Over the weekend, 13-year-old Kyle Leon competed at the Action Martial Arts World Championships and left with the gold.
Leon competed in the 13- to 15-year-old Black Belt Full Contact Sparring Division and took first place. He didn't want to brag since he studies self control, but this wasn't the first time he won the gold prize.
"I don't want to boast," Leon said, "but it wasn't my first win."
Leon added that he often takes first place in sparring and has won many titles along the way.
Last weekend's competition took place at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City, and it drew thousands of competitors from all over the world Including Russia, Germany and Brazil, according to Leon's father. The tournament was in conjunction with the Ring of Combat 43 World Championship MMA fights that took place Friday, Jan. 25, he said.
Not only do competitors come from all over, so do Martial Arts legends, Hall of Famers and champion boxers and wrestlers. Among them were Cynthia Rothrock, Don "The Dragon" Wilson and Bill "Superfoot" Wallace. Leon was even able to meet and greet with many of them, including Cary Tagawa, Ray Mercer, Dan "The Beast" Severn and many more.
During competitions, participants showcase skills in three categories throughout the day, such as forms, weapons and fighting, Leon explained. And it's not really like and martial arts you may see in an action movie, he says, as you never actually touch another competitor.
"You're not allowed to make contact," Leon said of sparring competitions. "You get as close as you can with self control."
And competitors use protective gear, just in case.
Leon has been competing for quite some time. He first began studying martial arts at the age of three, under the instruction of former World Champion Robert Massaroni. It wasn't his idea to start taking lessons, since he was only three, but he said grew to love it and will continue practicing and competing.
Furthermore, Leon is planning his future in martial arts. Next year, he will be a freshman at Holy Ghost Prep. The school currently has a martial arts club, but Leon says he hopes to start a second one.
"They already have one, but it's for kenpo," he said, which is a different style of karate than the club he hopes to start. "It's just an idea so far."
And even farther down the line, Leon plans to have his own studio.
"I think I'll practice until I have my own studio with my own kids," he said.
Leon currently trains in Penndel at John Godwin’s Korean Martial Arts Institute under the supervision of Master Candidate Geoffrey Setyanto. Leon helps instruct students of all ages at the institute, though he favors younger students.
"My favorite part of karate is probably teaching the little kids... things like self control, integrity and being respectful," he said. "The kids I teach are five and six."
While Leon enjoys teaching and hopes to do more of it in the future, he is trying to stay focused on upcoming competitions.