Aleecia Tovar of Elizabethtown has fought her way to the top in the World Karate and Kickboxing Union. On her first trip to the world championships, she brought home two gold medals.
Tovar, a student at Central Hardin High School who turns 15 on Thursday, started martial arts in November 2016. She tried school sports but said nothing caught her interest.
“When you see fighters on TV you think, ‘That looks really cool, I want to do that’,” she said.
She eventually found her way to Victory Martial Arts in Elizabethtown.
Two years ago, she began kickboxing and about a year and a half ago, she started training for the World Championships that were held in October in Austria. The World Karate and Kickboxing Union is a professional association for full contact kickboxing, Thai boxing, mixed martial arts, karate, light contact, point fighting and forms.
She won gold in continuous sparring and kick fighting.
Winning the world titles secures a spot for her on the U.S. team next year for a competition in Canada.
“I think it’s important to know how hard she works,” her mom, Sarah Tovar, said.
She’s also a straight-A student and is very dedicated, she said.
In the last year, Sarah has noticed her daughter becoming more confident, too.
“She’s proud, but I wouldn’t say she’s surprised,” she said of her wins.
Her coach and Victory Martial Arts owner Aaron Shipp said he is happy for her accomplishments and proud of who Tovar is as a person.
He described her as an “excellent martial artist and leader” who also helps teach classes.
“To go into that level of competition and bring home two gold medals her first time in is phenomenal,” he said. “It’s a high achievement.”
He said while she might have been apprehensive about the competition because it was a new experience, the team was completely confident in her.
“She’s a top-tier athlete and she had our vote of confidence whether she had hers or not,” he said. “I’d take a whole gym full of her.”
She said she was confident in herself as a fighter but was surprised by her wins.
“It was an awesome experience to be there and see all your training paying off,” she said.
She said she appreciates everyone who helped her train and get ready to compete. The Shipp family at Victory Martial Arts has become like a second family to her and were key in helping her train, she said.
Through the experience, she learned she has a high pain tolerance.
“I learned I can go a lot further than I thought I could and I’m a lot stronger,” she said. “The whole experience put my confidence through the roof.”
Austria, she said, was nice and different from the United States. It was much cleaner and the people were very nice and relaxed, she said.
“In America, everyone is rushed to get everything done,” she said. “Over there, if you sit down to eat dinner, it’s like a three-hour thing. There’s no rush.”
It’s the first time she traveled outside the United States. While visiting Austria, she also went to Germany and Switzerland and saw the Alps.
Most people, she said, just see the fighting part of the martial arts and don’t realize the discipline that goes into it. There’s a lot of effort and training to discipline yourself and apply yourself to perform, she said. Her immediate goals are to earn her black belt and to defend her titles in next year’s world competition.
She uses that same discipline in school and wants to graduate with honors.
After graduation, she hopes to get a degree in engineering, join the U.S. Air Force and get a job in engineering related to the Air Force.