Shrewsbury 10-year-old wins gold medals at World Karate Championships

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Shrewsbury 10-year-old wins gold medals at World Karate Championships
Grace Hemenway poses for a photo after her wins at WUKF World Karate Championships.

SHREWSBURY – Shrewsbury has a new karate champion in its ranks after 10-year-old Grace Hemenway won two gold medals at the 2022 WUKF World Karate Championships in July at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Hemenway won medals for both kumite and kata, the latter of which involves choreographed martial arts motions.

She said that kumite, which includes sparring, is her favorite part, especially sparring against older kids.

“It’s easier to kick them in the face,” Hemenway said.

Grace shares nationals, worlds experiences

Hemenway has been practicing karate since her father signed her up in late 2020. She has been taking lessons at the Jewish Community Center with instructor Ron Teixeira for almost a year.

Hemenway began competing in tournaments and participated in events, including the 2021 USANKF National and Team Trials and 2021 AAU Nationals.

Usually, the nationals require you to qualify, but in 2021 they were open. Hemenway’s mother Patience started a GoFundMe, to which some Shrewsbury residents contributed to help her travel to Fort Lauderdale.

Hemenway won a gold medal for kumite and a silver medal for kata at that tournament, and qualified her to return in 2022.

Hemenway said competing at nationals was scary because of the large number of people watching and competing.

However, it did not stop her from winning four gold medals there this year in novice kumite, novice kata, rotational team kumite and ultimate rotational kumite. In the team competitions, Hemenway usually sparred in the last match in each round.

“I kind of did the cleanup,” she said.

Hemenway said that winning the four gold medals this year felt easy.

“It wasn’t really a challenge, so I thought worlds would be more of a challenge,” she said.

Ultimately, she said the worlds championship was more of a challenge, especially in kata. Kumite, however, was difficult for a different reason because Hemenway had to fight one of her teammates from nationals team kumite.

“I beat her, and I didn’t really like it,” Hemenway said. “Although she got third, so I’m happy for her.”

She credited and thanked Teixeira, who would text advice while she was competing in Fort Lauderdale.

Teixeira said that he teaches a form of karate that emphasizes character development and is rigorous, with a minimum of two-hour class lengths. 

“Our philosophy is that if you shape the individual, develop their character and their self-discipline, then they’re more likely to avoid confrontation,” Teixeira said.

He was critical of karate schools that are more commercialized, which he said award belts to people who are not really deserving but have paid the fees for classes.

Teixeira said that Hemenway is a naturally gifted athlete who used her strength and good fundamentals to outclass her opponents at Fort Lauderdale.

“She’s just so much quicker than they are,” Teixeira said. “She learns quickly, she can process information quickly.”

Teixeira said that Hemenway will be challenged more in the future as other children develop the athletic abilities that she already has.

He said that sometimes early success can dull motivation. He talked about his son, who had early success in karate tournaments and was not prepared when he eventually lost. 

How Hemenway responds to more difficult challenges will be important, he said.

“She won’t be able to rest on her laurels, she’s going to have to work,” he said.

Hemenway said that she wants to keep competing and, when she is old enough, wants to make the junior national team for karate at the Pan American Games.

Hemenway also wrote a book, “I Am Dynamite: And I Am Becoming,” after her tournament successes in 2021.

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