Two Great Neck school kids brought home gold medals from the USA Open & Junior Karate International Cup held in Las Vegas from April 7-9. Brothers Joshua Niu, 11, and Spencer Niu, 9, won both the U.S. Championship and the World Championship in their respective age groups.
Organized by the USA National Karate-do Federation, more than 2,000 people competed in the tournament. Joshua and Spencer both had eight fights against kids from several different countries, and they won every single one.
Vladyslav Burdeinyi, the Nius’ coach who was on the Ukrainian national karate team when he was younger, explained that karate is divided into two forms of practice: kata, which is all about form and how the moves are performed, and kumite, which is sparring and fighting.
“If you want to be successful, you need to choose one way or another and put more practice towards it,” Burdeinyi said. “[Joshua and Spencer] do both; they do kata and kumite. But we are working hard towards kumite – towards sparring. So the gold they won was in sparring.”
The brothers have both been doing karate for three years, and Burdeinyi has been their coach for a little over two years. He was impressed by the progress Joshua and Spencer have made over such a short period of time.
“They were working very hard,” he said. “You see only with two years of practice they can achieve such a big result. It’s all about not skipping lessons, listening to the coach.”
Burdeinyi also said practicing karate is great for developing “physical and emotional control,” while also learning to protect yourself.
Lily Cao, Joshua and Spencer’s mother, agreed with that sentiment.
“This sport is a good way to do self-defense and help more people to become stronger and healthier.”
This tournament was the farthest the boys have ever traveled for karate.
“It’s the first time going to Las Vegas for a competition,” Cao said. “It was normally before in New Jersey, Long Island and New York City. So this time, we were very excited.”
Now that Burdeinyi knows Joshua and Spencer can compete at such a high level, he plans on taking them to other big international tournaments. Their next big trip will be to Orlando, Fl., in September for another international competition – the Orlando International Karate Open.
Even though the brothers are only 9 and 11, it’s never too early to start thinking about the future.
Burdeinyi said entering major tournaments will benefit the boys when they become 14 or 15.
“That’s when you can be a national member and represent your country in the American Games or different big tournaments in Europe and the world – like represent your country. That’s why it’s very important to compete at such a young age. It will help them in the future.”
You never know, maybe one day we will be watching Joshua and Spencer Niu competing in the Olympic Games.