FILIPINO-American Nhaya Mahal Paden was introduced to martial arts in the United States of America at age 11, giving her a strong foundation to excel in combat sports.
Paden, a 14-year-old member of King's Sword Martial Arts under the supervision of Nell Jone Astudillo, recently won a gold medal in girls 52 kilogram category of the recent Batang Pinoy 2016 National Championships in Pasig City.
Because of the exceptional effort she showed during the recent nationals, the Fil-Am wushu athlete was invited for a three-month trial training with the Wushu Federation of the Philippines National Team.
"I will continue my training, and hopefully compete in next year's Batang Pinoy," Paden said in a Facebook chat with SunStar Davao.
Paden added that she will fly to Manila for the training next summer but she wishes to finish High School first so she could focus on her training.
Paden is on her 9th Grade at the Faith International Academy in Davao.
She was born at the Cocoa Beach in Florida, USA, but her family has been coming back to the Philippines as her parents Gilmer and Julie Paden are both missionaries.
Her father Gilmer, a Filipino, is working at the Christ Fellowship Church as a missions and evangelism pastor.
"They are both missionaries that's why they moved here in the Philippines," Paden said.
The Fil-Am multi-athlete recalled that she started wushu when her coach Astudillo invited her to join the training after her karate tournament.
She didn't encounter difficulties in adjusting with the sport as she already had combat skills under her sleeves.
"I actually was first introduced to karate in the States when I was in Grade 6," Paden said, adding that she was a former member of the Rising Dragon in Benson Arizona with her sensei Frank Houghton.
Paden expressed that she was already into martial arts but it was only when she started in the Philippines that made her fell in love with it.
One of the common reasons why she entered the sport was to learn self-defense.
"My parents were the ones who pushed me to join King's Sword last year. They wanted me to learn self-defense," Paden elaborated.
Before the recent nationals, Paden also clinched the Davao City Inter-School Wushu Sanda Tournament title in girls open weight division.
She also captured a gold in girls 52kg category of the 1st Robinsons Place Tagum Open Wushu Sanda Tournament as well as the orange to blue belt continuous spar title of the 2016 Abka Philippines National Tournament.
She was runner-up in the American Bushido Karate International Open Black Belt martial arts tournament.
Paden added that she will continue to train wushu during the holidays but her karate training was cancelled until January 4.
"I want to continue to train as I finish my schooling then maybe join the national team if they still want me after a few years," she said.