FREMONT — Jaden Smith may play the new Karate Kid, but America's real Karate Kid just may be found in the East Bay.
Jasmine Magallanes, 16, a junior at Washington High School in Fremont, is one of 10 finalists in the nationwide Karate Kid Challenge based on her martial arts performance at a recent competition.
With one day left to cast ballots, if online voters select her as one of the Top 3 martial artists, Magallanes will be invited to walk the red carpet with Smith and Jackie Chan, stars of "The Karate Kid" remake, at the upcoming Hollywood premiere. There's also talk the grand prize winner may be considered for a role in the next Karate Kid movie.
"Since I was small, I used to watch all the Jackie Chan movies. I said, 'Oh, I want to do that.' This is why this contest is so important to me," said Magallanes, who idolizes the Hong Kong movie star.
As for her acting abilities, Magallanes said, "They're pretty good. I've taken drama classes a couple times."
Magallanes is no stranger to being in the spotlight. She is a third-degree black belt martial artist who has won 10 national and five world titles.
Magallanes enrolled in kung fu nine years ago. Today, she trains at the Champion Wushu Center, Club Sport and Martial Arts America in Fremont. During the school year, she trains five or six hours a week and increases the practice sessions to a few hours each day, plus eight hours on weekends, during the summer.
"Life without martial arts would be really weird," she said.
"I like the physical fitness of martial arts, and I love what it teaches. It teaches honor, respect. "... It pushes me to learn things and reach goals. It gives me a well-balanced life," she said.
Martial arts also has been a bonding experience for the family.
Magallanes' sister, Monique, 18, is a three-time national champion and four-time world champion, and brother Anthony Jr., 14, is a four-time national champion and two-time world champion. The siblings call themselves the Eagle Strike Team and have been dubbed the Top Kung Fu/Mixed Martial Arts Family in the U.S. since 2005 by the U.S. Wushu Union and Tiger Claw Disney Wide World of Sports.
Anthony Magallanes Sr. said he wanted his children to study martial arts as he had. "We've been very lucky that all three of them love it and all three of them are good at it. We go to competitions as a family. It's kept us close as a family," he said.
Although preparing for major tournaments has meant sacrificing time with friends, Magallanes Sr. said his children have been featured in commercials and in Black Belt and Kung Fu magazines.
"They've missed out on a lot of things, but at this point, their friends see they have a chance to do exciting things," Magallanes Sr. said. "It's really opened up a whole new world."
Contact Linh Tat at 510-353-7010. Follow her at Twitter.com/Linh_Tat.
To view videos of the finalists and to vote for your favorite contestant, visit www.yahoovoteforthekaratekid.com. Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. today.