TWINSBURG -- Even though she faced some of the most skilled martial artists across the Midwest, 8-year-old Adriana Albrecht came out on top.
This young warrior from Twinsburg has been studying karate since age six and currently holds a blue belt. She competed in the 43rd-annual Karate Institute of America National Weekend competition at the Cleveland Airport Marriot Nov. 9-11, where she was awarded a commemorative black jacket for winning in overall points -- an award given to only one person every year.
Competitors were tested on their kata, or applied techniques, weapons performance (including the bo staff) and sparring. Given a point value for each section of the tournament, Adriana ended up scoring higher than anyone else in the running, including teens and adults from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.
Adriana said the experience was rewarding.
"It feels exciting," she said. "I felt happy. I haven't won a jacket before. It makes you want to jump up and down when you hear your name."
Adriana's instructor, Sensei Reggie Brown, owns and operates the Twinsburg Karate Institute on Darrow Road, where she studies. Brown said Adriana has been a star pupil, with the tournament win proving her dedication.
"A very talented, very disciplined, very focused young lady," Brown said of Adriana.
"She was the highest ranking person for points this year. It's very prestigious for her, it shows how hard she works."
Brown said Adriana shows incredible focus and ambition in her martial arts studies.
"Each year I have to pick a student of our school as outstanding student of the year ... and this year I chose Adriana," Brown said. "That's because one of the things she does that's unique -- she has class four times a week. Every day before class, she comes in and she studies. She comes in and she practices something, she works on something. She's always trying to improve her techniques."
Adriana's father, Kevin Albrecht, said the Karate Institute of Twinsburg has had a positive influence on his daughter's life, teaching her not only a practical skill, but also respect for elders and mental discipline.
"I like the fact that it's about not just the competition, it's about authority and respect for adults, which isn't something all kids have these days," Kevin said. "They use the saying 'karate is my secret.' It's important to learn it, but you're not to use it unless you need it. I think for her, she needs structure, and this helps her have that as well."
Even considering Adriana's talent and drive, Kevin said he feels a national award is still a surprising achievement.
"Obviously, I'm very proud and excited for her, knowing that all her hard work paid off," Kevin said. "I don't want to say I was shocked, because I know she's been to every tournament, I know she's placed well, but I didn't think someone her age could get something like that."
Having trained Adriana, Brown feels her national award was all but inevitable.
"It doesn't surprise me that she won because she put the time in," Brown said. "She's very quiet, very humble, never claims to be anything so special, but if you ever saw her perform or do something, it's very impressive."