Thursday, January 14, 2010

U. Florida-area karate kid gets black belt early, wins gold

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Night of Martial Arts 2006, originally uploaded by _click. USA, LLC

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GAINESVILLE, Fla., Jul 10, 2007 (Independent Florida Alligator, U-WIRE via COMTEX) -- From outside the dojo at the World Martial Arts Center in Gainesville, an 8-year-old's warrior cries can be heard. His weapon of choice: bow staff.

"My right arm is longer than my left arm," Ronnie Smith said while extending his arms.

His mother, Dawn Smith, laughed and joked that his bow staff is an extension of his right arm.

Ronnie is a national karate competitor holding numerous titles. On Friday, he traveled to Disney's Coronado Springs Resort to compete for a world title at the 2007 U.S. Open World Martial Arts Championships.

Every year, competitors and spectators from all over the world travel to Orlando to be part of the U.S. Open, which is nationally televised on ESPN. It is the world's largest competitive martial arts event, with more than 500 divisions of competition.

Ronnie went to prove his skill after taking on his sensei, Cory Schafer, last month to earn his junior black belt -- an accomplishment he has been working toward for the last three years.

According to the school's owner, Mike Sawyer, Ronnie is a special case. The common age to receive a junior black belt is 12, but due to Ronnie's abilities, he was allowed to test early. In the 32 years the school has been operating, only one other student has ever received a junior black belt at age 8.

"It was pretty much the hardest thing I ever did," Ronnie said.

At the U.S. Open, Ronnie competed in six events and placed in five, including first place in creative weapons, using -- of course -- his bow staff. Ronnie and his primary trainer, Dre Graham, had been training all year for the championship.

The pair have traveled together to Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Louisville, Ky. for other competitions.

"It started out as me being just his trainer, but now he is like a little brother," Graham said.

The two are together most of the time, sometimes practicing five times a week.

Even with such a packed schedule, Ronnie still enjoys other activities as well, such as writing stories and composing music for piano. He also likes playing basketball.

Although karate takes up a large portion of his time, Ronnie said he never gets bored of it. He plans to keep up with the sport for a long time.

"We don't put any pressure on him," his mother said. "He just really enjoys what he is doing, and he wants to keep competing. We will support him in whatever he does."

(C) 2007 Independent Florida Alligator via U-WIRE

Source Citation
"U. Florida-area karate kid gets black belt early, wins gold." U-Wire 10 July 2007. Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Collection. Web. 14 Jan. 2010. .

Gale Document Number:A166246771

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