He’s only 10 years old, but he's already won four consecutive world titles in karate.
In December, Theiss Elementary School student Sean Henderson headed to the National Blackbelt League Super Grands World Games in Charleston, South Carolina, where he beat out students from around the world to win two world titles in choreographed musical forms in the 17 under junior black belt division and hard creative weapons in the 11 and under junior black division.
“There were competitors from basically all over the western hemisphere -- Central America, Mexico, Canada,” said Jay Henderson, son’s father. “He competed all over the country prior to this and even went to Mexico.”
Starting last January, Sean began competing in multiple competitions in the National Black Belt League and the Sports Karate International League, the world’s largest sport karate league tournaments. The tournaments are the only international sport karate leagues based on a series of open tournaments culminating with a year end championship, the Super Grands World Games which took place from Dec. 26-31.
“The NBL is the more coveted title,” said Sean’s father, Jay Henderson. “A lot of it is just hard work and some natural talent. A lot of kids do the basic karate and the forms, but to be able to combine that with the tricking and the gymnastics is something very few people are able to do well.”
It also helps that Sean’s teacher Lawrence “Bear” Loebe, a 5th Dan in Taekwan Do, also earned seven world titles and is considered one of the best martial artists in the country.
Sean has been practicing karate since 4. At 7, he began taking classes at Sport Karate America and earned his black belt. He also began learning a new extreme sport: martial arts tricking, a blend of gymnastics, martial arts and break dancing.
While tricking has earned Sean top spots in competitions he said learning to use a bo staff is more challenging.
“It’s sometimes nerve wracking to use a bo staff because I don’t want to drop it,” he said. “After I’m done the pressure is relieved.”
Still, Sean is always looking to improve while having a good time.
“I love making new friends at tournaments,” said Sean. “They push me to do better and I push them.”
In the NBL competition, Sean placed second in hard creative forms and third in the 11 and under hard choreographed musical forms. In all, he competed in six SKIL and four NBL competitions. Last year, he won two world titles in choreographed and open musical forms and second place in the junior choreographed self defense division.
“There are quite a few competitors from all over the country. These kids have been practicing for hours and hours, so even to get in the top two or three is quite an accomplishment,” he said. “We’re very, very proud of him. He worked hard. And there was lots of working out and practicing at home.”
While Sean is pleased with his early successes, he said his top goals include surpassing his mentor and one day becoming an instructor.
To do that, Sean never stops practicing. His father said the family often clears away all the furniture so Sean can practice while watching TV or playing games. Sean also plans to be an instructor one day.
Now with school back in session, Sean, a straight-A student, said he’s looking forward to a well-deserved break. Still, he said, the next competition is never far away,
“I’m just focusing on school for the next week or so,” he said. “My next tournament is toward the end of January or February, so I’ll still be practicing.”