By: Crystal Martinez

The martial arts world has grown in popularity throughout recent years, with dojos popping up across the nation, and one martial artist from Houston proves that it’s truly “not the size of the dog in the fight, but the heart of the champ in the ring.”

At 28 years old, Ashlon Smith is a professional who’s studied over 16 types of martial arts including Karate, Muay Thai,Tae Kwon Do, Tang Soo Do, and a few others.

He was raised in Third Ward, where crime was once all-too common and the neighborhoods were not-so friendly.

Smith and his cousins were enrolled in karate classes as a way to defend themselves and to help keep them out of the trouble they were surrounded by.

Smith, being small in stature, was looked down upon and often ridiculed for being the “small guy.” Even one of his instructors once explained to him that “not everyone is meant to compete.”

“Around 5th grade, I had got jumped and I wasn’t with my friends and I got jumped by myself. The kids didn’t really end up beating me up but they punched me a lot of times. It didn’t really hurt but it messed with my pride,” Smith said. “My karate teacher had found me in the corner punching a brick wall and asked ‘Son what’s wrong?’ I explained to him ‘I’m tired of being the victim. I’m tired of being the small runt of the family who everyone thinks they can pick on.’ He invited me into his room and we started practicing right then and there.”

That practice paid off in a big way. Smith became a world title holder in karate bringing home the gold for the flyweight division.

Now Smith spends his time teaching others martial arts at the UFC GYM in Missouri City, TX. He is also a source of inspiration to children who have had troubled times and low self-esteem, as he once did.

Smith and his cousins are now hard at work preparing to defend their titles in an upcoming tournament.