Kung fu kid: Bellevue sophomore wins national tournament

Charlie Chen was crowned a grand champion at the Phoenix Wushu National kung fu competition in December 2022.

Charlie Chen was high-energy in his younger years and his mom saw an opportunity to tunnel that energy into a martial art. At the age of 7, he was introduced to kung fu.

“As a super hyper kid, my mom thought it would be a healthy way to release energy,” said Charlie, now a sophomore at Newport High School in Bellevue.

Over the years, Charlie has experience with different types of martial arts and even different styles of kung fu.

“I did a little bit of tae kwon do. However, Shaolin Kung fu is my main focus right now. Besides kung fu, I have been dabbling in wushu recently — a more acrobatic version of kung fu,” Charlie said.

Charlie recently performed at the Bellevue Collection’s Lunar New Year celebration, which he said makes him feel connected to his own culture.

“Personally, it means a lot to me that I can put on a show and get people into a cheerful mood during New Year’s,” Charlie said.

He typically performs by himself at events. Between performances and competitions, Charlie finds the latter can make him a bit more anxious.

“I usually don’t find myself nervous — even with a huge crowd. Competitions have people attentively judging you, so I do feel more nervous during those. Whenever I do find myself nervous, I take a couple of deep breaths and slow down. Afterward, I put all my focus on my performance and ignore anything else,” Charlie said.

One of his biggest achievements was being crowned a grand champion at the Phoenix Wushu National kung fu competition in December 2022, calling it his most “prestigious achievement.” But Charlie said he especially finds excitement and satisfaction when he learns new moves or forms.

“The sense of accomplishment after weeks (or even months) of dedicated practice, is what makes me the proudest in the long run,” Charlie said.

Outside of competing in Arizona this past year, Charlie’s favorite place is close to home.

“China Harbor in Seattle is a classic. I’ve been there many times since I was young and am fond of its pretty lakeside view and big stages,” Charlie said.

Outside of kung fu, Charlie also participates in tennis for Newport as well as Model United Nations and Health Occupations Students of America.