By virtue of her silver-medal performance at the Amateur Athletic Union Nationals Championship in Florida earlier this year, she has qualified for the United States national team and will represent her country at the Goodwill Junior Karate Tournament in Japan.
The AUU and the World Karate Organization sponsor the tournament. On March 26, Quiles will compete in Tokyo; five days later she will fight in Osaka.
Quiles, a Hoboken resident and a sixth grader at First Christian Pentecostal Academy in Jersey City, has studied karate for the past five years at Union City's Zenshikai Karate School.
"What I like best about karate is that it's so challenging," said Quiles, who is quiet but well spoken. In addition to her second-place finish at Nationals, she has also won five New Jersey state championships. "There aren't many things that test you as much as karate does physically, emotionally, and spiritually," she said.
Karate, Japanese for "open hand," is, according to the Encarta online encyclopedia, the martial art of unarmed self-defense in which directed or focused blows of the hands and feet, accompanied by special breathing and shouts, are dealt from poised positions.
More than a method of combat, karate emphasizes self-discipline, a positive attitude, and a high moral purpose. It is taught professionally, at different levels, and under various Asian names, as a self-defense skill, a competitive sport, and a free-style exercise.
The art of karate began over 1,000 years ago in eastern Asia. It was initially intended as a monastic discipline but was adopted by Asian peasants to defend themselves against armed bandits. The art is chiefly associated with Japan, but there are other forms such as Tae Kwon Do, which is the Korean version.
Quiles' coach, Sergio Dato, said that Quiles is one of the most dedicated students he has ever taught. "She is a very determined girl, who has sacrificed so much to get to this point," Dato said.
Dato said that nearly every week for the past five years, Quiles showed up ready to practice three to four days a week.
"She has earned this honor, so, win or lose, the fact that she is going to step on that plane and represent her county is a victory," Dato said.
But with that being said, Dato added that Quiles is ready for the challenge.
"She's not intimidated by anyone," Dato said. "That's one of her greatest strengths."
Not only is Quiles a top-notch performer in the dojo, she is straight "A" honor roll student in the classroom. She also serves as an assistant instructor for a karate class offered to her classmates.
Seeing the world
Another exciting aspect of the trip is that on the days that she is not competing, the organizers of the trip will take the team on sightseeing expeditions through Tokyo, Kyoto, and other cities in the area.
"Most of all I'm looking forward to competing," Quiles said, "but I'm also excited about learning about Japanese culture. It's going to be something totally different that anything I've ever experienced."
But getting to Japan isn't free. Quiles needs to raise nearly $4,000 to go on the trip.
Her school has donated $1,000 to the cause, and local Hoboken community leader Carmelo Garcia and Councilman Ruben Ramos have contributed.
Also sponsoring the trip are Hoboken developer Jim Caulfield, the Hoboken Housing Authority, and the owners of Casa Latina restaurant in Jersey City.
Those who want to send money can mail checks to Quiles' mother, Juana Quiles, 655 Sixth St., Apt. 6D, Hoboken, NJ, 07030.
Tom Jennemann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.