Discipline and strength

Teenagers fighting in a karate tornament, one is kicking the other in the side and the other is blocking with his arm, both kids are wearing red and blue protective gear while adults watch in the background
Alejandro Voisin Puglielli, right, at the USA National Karate-Do Federation Federation championship event.

ids outgrow things. We all know that. Sometimes, though, an endeavor sticks. That’s the case with Alejandro Voisin Puglielli, Country Club Drive, who took up karate when he was about kindergarten age and living in Mexico. He’s still at it.

“Honestly, it’s a mystery to me as well,” Puglielli, now a sophomore at Mt. Lebanon High School, said of continuing with the martial art. “You always think of the Karate Kid or something and all these things you can do.”

You know, breaking boards, fending off villains. Puglielli, who initially got into the sport because his older brother, José, was trying a different martial art, found  karate not a cliché but a serious sport and discipline.

“I continued with it to the point where people saw there was actually potential there,” he said. “I thought I might as well keep going with it.”

The medals have piled up for Puglielli. He is most proud of the age-group bronze he won last spring in the advanced division at a U.S. Open competition in Las Vegas with entrants from more than 50 countries. “That made me feel really good about myself,” he said.

Puglielli is a brown belt, but that classification doesn’t carry a whole lot of meaning. It’s all about doing well in competitions. Vegas was the farthest he had traveled to compete until late February, when he traveled to Dubai for a World Karate Federation Youth League K1 event.

“It draws athletes from all over the world. It’s the premier federation in the world,” said Dustin Baldis, Puglielli’s coach, or sensei, who is the chief instructor with the Pennsylvania Shotokan Karate Club. He took Puglielli and two others to Dubai.

A portrait of Alejandro Voisin smiling wearing a silver medal he won in the usa national 2023 competition“He’s a very fast athlete, and tricky in how he is able to apply his kicks and punches. He’s deceptive,” Baldis said. “It’s been a continuous growth year to year.”

After moving from Mexico to Chicago, the Puglielli family came to Mt. Lebanon just before the pandemic in 2020, and Alejandro continued in karate with Baldis.

“It’s amazing,” Alejandro’s father, José, said. “I’ve been to all the tournaments with him. It’s very emotional for me and exciting. Seeing him winning is incredible.”

It’s the same for his mother, Andreina, but with maybe a little more anxiety.

“It’s exciting, but for me, a mom, it’s very stressful. I don’t want him to be hurt,” she said. “And after all his training, if he loses, it’s hard. He’s scared to lose. But the important thing is that you go and do your best.”

Baldis is also a national team coach with USA Karate, but Alejandro has not been on track to compete for the U.S. because the family is still working toward citizenship. They are hopeful that will happen this year.

Asked about the Olympics, Puglielli isn’t sure how far he wants to go with karate because he has aspirations of following another interest, science and math, to perhaps get into mechanical engineering or medicine.

Karate and school aren’t the only things at which Puglielli excels. He also plays trumpet for the Lebo marching band and for a jazz band.

“Somehow he does it all. He’s a very busy kid,” his father said. “Somehow he has a great social life, too. I don’t know how he finds the time.”

Puglielli has karate to partly thank for that. In addition to the physical training, it, like a lot of martial arts, commands discipline and mental strength.

“I owe a lot of what I do today to karate because discipline is taught a ton,” he said. “It’s made life a lot easier.”

Baldis said Puglielli never shows signs of being distracted.

“He’s juggling all the things that he does and he’s still able to make it to training and put 100 percent effort in each and every time we train,” Baldis said. “He’s a great training partner. His presence helps elevate everybody else’s level.”