STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Franklin Tan can wield a bo staff with a maturity that defies his age.

“It feels like an extension of your body and an extension of your body can really help you defending yourself,” said Franklin.

What You Need To Know

  • Franklin Tan, 7, won a national title in a virtual competition, despite the challenges of the pandemic

  • He started training at the age of three, following his desire to become a ninja

  • His ultimate goal is to become a black belt

The young champion showed off skills that took him years to master through training at Amerikick Martial Arts on Staten Island, ever since falling in love with karate four years ago.

“When I was three, I thought ninjas were cool and there was this ad about karate and, well, it had flips and stuff,” said Franklin.

He was sold. Now at seven, he holds several titles and even secured a title during the pandemic from the North American Sport Karate Association, competing in its 2020 World Virtual Awards.

“I was in the top five of the world,” boasted Franklin.

His mom, Katie Tan, couldn’t be prouder. 

“I say, 'you know, Frankie, so many people have had such a horrible 2020,' and he has done nothing but excel,” said Tan.

She's watched her son thrive during those early in-person competitions.

"We went to Amerikick Internationals when he was five and he ended up getting two first place trophies,” said Tan. ”The confidence that came with those trophies just blew him out of the water.” 

And, even though recording videos to submit to competitions isn’t the same as competing in person, the limits of the pandemic aren’t stopping him.

“It’s basically like every other competition, but it’s online,” said Franklin.

With his focus and dedication, there are sure to be more awards to come.

“My dream is becoming a black belt.”