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Local siblings rock the sport karate world
Brother, sister hold total of 19 world titles
Gene and Ashley Middleton have rocked the Sport Karate world. The siblings have 19 world titles combined. Gene started competing at age 5 and Ashley started at 3. - photo by By Patty Leon / Coastal Courier


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Fighting among siblings is not an unusual thing for parents to encounter. But sibling who approach fighting as a sport and become world titleholders is quite another thing.
Enter the Middleton's from Ludowici. Jay and Tina Middleton have two children. Gene, 14, is the older brother to Ashley, 9. Both are world titleholders in karate.
Gene Middleton started karate at the age of 5. He currently holds a black belt and 12 world titles. Following in his footsteps, Ashley Middleton started at the tender age of 3 and has seven world titles. In addition to their world titles together they've accumulated more than 600 medals and have an entire practice room adorned from wall to wall with trophies, plagues, championship belts and pictures.
"We got around 300 medals by the second year we competed," Gene Middleton said. Middleton went to his first meet in 2002. By 2005 he had attained his black belt. That in itself is quite an accomplishment when you consider the challenges this young man had to overcome.
"The biggest thing was his eye because he lost his eye when he was 15 months old," Tina Middleton, Gene's mother, said as she recalled the horrific day that her son dropped a coke bottle only to have it explode on impact and shatter his eye. "It was a heartbreaking thing to go through at the time."
But that was just one incident where the young black belt would deny fate.
"The dog bite happened when he was around 3 or 4," his mother said remembering the day a pit-bull mauled her son’s face. "His father told me that he just held him while they stitched him up and he could see his skull."
Just a year earlier Middleton nearly had his head split in two in a freak accident with a neighborhood boy. While the family was building their house, Middleton was outside with the boy.
"He just hit Gene right in the head with the machete and thank the Lord it bled for a few seconds and that was it," his mother said."
The black belt said he remembered his aunt would play fight with him and the man who later became his karate teacher, or sensei, went to school with his cousin.
"Corky Sikes went to school with my cousin and they all thought I should try it," Middleton said. "I thought I would just get my black belt and I would quit but I enjoy everything about it. It gives me energy and the power in knowing I can defend myself if I need to."
"We put him into karate for the discipline and to be able to do something to keep him occupied and athletic," his mother said. "Karate is a year-round sport it's not just a seasonal thing. He travels so he gets to meet people from all over. He went Guatemala, Canada, Houston, New York, Maine, Mexico and just everywhere."
"I'm real proud of him," Middleton's father, Jay, said. "We did it more for him to have confidence in himself. We knew that he was going to have a handicap and in today's society people can be cruel about things like that. He copes with it real well, and some people can't really tell unless you tell them he is blind in that eye but he does really great. He can make fun or joke about or you can joke about it with him and you'll still be the best of friends. It's not a big thing for him."
Humble and polite can describe both the Middleton children and Gene would be the first person to tell you he doesn't think he is any different that anyone else.
"We got to church," his mother said. "We are Pentecostal and we believe in healing. My husband preaches and we believe God had His hand on him ever since he was born. We dedicated both our children to the Lord and God has really blessed them and us with a talent that is just unbelievable to watch."
"We've tried to make it that way for him, so he is more comfortable or it doesn't bother him because that is who he is and he has a great personality," his father said. "They both do."
Gene Middleton said he wants to continue in Sport Karate and eventually work his way to the Olympics. He also considered being an actor in karate movies, possibly a stuntman.
Ashley Middleton said she likes Karate but once she gets her black belt in the next two years she has other aspirations. She said she would like to be the captain of a cheerleading squad and compete as an equestrian rider.  
"He loves it," Tina Middleton said about Gene's passion of Karate. "He can teach and I think he has the heart of a sensei."
Keep moving forward and don't let anything hold you back, just keep moving forward," he said.
For more on Gene Middleton and his accomplishments in Sport Karate go to and check out the July issue.

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