Two tough metro sisters compete in prestigious martial arts tournament

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One martial arts family from the metro is filling its trophy case as one generation teaches the next about the sport and self-reliance.

Although they may be tiny, they are tough.

At Maplewood Elementary School, students know all about the Turner sisters, Mackenzie and Emma, who come from a family where karate is the coolest.

In June, the two girls from Kansas City North qualified for the NYA National Martial Arts Tournament in Cincinnati where 10-year-old Mackenzie placed first in two competitions.

Six-year-old Emma and 10-year-old Mackenzie Turner

Boards and sparring judges didn't stand a chance against Mackenzie's moves. She won first place prizes in both of those categories.

"I can protect myself, and other people don't have to necessarily protect me," Mackenzie said. "I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to get up on stage and win it. I knew I at least did a good job in winning it."

The Turner sisters' mother, Alisha, said the entire family studies karate. Alisha said she started with a class in self-defense while attending college. The two daughters got their introduction via Active Stars Midwest Karate, a metro program that enrolls elementary school-aged children in the basics of the craft.

"One of the senseis was like, 'You know, she can hurt a guy'," Alisha Turner said. "It's nice to know that as she's growing up and she's dating and different things, nothing should happen to her that she doesn't allow."

Hot on Mackenzie's heels is 6-year old Emma, a first-grader at Maplewood.

She qualified for NYA Nationals for the first time and put on a fearsome display in the weapons division. She demonstrated her skill with a pair of nun-chucks in the school gymnasium Monday morning.

"I was really nervous. I'm not really used to a lot of people. I'm just used to small groups, but since it was a lot of people, I was really nervous," Emma Turner said.

Alisha Turner, who is also mother to a two-year old son, said karate is helping the worries fade and providing her kids with confidence.

"I wanted to feel safe about them being out in the world. It's a whole body workout, and it's fun," Alisha Turner said.

Both girls said they want to continue in karate and earn their black belts. Their mom said the important thing is that they`re having fun and learning to defend themselves.

The Turner sisters aren't the only metro kids who competed in the tournament. More than 20 young karate students from the metro accepted invitations to compete in the prestigious show.