Maile Nacu applies skills and values of karate to everyday life


Patrice Graham

Senior Maile Nacu throws a kick into the air. Maile trains in karate at the top level four to five times a week. She is a part of her family’s Enso Karate school.

Victoria Washington, Audience Engagement Manager

During an international karate competition in the fall of 2019, Maile Nacu visited Fukuoka, Japan, with four teammates. Fully immersed in Japanese culture, she trained with younger kids at the hosting dojo and toured around the city. Her dedication to the sport allowed her to see a country she always wanted to travel to. 

The hospitality she experienced in Japan represents a core value of her karate practice: respect for others.  

“There are a few principles that we follow daily in our karate, and I like to apply them in my everyday life: seek perfection of character, be faithful, endeavor, respect others and refrain from violent behavior,” Maile said. 

Maile’s hardworking attitude allows her to be a top athlete and apply the skills she learns in karate to her everyday life. 

While she has participated in several international tournaments, Maile recently competed in the WKF U21 Junior & Cadet World Championships, which is the highest level of competition athletes under 21 can attend. On Team Kata, which represents the top seed of each country, Maile competed for the United States with two other teammates.  

“We do a team form together, and then we show the application of it: mainly throwing and flips,” Maile said. “It was really hard, so we got 13th place.”

Encouraged by her parents, who own the Enso Karate where she practices, Maile has been participating in the sport since she was 3 years old. 

“My parents put us in classes, and I’ve never stopped since then,” Maile said. “I enjoy karate a lot, especially since I’ve gotten to this higher level of competition and I’ve wanted to train more.”

Even though she’s wanted to quit at times, Maile continues to enjoy karate. She trains four to five times a week, or more if she’s preparing for a tournament. 

Milo Platz-Walker, a sophomore, practices at Maile’s dojo, and the time she spends perfecting her craft hasn’t gone unnoticed. 

“Her work ethic is really strong. I don’t think I’ve ever been at practice and haven’t seen her working really hard and always pushing herself,” Milo said. “She’s always encouraging others and being a good role model.”

The time spent with her family through karate has been another important aspect for Maile. When she was younger, she traveled to local and national tournaments with her extended family, providing an opportunity to form relationships with them.

“Before all of the advanced competition, karate has been a chance for me to spend time with my family. Not even my immediate family but my cousins, aunts and uncles did it with us, and that was another way for us to all bond,” Maile said. “My family have been the ones who motivated me to go to the advanced level.”

The community at Maile’s dojo has felt welcoming and supportive to everyone. Milo has also felt the familial bond ever since he began practicing there. 

“It’s like a family,” Milo said, “I’ve known Maile’s entire family for six or seven years, and the whole time I’ve always felt part of one big family, they’ve always been very supportive of me.”

Because of the relationship with the people at her dojo as well as her commitment to karate, Maile has had the opportunity to train with top athletes and improve her skills. 

“The opportunities to train with other high level karate people, like Olympians who are in karate and other seminars with the National Team. All those experiences have been based from my dojo community with my family,” Maile said.

Because of her commitment to the core principles of karate, Maile has been successful both in karate as a top athlete and outside of practice as a role model to her peers.