Thirteen-year-old Lauren Sibley spent her Labor Day weekend at the AKA American Open Martial Arts Championship in San Diego, and emerged victorious with four awards.

Sibley’s second trip to compete at the championships resulted in two divisional grand championships and first place in both extreme and traditional weapons.

“The first time I was not a black belt — I was an under belt — so I competed against different people, so this was a total different experience then before and I didn’t win any firsts last year, so it was very different,” she said. “The tournament last year was more complicated because I hadn’t been there before so it was very different and new.”

This year, however, she pulled out all the stops. Sibley said that she trains six days a week for 7 to 10 hours and she has spent the last two years training for this tournament.

“I was competing against all sorts of different styles,” she said.

Lauren’s mother, Lisa Sibley, said that her daughter began practicing martial arts when she was just 3 years old. Lauren attended Scotts Valley Taekwondo Academy and received her black belt in the Little Dragons program there.

“Then she took some time off to pursue ballet and swimming, and then she decided that her passion was martial arts,” Lisa said.

Lauren began at Elliot Stone’s Elite Martial Arts Academy in Scotts Valley when she was about eight years old.

“She wanted to give it a try and never looked back,” Lisa said.

Lauren walks to Elite everyday after school and practically lives at the academy, her mother said.

She received her black belt in the martial art known as Ho Kuk Mu Sul in December of last year, and is training to receive her second-degree black belt, which she hopes to accomplish in December 2015.

Ho Kuk Mu Sul is a Korean martial art that mixes Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, Judo, and American boxing and is considered a hard-soft style.

Lauren said that she likes the environment and being able to train independently.

“You are in charge of yourself and get exercise from it [martial arts] and the competing, that is what I really like about it,” Lauren said.

Stone said that she is definitely leading the pack in terms of attending larger tournaments like the AKA American Open Martial Arts Championship.

“She actually gets a lot of the credit for having the drive of making herself the best that she can be,” Stone said. “Of course, it is our job to push her and motivate her, but she really went above and beyond.”

Stone said that he did not attend the tournament with Lauren this year, but will in the future because he sees how important it is to her and how much drive she has for competing.

“We have a lot of very talented students, but it is her drive and commitment to her training that has gotten her to this point — so she is kind of like the spearhead for our school and the competition realm,” Stone said. “We have not been to these bigger tournaments before so on her own she really knew what she wanted and then pushed herself to go.”

Lauren has trained at Elite Martial Arts for five years now and is a part of the demo team, which is the highest level of training, he said.

Before her classes start, Lauren volunteers at the academy by doing office work and helping the instructors, Lisa said.

“She has had an amazing experience there and she is very passionate and dedicated to the school and martial arts,” Lisa said. “My husband and I are very proud of her and all that she has accomplished, we enjoy watching her and we look forward to seeing what she will do in the future.”

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