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Covering a sport I did not think I would cover. But if it’s your grandson you have to.

First place in sparring, Luca Pabón in center. (Photo Latino Sports)

Las Vegas, NV: I’m far away from home and this is more like a personal, family, sports trip. Let me explain. My grandson, Luca who’s seven years old lives in Los Angeles CA. He studies Kempo Karate and is quite competitive. He convinced his parents that he wanted to enter this international karate championship known as the Jeff Speakman’s World Martial Art Event 2022 taking place here in Las Vegas.

Luca and his sister Francesca are the youngest of my 8 grandchildren and one great grandchild, but also the only two that live in the West Coast. As such, I hardly get to see them as I and the other members of my family all live in the East Coast. Thus, I saw this as a perfect opportunity to come cheer on my grandson compete in this, his first international karate tournament. However, when my son first called to invite me, he also knew that as a Martial Artist myself and former Sensei (instructor) I would love to attend. The fact is that I have not participated or attended a major Karate tournament since the days that I use to compete in places like New York’s Madison Square Garden over five decades ago was more than a treat.

It has been a true pleasure to come and witness hundreds of children, youths, adults, and seniors all wearing their Gi’s. It brought back many positive memories. Seeing so many parents and families here who travelled from many parts of the Southwest and other parts of the world was encouraging. I have always preached that Martial Arts is more than a form of self-defense, but also a practice that will teach the principles of discipline, self-respect and positive self-esteem that will help throughout a lifetime. That is why I have always introduced and encouraged my children and grandchildren to the Martial Arts.

The pride I felt in reliving my Martial Arts experience was nothing compared to seeing my grandson compete in three disciplines, form, creative weapons, and sparring. He placed in all three disciplines, second in form, third in creative weapons and first place in sparring. Watching Luca, I felt the pride that so many parents felt seeing their children take center stage in a ring with other young competitors to be judged by three black belts, all adults.

It was so rewarding to see the usually smiley face of my young grandson instantly turn to a serious warrior face of someone that knew that it was his turn to perform to the best of what his discipline had prepared him for. His focus was not on his parents, me, or anyone else. He was tuned into himself and the judges when he performed his form (Kata) and his creative weapons. When he was called to spar (fight) his focus was on his opponent. He easily won his first match, but the second was against an older and higher belt. I was outwardly critical that he was not given much time to rest before he was called again to fight his second match putting him in a disadvantage. However, he proved he had what it takes. Though at one point he was pinned to the floor, he got out and eventually won that fight. The pride and smile I saw in his face when the referee raised his hand as the winner was priceless. I am so proud of this seven-year-old who already has learned one major lesson in life, discipline pays off.

Interview with Luca Pabón:



  1. Elizabeth Figueroa

    July 10, 2022 at 1:15 pm

    Thank you Julio for this article on our grandson. I know You can appreciate how as a grand mother this was incredibly important to me. Article and interview …
    Made me cry!! My first grand son is grown and talented and fearless!! Love him so much!! Proud Tata. !

    • Julio Pabón

      July 11, 2022 at 12:15 am


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