LAKEWOOD RANCH — The morning of Dec. 19 began like any other for 15-year-old Paige Oswald.
The Braden River High sophomore headed off to driver’s education class, during which she would spend the next couple of hours learning the ins and outs of driving. But in the middle of her class, Oswald made a last-minute decision that would change her life forever — she just didn’t know it at the time.
As soon as her class was over, Oswald hopped in the car and traveled to a martial arts tournament, knowing full well that she was going to be late. But, luckily for Oswald, who had spent the past six years gaining recognition in the sport, none of that mattered. Shortly after she arrived at the tournament, a scout pulled her over and told her she had been selected for the U.S. National Martial Arts Team.
“I was really surprised because I debated about whether or not I should go, since I knew I was going to be late,” Oswald said. “I didn’t really know anything about the U.S. National Team before, but it’s a very big accomplishment and I’m very proud.”
Oswald began studying martial arts about six years ago, after her friend, Jessie Rankin, who was already involved in the sport, told her how much fun it was. Oswald, who was also taking gymnastics at the time, told her mother, Miranda, and, shortly thereafter, Oswald began working her toward her orange belt.
Since then, Oswald has continued to work her way up in the sport, having recently earned her second-degree black belt.
“It’s a good workout and I enjoy being able to see my friends,” Oswald said. “It’s a good place to be.”
Oswald practices by herself for a couple of hours at least four days a week. She begins by stretching for 20 minutes before warming up with some machine-gun kicks. She, then, works on forms, starting with white belt and working her way up. Finally, Oswald concludes her workout by working on her competition forms and reviewing her black belt requirements.
Additionally, Oswald helps her stepfather, Jessie Vi, who is her teacher and coach, teach martial arts to the younger students at their school, Ming Wu Martial Arts, from 5 to 8 p.m., every Wednesday through Saturday.
Vi, an award-winning martial artist who has been recognized nationally for his skills, opened a second location Jan. 4, in Lakewood Ranch, at the corner of Lorraine Road and State Road 70 East.
“He’s taught me to have respect for others, discipline in myself and to be determined,” Oswald said of her father. “I’ve learned a lot of things from him.”
Oswald spends the majority of her time working with the white belts, teaching them proper form and basic martial arts skills.
“I like working with kids a lot,” Oswald said. “They’re funny — the things that they do. We just try to make them feel comfortable because we’re all a big family here.”
When she’s not practicing and teaching, Oswald spends time traveling across the country competing in martial arts tournaments, including the U.S. Open, which is held every year around Fourth of July, in Orlando.
Oswald, who doesn’t spar, competes in forms, which are traditional or musical routines, and extreme forms, which incorporate tumbling and fighting. Over the years, Oswald has been recognized for her excellence in the sport, having been inducted into both the karate and black belt halls of fame.
“I like everything, because martial arts is my favorite thing to do,” Oswald said. “I’m always open to learning new things.”
Oswald received her workout routine for the U.S. National Team and is now incorporating it into her daily schedule in preparation for a tournament in September, in Las Vegas. Additionally, Oswald needs to raise $5,000 to be able to compete in Las Vegas. Anyone interested in sponsoring Oswald can do so by calling Ming Wu Martial Arts at 758-8827.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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