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Four local students of Ming Wu Martial Arts in Lakewood Ranch competed last weekend at the World Martial Arts Games in Las Vegas, Nevada. Paige Oswald, Andrew Winn, Kelly Machuca and Michael Santoni all brought home World Championships in at least one of their various divisions. All four of the students are members of the elite United States Martial Arts Team which is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.

The US Martial Arts Team of 84 practitioners from across the country represented the United States at the World Games. Paige Oswald brought home top honors with three gold medal world championship titles. Oswald, a sixteen year old eleventh grader from Braden River High School competed in Traditional Chinese Open Hand Forms, Non-traditional Open Hand forms and Extreme Open Hand Forms which is a modern theatrical type of martial arts incorporating more gymnastics, multiple kicks and spinning kicks than the traditional martial arts. “I had so much fun! I met new friends from all around the world. “, the second degree Black Belt teen responded when asked how she enjoyed her success. “The three World Championship Titles are pretty cool, I must admit, but the honor of meeting so many elite martial artists from all around the world is what I really enjoyed the most.”

Oswald’s step father and teacher Jessie Vi is a Martial Arts Grand Master and creator of Ming Wu Martial Arts (mingwuma.com). “I am very proud of all four of my students. They have worked very hard over the past year training for this event. It does not surprise me that they were honored with eight gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal. Hard work and dedication should be and usually is rewarded fairly. World Titles are not easily earned, but these kids deserve them.”

Michael Santoni, a thirteen year old is the youngest of the four and also the winner of the most medals. He won two Junior Black Belt world titles in Non-Traditional Open Hand Forms and Creative Forms. In addition to the two gold medals, he also won silver and bronze. Andrew Winn, a seventeen year old Lakewood Ranch High Senior took Gold in two divisions, Non-Traditional Open Hand Forms and Musical Forms as well as Silver in Extreme Forms. Kelly Machuca, sixteen, won his World Championship in Traditional Japanese Okinawan Forms.

The students were also coached over the last year by Kyoshi Donna Judge of Suncoast Karate Dojo, the regional training center for the US National Team and Grand Master Alberto Friedmann, Olympic Gold medalist and Head Coach for the US National Team from St. Louis as well as various other martial arts, nutrition and gymnastics trainers. This was the first time the World Games had been held in the United States. The next World Games will be held in 2012 in Vienna, Austria. The athletes will take the next six months to rest and then will begin their intense training and fund raising again.