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Sports: Tiny Mights

Two sisters defy expectations in the world of martial arts.


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Teshya (top) and Teniya Alo are making names for themselves in wrestling. photo: Sergio Goes
Teshya and Teniya Alo have worked more than half their lives to compile an impressive list of martial arts and wrestling titles. The sisters are still working their way through school—elementary school, that is.

Not only have the two won national titles, they have done so while competing, in some events, against boys. Teshya, 9, and Teniya, 8, are on pace to becoming among Hawai‘i’s most accomplished athletes, as they both have aspirations of one day competing in the Olympics.

“I originally wanted my daughters to be hula dancers and ballerinas, and to play the piano,” says Cherise Bush, the girls’ mother. “I tried to take them to other things, but they like the athleticism and the contact sports. They just love it so much. They really want to go to the Olympics, that’s their goal. And all of their coaches say they’re definitely Olympic-level material.

“I tell them all that they’ve accomplished and they’re like, ‘Well, Mommy, we’re just having fun.’ It’s like a part of them because they’ve been doing it for so long. If they don’t train, they get grumpy.”

The girls each spend an average of 90 minutes daily training in an eclectic mixture of combat disciplines. They attend Judo classes at the Tenri Judo Club under Senseis Greg and Robin Chow; practice Jiu-Jitsu taught by Ron Shiraki at the Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Kane‘ohe Academy; and train to wrestle under coaches Jack Bello (Punahou wrestling) and Ray “Mac” Piggott (Kaua‘i Westside Wrestling Club). As if that load isn’t enough, the girls spend three hours a week doing gymnastics and also work out with a personal trainer.

To pay for most of the travel costs they incur by competing around the country, the girls are sponsored by the Kaua‘i club. They work out in exchange for helping Piggott with teaching and giving demonstrations to students of all ages.

Despite enduring a grueling training schedule, Teshya and Teniya go to tutoring twice a week to make sure, as Bush says, “they get [grades of] ‘excellent,’ not just ‘very good.’ But they’re almost there.”

Teshya wants to hone her skills in wrestling, while Teniya favors Jiu-Jitsu.

“They’re very competitive, even with each other. They train with each other 80 percent of the time,” says Bush, “so they push each other.”

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