CLINTON -- Branson Harward has won numerous first-place awards in karate, including six amateur world titles.
But he's just getting warmed up.
The 8-year-old from Clinton just returned home from the Supergrands Martial Arts and Karate Tournament in Sacramento, Calif., where he spent a solid week competing with other youths from around the world. Some of the kids he competed against were twice his age.
"He won six amateur titles at the competition," said Jason Harward, Branson's father. "He's just on fire and is loving every minute of it."
Branson also took first place at the Golden Gate Internationals, the Oregon Pacific Jewel Nationals and the Sin City Rumble in Las Vegas earlier this year. To top it off, he's a straight-A student and is reading above his required level at West Clinton Elementary School.
Branson's parents put him in karate at the age of 3 as a way to boost his confidence.
"He was really shy and had a hard time going to Primary and things like that," Harward said. "He was nervous and scared, and we thought karate would be a good way to help him foster a little bit of independence and confidence."
Branson took to karate immediately and now spends several hours at Pinnacle Martial Arts every night, training and learning more skills with instructor Mike Tobin.
"Mike is an incredible instructor," Harward said. "He has taught him everything from where karate comes from to different forms and moves. Branson just took off with him from the very beginning."
Branson said he loves karate and wouldn't want to be any place else on a week night.
"It's fun," Branson said. "Right now, we are doing grappling and self-defense. I practice for three hours a night, sometimes four."
Along with winning first-place trophies, Branson has won a set of samurai swords and was invited to compete at Disneyland and Disney World at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
"We weren't able to do those competitions, but he won the invitation, which was an honor," Harward said. "He continues to travel around to different competitions, though. He has to be in eight competitions each year to qualify for the world competition."
Branson, who has earned his blue belt so far, said he wants to keep learning about karate and competing as much as he can for a very long time. He also plans to earn his black belt one day.
"It's pretty cool," he said. "I like doing the tricks and the different moves. I want to keep doing it for a long time."