Devon Brown, 12, has some big plans for his life. He wants to be a military fighter pilot, a chef for his own restaurant and a musician.
But first, he is focused on becoming a world-champion karate kid. He already has earned a black belt and a bundle of gold, silver and bronze medals at regional and national competitions.
The McLoughlin Junior High sixth-grader heads to Australia in May for the World Junior Karate Championship as a member of Team USA.
“I’m really excited about going, but I’m nervous too. Australia is a long way from home,” Brown said with a wide-eyed grin.
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Don’t think this martial-arts expert is out to arrogantly trash-talk his opponents or be the toughest competitor at the world championship. He might be just 12 years old, and the first to admit he likes being a kid, but he also exudes a philosophical maturity that most people don’t acquire until adulthood, says his sensi master, Dave Lybbert of Walla Walla.
“Devon is an amazing kid, very talented and a joy to train,” Lybbert said. “The world championships in Australia is a phenomenal opportunity for him and I’ve no doubt he’ll do well.”
Devon’s parents, Shaun and Kim Brown of Pasco, have been holding fundraisers to help pay for the trip to Melbourne. They’ve already raised about $6,000 of their $10,000 goal, which takes care of the airfare and lodging for Devon and his dad.
The next fundraiser, featuring a silent auction and a karate exhibition by Devon and his dad, is Wednesday at New Edge, 1350 Spaulding Ave., Richland. Admission is $5 at the door.
Devon got interested in karate when he was 7 years old. His dad has a black belt as well, and his mother and little brother Collin also train in karate.
“I’m really proud of the fact Devon knows he has to keep his head in the game, and that learning self-defense without having to beat anybody up is what it’s about,” Shaun Brown said.
That can sometimes be a tough thing for a 4-foot-5 middle-schooler, his mother added.
“Devon does get teased a lot about his small size, but he handles it well and doesn’t get defensive about it,” Kim Brown said. “Sometimes I think his heart is bigger than he is.”
She also says her son’s passion for karate is built on confidence and not arrogance. The Browns nurture their children with the same philosophy that comes with understanding real martial arts, Lybbert said.
“Devon has an incredible work ethic you don’t often find in young people,” Lybbert said. “His parents are certainly teaching him right. The whole family are just good people.”
Devon, who also pulls a 4.0 grade point average in school, has won more medals than he can remember. His most recent wins were in three different divisions at the regionals in Seattle last spring. Then he advanced to the nationals in Chicago in July, where he earned two silver medals and one bronze medal, even though he was not feeling well during the competition.
He first caught the attention of the Team USA coaching staff at the nationals in Chicago, despite his less than stellar performance, Kim Brown said.
“When he got to the Junior Olympics they remembered him and invited him to test,” she said. “And he rocked all the physical tests for the Team USA trials.”
Anyone who would like to make a donation toward Devon’s traveling expenses can do so at www.gofundme.com/thekatakid.
-- Dori O’Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal