Education

Sixth grader uses martial arts to maintain calm during Las Vegas shooting

Camila Abuin poses with a certificate at Tiger and Dragon Miami School. Camila used her martial arts training to keep herself, family and strangers calm during the Las Vegas shooting last month.
Camila Abuin poses with a certificate at Tiger and Dragon Miami School. Camila used her martial arts training to keep herself, family and strangers calm during the Las Vegas shooting last month.

Camila Abuin, 11, and her parents were waiting for a taxicab to head to the Las Vegas airport when they heard the first round of gunshots coming from the Mandalay Bay hotel.

They had been staying at the Luxor Las Vegas, which is connected to the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

“Everything was normal,” said Camila’s mom, Madeleyn Abiun. “We heard the first shots. She asked me, ‘Why are people and security running and why are people crying?’ I saw a mass of people running at us telling us there’s a shooter.”

The shooter was Stephen Paddock, who carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas last month when he shot and killed 59 and injured more than 500 others. He was perched in a suite in the Mandalay Bay, raining his shots on the country music festival fans below before killing himself.

After the initial shock, Camila took charge and worked her martial arts skills.

“She was the calmest person there,” her mother said. “When I talk about it, I still can’t believe it. At first, she was scared, but she remained grounded. She helped us a lot. I am injured and I am not able to run. She helped me get to the next place.”

The sixth grader at Bowman Ashe/Doolin K-8 Academy takes Kempo and Shoot martial arts at the Tiger and Dragon Miami after-school program, 15560 SW 72nd St. The Children’s Trust helps fund the program. She has been training for five years and has garnered a couple of trophies from competing in several tournaments.

Camila- Photo
Camila Abuin poses with her Tiger and Dragon Miami School teammates. Camila used her martial arts training to keep herself, family and strangers calm during the Las Vegas shooting last month. Manny Gandarillas Photography

Her goal is to compete in mixed martial arts. Her role model is the late professional wrestler Chyna, Joan Marie Laurer.

“I was scared at first, but I was telling my mom and dad and people around me to calm down,” Camila said, who trains five days a week. “Martial arts has taught me to be disciplined, handle people with guns and how to disarm them. I was teaching them moves.”

Instructor Pierre Akers was so proud of Camila.

“Martial arts helps with discipline ... and it strengthens the mind,” he said. “It allows you to react when you are under pressure. It helps to focus when you want to work on that one goal. It helps with mental health.”

The Children’s Trust Sandra Camacho said she was moved to hear about Camila’s behavior during the tragedy.

“It’s amazing at her tender age to keep herself composed and help the people she loves and calming down strangers,” she said.

Camila, who wants to become a pediatric surgeon, says she is determined to keep advancing in belts and adding more trophies to her collection.

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