with a stick.” Infinity Martial Arts sponsors him from his home state of Wisconsin, but he wanted to escape Wisconsin because it would be “a little more fun.”

Bonenberger’s roommate Griffin Beck is a first-year actuarial science major as well. Both of them enjoy being active. The two met on Instagram and solidified their rooming arrangement this year as inaugural occupants of Irvington House.

“Our only rule is to not beat each other up,” Beck explained with chuckle.

Beck plays tennis for Butler, and since they both have busy schedules, they make time for each other as roommates when the opportunity arises.

“He’s a die-hard Packers fan!” Beck explained, referring to the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears game on Sunday. “Great personality honestly, and he’s always coming up with new ideas for stuff to do and is always on the move.”

Bonenberger has already become active on campus, joining the Actuarial and Math Clubs within his first few week. He also plays for the club soccer team on campus, another sport that Bonenberger has been playing since he was 4 years old.

“Why stop now when I have been playing for so long?” he said.

Austin Powell is a junior marketing major and is the captain of the club soccer team. The first time they met was during the team’s tryouts where Bonenberger did not come until the very last day.

“Want to see something cool?” Powell recalled Bonenberger asking. All of a sudden, the “out-of-the-blue” first-year did a standing backflip in the middle of the field, surprising everyone there.

“I remember thinking he would be good on the field and a great contribution to the team,” Powell said. “Plus, the fact that he can do freaking backflips is pretty awesome.”

When the team found Bonenberger’s Instagram account detailing his karate and soccer history, they understood why and how their teammate was so talented.

“He can outpace basically anyone, and run way longer distances,” Powell said, “Jordan can literally play basically any position and adapts to anywhere we put him in and excels.”

Powell emphasized Bonenberger’s contribution to not only the team, but to the individual lives of his teammates. He has an introverted exterior, but he is outgoing and personable the second a conversation starts.

“I would not mess with him, but he is a good friend to have your back,”  Powell said with a laugh, “He probably would not hurt a fly unless he had to, and he is literally one of the nicest people I’ve met. He is definitely one of those guys that when you meet him you can tell he is determined. When he puts his mind to something, he is going to try to be the best he can possibly be at it.”

For years now, Bonenberger has been juggling multiple sports in high school including soccer, wrestling and karate. He also juggled his athletic endeavors while balancing school work, family life, and social life.

“It is a lot of dedication when it comes to time management,” he said. “But as long as you are doing what you like to do with people you enjoy doing it with then go for it.”

His family has supported his transition into this new stage in life. His father, Troy Bonenberger, said his son makes decisions and moves forward with convictions.

“Having him transition into college now, our family now has a huge gaping hole in in our time,” he said. “But I wouldn’t want to define him because I think he does it on his own.”

While Bonenberger’s family is farther away in northern Wisconsin, his father said he thinks his son is ready for the transition.

“He’s kinda fearless like that,” Troy Bonenberger said. “When he was living with us he always had stuff going on. But he’s very self-reliant and independent. I think what he likes the most about Butler is the sense of community that school provides.”

“It’ll be fun to watch him grow in that community down there. Knowing that there is a support system will definitely help him while he’s being independent on his own.”

Now, Bonenberger calls Butler home and can see a future that includes both karate and soccer.

“I really like how open everybody is,” Bonenberger said. “The upperclassmen aren’t segregated from the underclassmen, and people just enjoy talking to each other here. You can really tell it’s like one big family.”


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One Comment;

  1. Michaele Bonenberger said:

    What a great, well-written article about Jordan. He is such a wonderful person and you captured the essence of his personality in the article you published.