CARLSBAD — For the past five years, Lily Rashidi has become addicted to karate.
The 9-year-old Aviara Oaks Elementary School student also recently became a national champion seven times over. Rashidi, who trains at the Japan Karate-Do Organization in Carlsbad, is also the youngest black belt in the dojo’s history, earning the prestigious ranking just days after her birthday in May.
Under the tutelage of Sensei Hanshi Miki, Rashidi, a fourth-grader, won three national titles at the 2021 USA Karate National Championships in Chicago earlier this month, and four titles at the 2021 Amateur Athletic Union National Karate Program nationals in Greenville, S.C., in July. (One of those titles came after Rashidi competed in a higher division against 10-year-old opponents.)
“Recently, we just went to Chicago and I got three gold medals,” Rashidi said smiling.
Rashidi won in three disciplines: Kata, Kumite and short weapons. Kata, which is Japanese for “form,” is a sequence of karate techniques simulating attack and defensive positions performed by an individual athlete. Kumite, or “grappling hands,” involves facing off against an opponent for points.
Rashidi began her karate journey when she was four years old after her twin brother, Ryan, kept asking to stop at the dojo, according to Rashidi’s mother, Lisa Duhaylongsod. Both children were also fascinated with Lego’s Ninjago, a toy line featuring ninja warriors that only fueled their desire to try karate.
Rashidi said she thought karate looked fun and she took to the sport like a duck to water. Soon, she couldn’t get enough training.
Rashidi has risen through the karate ranks, teaching classes with students ranging from four years old to teenagers. Also, she is prominently featured on the dojo’s website in several demonstration videos and photos.
Despite her growing fame, Miki said Rashidi’s ability to focus and concentrate is unlike any other preteen he’s taught.
“She works really hard, and her attendance is top of the class,” Miki said. “She learns fast with the maneuvers. I have to give her a break, so she doesn’t get mentally tired.”
When she’s not in school or at the dojo, Rashidi keeps a hectic schedule like many kids her age. She takes violin, piano, and dance lessons. Dancing, in particular, has helped improve her footwork and flexibility, especially with high kicks, Rashidi said.
Even with the championships and being a leader in the dojo, Rashidi said karate has helped improve her confidence, self-esteem, patience and discipline.
“Karate take teach more than just karate,” Rashidi said. “I had a math test and I was very, very nervous … and I did well and got a 100%. Hopefully, if they have the Olympics again, I can make the national team and go to the Olympics.”