For 10-year-old brown belt Aviya Aaron, karate started out as a form of therapy to overcome a weakness in her left side, but then she became passionate about her training to a point where she has competed on the world stage.
Last year, when her family moved to Beachwood, Aviya and her mother, Dr. Ksenia Aaron, began training with the Cleveland Shotokan Karate Club run by Larry Rothenberg at Heights Jewish Center Synagogue in University Heights.
“Aviya is very determined and focused and diligent in her training,” Rothenberg, a board member of Beachwood Kehilla, told the Cleveland Jewish News. “She’s very curious and eager to learn. She’s very respectful, and she has a joyful nature that lifts the class, and she’s always thinking beyond what is being taught for other applications and a deeper meaning to the techniques.”
Born 13 weeks premature in Valhalla, N.Y., Aviya weighed 2 pounds, 5 ounces and went through extensive physical, occupational and speech therapy as a young child. At 3-years-old, she began training in Shotokan Karate in Los Angeles under the mentorship of sensei Avi Rokah and sensei Ruth Rokah as karate uses every part of your body, her mother said.
“Karate is good for anyone at any age with any ability,” said Rothenberg, a resident of Beachwood. “It’s a good experience developing mentally and physically in every way.”
The karate club is a member of the International Shotokan Karate Federation and trains men and women separately from as young as 10-year-old Aviya to those over age 70 as they train under Cary Johnson and Rothenberg. The rising fourth grader at Fuchs Mizrachi School in Beachwood was the 2022 recipient of the Youth Division of the Mid-America ISKF Scholarship Program for an essay she wrote about how karate has taught her respect and helped her overcome challenging times, Rothenberg said.
“Karate has helped me by increasing my ability to focus and gain strength,” Aviya wrote to the CJN in an email. “It means that you are part of something bigger, that you belong to a team and train with the same goal.”
While living in Los Angeles, Aviya competed in local and national competitions, and at 6-years-old was invited to compete on the world stage with Youth Team USA at the second World BUDO Karate Championship in Traditional Shotokan Karate in Brno, Czech Republic, where she took gold in sparring and silver in kata, which are drills of various techniques. More than 1,200 worldwide competitors from ages 6 to 17 attended, Rothenberg said.
“She developed passion,” Ksenia Aaron, a physician at Cleveland Clinic and member of Beachwood Kehilla, told the CJN. “She became more serious about it as she was progressing with belts and competing more, and she realized that she’s good at it. Her weakness went away, and she liked what karate stood for, the discipline, the camaraderie.”
Aviya captured gold in kata for the purple belt level in 2021 at the U.S. National Youth Championship, which was held online due to the pandemic and, most recently she, competed in a U.S. National Championship in St. Louis May 22, winning gold for kata and bronze for sparring in the age 10 to 11 brown/black belt category.
Aaron said Aviya plans to compete on the world stage again in Poland as long as the situation with COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine allows it. Her goal is to one day compete in the Olympics, but karate isn’t her only passion as Aviya also wants to become a veterinarian.
“Competing makes not only yourself proud of accomplishments but also other people, like coaches,” Aviya wrote. “It makes me happy that I have achieved something that I worked hard for. The goal is to do my best, whether I win or not.”