FOR Thomas Gosney, mixed martial arts is a way to concentrate, balance his spirit and practice respect.
The 11-year-old has just returned from the International Sports Karate Association's Australian National Titles where he placed first in sumo in his age group.
Since beginning karate four years ago, his determination has seen him winning titles in his age group for continuous sparring, point sparring and third sword combat in the sport.
Thomas learnt the sport through Karate for Kids, a fitness and safety school that teaches children the art of co-ordination, respect, discipline and self-control.
"I love how you get to hang out with friends and learn how to defend yourself," Thomas said.
"It's important to defend yourself because when you grow up you don't know what's going to be out there, so you need to prepare yourself.
"If I didn't do karate, I'd have no strength and no fitness - I would just be lazy, and I definitely think it's helped me into a better person."
Thomas's favourite part of the sport is the floor combat, an art that teaches students how to defend and strike.
A passion and determination for the technique is what has landed Thomas the title of third in Australia for his age group.
"It took a lot of practice, probably three or four times a week in class and then my own training outside," Thomas said.
"I practice with bigger people like my dad and try to block his attacks and strike him on the legs."
Thomas's mother, Gaylene Gosney, said she had seen improvements in all areas since her son took up the sport.
"It all helps with concentration and balance, it helps more with concentration at school and it's improved his respect for others," Mrs Gosney said.
"We encouraged Thomas to do it for his own self-confidence and because it's good physical fitness."
Because Thomas placed first in sumo, he is now eligible to head to Germany for the 2016 World Championships.
Mrs Gosney said they were still deciding if they should take Thomas to Germany.
"He loves the sport and it has been great for his fitness," Mrs Gosney said.
"I think he has achieved a lot this year with state titles and going onto Australian Nationals - we're really proud of him."
Thomas said he wasn't sure if he wanted to pursue the sport professionally.
"Karate has given me hand-eye co-ordination and I've achieved respect through karate," Thomas said.
"If you're determined to do your best, you can go a long way, but if you're not determined there's nothing you can do.
"It's difficult but it's something you have to work at."
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