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 BY JEFF FALK

 PHOTOS SUBMITTED

 Sometimes we pick a path in life, and sometimes a path picks us. Just like some people are born to greatness, and some people have greatness thrust upon them.

 Joshua Aguirre is perfectly suited for the karate discipline of taekwondo. And taekwondo is perfectly suited for Aguirre.

 Not sure if the action of choice was ever involved in the matter.

 Aguirre is a child prodigy, an expert, a kid guru. All at the age of seven.

 The fact that he began pursuing the difficult discipline of taekwondo when he was five is amazing enough. But in 23 short months, Aguirre has accomplished things in the world of karate that it would take most of us a lifetime to attain.

 To say he caught on quickly or accomplished a lot in a short period of time would be an understatement. The things Aguirre are doing aren’t natural or normal, in the purest of senses.

 “He started in our pee wee class, but he wasn’t there very long,” said Master David Gladwell, owner of Family Karate, where Aguirre trains. “He excelled very quickly. He went to all-stars, which is the next level up, and then to taekwondo. During the 34 years I’ve been teaching, he’s the youngest black belt I’ve ever had. He was six when he earned his black belt, and that’s very unusual.

 “It’s not only his physical skills,” continued Gladwell. “He’s a very well-mannered young person. He has a very outstanding personality. Someday, somebody is going to notice him. I could see him being in movies and going to the Junior Olympics and Olympics. You can just tell the kid is going to be special. It’s been exciting seeing how fast things have moved for him.”

 “No, it’s not hard to do,” said Aguirre of karate. “Sparring is a little bit hard. But chopping blocks isn’t too hard for me. My favorite thing about karate is imaginary fighting. But yes, I’m very good at karate, because I practice.”

  In many ways, Aguirre is a child who’s advanced beyond his years. A resident of Lebanon, Aguirre is being home schooled and he’s currently in the first grade.

 Recently through competition, Aguirre was crowned the Maryland taekwondo champion and then the Pennsylvania taekwondo champion. During his short career, Aguirre has earned 58 gold medals, three silver medals and a bronze, at competitions on the national, state and local levels.

 He has already qualified for a spot in the Junior Olympics.

 “He’s the Maryland state champion, a grand champion,” said Gladwell. “He’s the New York state champion. He’s the Pennsylvania state champion. He’s not the best in the school, not the best in the county, he’s the best in the state. I know he’s just getting started, but there’s going to be even more doors opening up for him in the future.

 “I think it has come early, but he loves it,” Gladwell continued. “You look at him, and you think he’s older. Joshua’s more mature, but he’s still a kid. He loves what he does. With that age group, I recommend one or two classes a week. But he wants more. I’m always worrying about kids burning out. But even when he’s not here, he’s practicing his technique. It’s something he’s very gifted at. He works very hard when he’s in class. He has a very competitive spirit. It’s something that drives him.”

 “I went to Maryland and the governor gave me the Grand Champion Cup,” said Aguirre. “In those competitions, we do forms and sparring. I do good forms because I have lots of techniques that are good. My favorite part is winning medals and doing forms. I need to practice more.”

 Aguirre received his black belt in November. He is believed to be one of the youngest student-athletes to ever earn the level of black belt in Pennsylvania, and one of the youngest latinos to earn a black belt in the country.

 “You usually don’t get into the mechanics of movement at this point,” said Gladwell. “You’re just trying to keep a kid’s attention. He picked it up right away, in minutes, the patterns of moves. Most children have difficulty remembering those movements, and the patterns become more difficult. His mind, you can tell it’s different. He seemed to have a natural ability we don’t see very often.

 “It was both – the mind and the body,” Gladwell added. “From the physical standpoint, to get the precise movement, you’ve got to have repetition and do things over and over. You want to be as perfect as you can be. His movements were very precise. When he started going to competitions, he was winning everything.”

 “I was five years old, sir,” said Aguirre. “The first time I got started, I liked kicking. I’m glad I started it.”

 Like some sports, martial arts can be a life-long endeavor. But the pursuit of perfection can be exhausting, and sometimes counter-productive.

 The key to success, it seems, could be the introduction of structured and unstructured breaks.

 “In most children, I would be concerned with that,” said Gladwell. “We’ve seen it many, many times before. But even when he’s not in (karate) school, he shows no signs of it. When you enjoy doing something that much, it makes you feel good about yourself. He seems to be having fun.

 “I have instructed thousands of students,” added Gladwell. “I’ve been doing it for 34 years. I have kids I taught who are bringing their kids and grand kids. But I’ve never had anyone as gifted as Joshua.”

 “I like soccer too,” said Aguirre. “I play in my backyard. I practice sometimes. It’s totally something different. But sometimes when I play soccer I do kicks I use in school.”

The future is not promised. And for Aguirre, if his doesn’t include something directly related to the martial arts, the things he has learned from karate and taekwondo figure to serve him well.

 “Taekwondo is a Korean martial art,” said Gladwell. “It’s a lot more kicking techniques. Most karates deal with hand techniques. Taekwondo is a lot of kicks. In competitions, most of the scoring is done with the feet. He has good foot skills.

 “Joshua is a great example for our school,” continued Gladwell. “He’s well-balanced, disciplined and respectful. He has a very good heart. He’s very aware of people’s feelings.”

  “David Gladwell is the master of our school,” said Aguirre. “I call him, ‘Master Gladwell’. I like him. I like that he helps people and shows people lots of moves, correctly.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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