A nine-year-old girl from a small rice farming village in Japan is taking the karate world by storm.
Mahiro Takano almost fits the profile of a Japanese anime character – a third grader with a black belt, who loves to wear pink and a ponytail, and has racked up three national karate titles.
Outside the ring, Mahiro is like any other girl her age. Her favourite snack is chocolate. She enjoys skateboarding and bouncing on the trampoline, and is a dedicated student who completes her homework before dinner.
But inside the ring, Mahiro becomes a fierce competitor with the intention of one day making it to the Olympics.
Mahiro calls herself “an ambassador for karate” and was selected to help showcase Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Summer Games.
Karate isn’t currently an official Olympic competition, but the avid video gamer says her goal is to one day compete for a gold medal.
“Hopefully it’ll become an Olympic sport,” Mahiro told CBS News.
Her appeal stretches further than just the sport.
The pint-sized puncher specializes in ‘kata’, a form of karate that incorporates choreographed kicks, turns, and jabs, which were highlighted in a new music video for singer Sia’s new song Alive.
Mahiro has also been showcased in commercials, and a video of her demonstrating kata when she was seven-years-old has racked up nearly five million views on YouTube.
Despite the attention, she doesn’t let it distract from her focus.
“When I’m training or competing, I’m concentrating,”
Mahiro says she taps into her imagination when practicing kata, becoming a character who is combating “a far more powerful enemy.”
Her coach Takakov Kikuchi, who has taught Mahiro since the age of four, is as impressed as anybody by her dedication to karate.
“There is nothing false about it, nothing made up. She is truly telling the world the way of karate,” Kikuchi says proudly.