Filipino Tekken Prodigy AK was Beating Adults at Arcades at 4 Years Old

Alexandre Gabriel Laverez, also known as AK, is recently won the Combo Breaker 2024, a long time coming considering he’s always placed second in international tilts. 

ALL-STAR asked AK how he felt about bringing home an international Tekken championship. 

“I’m very happy because it’s my first international tournament win, and you know, I had always placed second before,” said AK. “It’s such a big deal for me that I was able to bring home a championship for the Philippines.”

AK, 23, is from Pasay City and a graduating student from the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, taking up Business Management. His father runs a business, while his mother is a manager at a company. 

“I first started to play Tekken when I was four years old,” AK revealed. “That was 20 years ago. It was my uncle who introduced me to Tekken. We used to play together and he would teach me combos and the basics. I was able to learn quickly and that’s how everything started.”

AK played other fighting games but it was Tekken that captured his heart. 

“I liked Tekken because it is unique as a fighting game. It feels different when you play it, it looks different, and at that point, I fell in love with the game.”

At 4 years old, AK was beating a long line of adults at the arcades.

Although he mostly plays on consoles nowadays, arcade cabinets still occupy a special place in his heart. 

“Were you also a fan of arcade cabinets?” we asked him. 

“Opo! Doon po talaga ako nagstart, sa mga arcade cabinets.”

(“Yes! That’s where I started, on arcade cabinets.”)

And then AK started sharing a core memory about arcade cabinets when he was four. 

“May time po, yung family ko, tuwing nagpupunta kami sa mall, dinadala nila ako sa arcades. Tom’s World sa Harrison Plaza. Iniiwan nila ako doon para maglaro. Doon ako naglalaro ng Tekken Tag 1, may nakakalaro akong ibang players na ibang age,” AK told ALL-STAR.

(“There was a time when my family would take me to arcades in the mall. Tom’s World in Harrison Plaza. They would leave me there to play. That’s where I used to play Tekken Tag 1, and there would be people of different ages who would play with me.”)

“One time, my family couldn’t find me and thought I was lost. I didn’t return to them because I was still playing. But they remembered they left me at Tom’s World, so when they got there, there was a very long line of people queueing up to fight me.”

That’s when AK’s family realized their little four-year-old had skills in Tekken because people were lining up to him and AK was beating them all. 

“Natatalo ko po sila kahit four years old pa lang ako noon,” AK told ALL-STAR

Law and Paul were AK’s first love in Tekken. But then he discovered a new character. 

AK first sampled Tekken Tag 1 on the PlayStation and then progressed to Tekken 5 and Tekken 6, and I continued from there. 

AK’s very first console as a kid was a PlayStation 1 where he first played Tekken. Later on, his grandmother gave him a PlayStation 3 as a gift. “I started playing Tekken Tag on the PS3, that’s where I really honed my skills,” said AK. 

“With Tekken 6, I started joining tournaments but I would lose!” 

AK laughed at himself. 

“I also experienced playing earlier generations of Tekken like Tekken 2 and Tekken 3 on old arcade cabinets. It was just for fun. But in terms of learning the combos and competing, I started with Tekken 5 and Tekken 6. I also played Tekken Tag 2, then Tekken 7, and onwards. I first fell in love with Law and Paul. But when I discovered Shaheen in Tekken 7, I switched to him.”

AK’s parents opened the door for esports for him. 

Unlike many parents who scorn their children for playing too much video games, AK’s parents encouraged him to keep playing because they saw how it made him happy. 

AK Tekken
AK with his mother

“I got involved in esports through my parents. They are very supportive of me when it comes to esports. Every time I compete, they accompany me. They’re even the ones who drive me to tournaments. They support me because they see I’m happy whenever I play. Of course, as parents, you want your child to be happy. They never abandoned me, and they’re the reason why I was able to enter esports.”

It was also his parents who would teach him the discipline of balancing his studies with his playtime. 

“They would give me time to study, and they would give me time to play. But the priority is to study first. Our agreement was as long as I hadn’t finished schoolwork, I was not allowed to play. Because they instilled that kind of discipline in me, I was able to balance and control everything. I have no problems at school, and at the same time, I can practice and play,” AK told ALL-STAR

“But how do you handle the stigma surrounding esports? A lot of people say there is no future in gaming because it’s just irresponsible playing,” we asked him. 

“We are able to break the stigma because my family is very supportive of esports,” said AK. 

“In my own experience, my parents are very supportive. From the very start, when we would go to the arcades every Sunday, to the times they would fly with me to local tournaments and other countries to compete. The main reason for that is they see me happy doing these things. I gained a career in esports because of my parents’ guidance and support.”

That discipline has also permeated into his spending habits: AK is quite frugal. 

“I give all my prize winnings to my family as a way of helping out. Through my winnings, I was able to help with the house renovations and buy essential things. Of course, for myself, I bought gaming equipment. But if it’s not important, I won’t buy it!” 

AK laughs at his own frugality. 

“Maybe because I was raised with the discipline of buying things we only need. Of course, you can buy things that you want, but I was raised with the mindset of buying only the things I need.”

AK on NAVI recruiting him: “Kinilig po ako!” 

Natus Vincere or NAVI is one of the most renowned esports organizations in the world. The premier esports organization was founded in 2009 and is headquartered in Kyiv, Ukraine. Renowned for its success across multiple games, NAVI’s teams have garnered international acclaim, including numerous championship titles. 

ALL-STAR asked AK about his reaction when NAVI recruited him. 

“It felt so good! I was shocked. The fact that NAVI considered you, that’s a recognition in itself. When they approached me and asked me to be part of their team, I was elated. NAVI is a renowned tier one international organization, it’s a very big deal for me. I’m very happy to be part of NAVI,” said AK. 

“Kinilig ka?” we asked. 

“Opo! Kinilig po ako!” 

(“Yes! I was giddy and had butterflies in my stomach!”)

At this point, AK couldn’t control his emotions and started giggling. 

“When I saw their email, I was really ecstatic! The first people I shared the news with was my parents. They were so proud and happy that a well respected international organization was recruiting me.” 

“What are your plans with your studies and esports moving forward?” we asked AK.  

“I’m actually graduating this year. I plan to continue my esports career while I’m here at NAVI and I plan to train and win championships under NAVI. I will continue playing Tekken and joining tournaments such as Evo 2024 and the Esports World Cup, and of course the Tekken World Tour Finals. That’s the plan!”

The ever-humble AK also expressed his gratitude toward NAVI and his family. 

“I would like to thank NAVI for their trust, and my family for their unending support for my esports career.”

AK has come a very long way from playing at arcade cabinets. And with NAVI’s support, his future in esports remains very bright. 

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