The testing room at Family Karate in Lebanon filled quickly Saturday, as eight black belt candidates warmed up in the room next door.
Among the eight was 10-year-old Joshua Aguirre, one of the youngest students in the world to test for a third-degree black belt in taekwondo.
“I feel very confident,” Aguirre said before the test.
The testing room was set up so that family members and supporters could sit on one side of the room, and on the other was a long table with 11 chairs for judges, local officials and masters and grand masters of taekwondo.
Aguirre appeared resolve, despite the crowd. He knew everyone was there to support him, and it gave him more confidence, he said.
The test was broken into three sections, including movements, combat, and board/cement block breaking. About an hour and half after the test began, new belts were awarded including a third-degree black belt for Aguirre.
Aguirre is the youngest in the world to achieve the belt, according to the taekwondo masters and grand masters present at the test. However, the title will need to get certified by the World Taekwondo Federation headquarters, Kukkiwon, in Seoul, South Korea.
“This feels like the biggest accomplishment I’ve done right now,” Aguirre said. “I feel so happy, and I still can’t believe that I’ve achieved my third-degree black belt. I feel like it is a dream.”
“He just has a tremendous passion for Taekwondo,” David Gladwell, a taekwondo master and one of Aguirre’s instructors, said. “You can see that he loves what he does. He has exceptional talent both physically but also his discipline is beyond his years.”
“For his age, he’s very mature and has excellent character,” Porfirio Alvarez, a Grand Master from New York and Taekwondo Hall of Famer, said.
Aguirre began taking classes at Family Karate when he was 4 years old, after his parents watched him kicking around the house imitating the Bruce Lee movies he was watching, Mily Aguirre, Joshua’s mother, said.
Six years later, Aguirre has about 180 medals and awards from competitions around the world, including six gold medals and the title of grand champion at the 2021 Junior Olympics in Houston, Texas.
In recent years, Aguirre has become a local celebrity; Many local politicians came to the black belt test and a party afterward, donated by Mamajuana Lounge in Lebanon. As Aguirre continues to break records, the fact that he has become a role model or that the community rallies behind him is not lost on him.
“I want to represent that no matter how old you are, you can always do your best,” Aguirre said. “Never give up, always keep training, always keep exercising, and always have a strong mind.”
“He’s like the heart of Lebanon,” Mayor Sherry Capello said. “He is such a positive force to be reckoned with.”
What’s next? Aguirre continues to work on his foundation, the Joshua Aguirre Foundation, formed in 2021 to help children from low-income families begin or continue playing sports. Donations can be made at joshuaaguirre.com/donate, and families interested in receiving help can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, Aguirre is launching a website with merchandise and is eyeing up a bid for the 2028 Olympics.
The third-degree black belt is just a step towards his greater long-term goals, he said.
“Getting my third-degree black belt means that I can keep achieving more belts to be able to accomplish my dream of being a grandmaster one day and having my own school,” Aguirre said.