Kung Fu fun; local student ranks high in martial arts

LEROY — Pine River Area Schools eighth grader Aaron Arnold might not appear to be the strongest of teenagers at first glance, but don't let his young age or small stature fool you.

Aaron, 13, is on his way to becoming a master at northern and southern styles of Kung Fu, which focuses on fluid movements and strength. He began taking classes in Grand Rapids when he was about 5 years old and continues attending each weekend, making the drive from his hometown of Luther.

"I guess I've been doing martial arts all my life," Aaron said. "My dad introduced it to me and I've always liked it. I feel a connection to it."

For years, he learned the correct stances, punches, kicks and acrobatic movements, excelling quickly. To improve his skill, he practices or lifts weights every day. Currently, Aaron has been awarded nearly 80 trophies from state and national Kung Fu competitions and holds the rank of brown belt in the sport, as well as the rank of red belt in Tae Kwon Do.

In June of 2008, Aaron traveled to China with a team from Young Champions to train with his Grand Master Wu Bin and participated in a cultural pre-Olympic ceremony with surrounding martial arts schools. In 2010, he traveled to California to compete in the San Jose Shark City Nationals, winning a first place and two second place trophies.

This year, he qualified to be one of 70 members of World Organizations of Martial Arts Athletes' Team America, traveling to Ireland in August for the world championship competition. During the competition, he took the gold medal for chain form and the bronze for fist form.

"Winning makes me want to keep going and get better," he said.

Kristine Arnold, Aaron's mother, said she is proud of his accomplishments inside and out of the martial arts world.

"He loves Kung Fu and that is his sport of choice," Kristine said. "He's a good, responsible kid and that shows during his martial arts classes and in school."

Kung Fu is not only giving him the drive to improve with each year, but it also inspires Aaron to pursue his dreams beyond school in Osceola County.

"I want to be an actor for a living and I want to be like Jackie Chan," he said. "He's funny, but also really action oriented. I like the action-comedy movies."

Aaron also wants to pass on the skills he has learned to the next generation.

"I'd like to teach a martial arts class, too," he added. "I think it would be fun to teach people the techniques."

Aaron, who was typically quiet and uneasy about interacting with others, said learning Kung Fu helped him overcome his fears, learn to be more social and discover more about himself.

"It gives you confidence and respect, and makes you a better person," he said. "I think others should give Kung Fu a try, even if it's just for fun."