Taking karate lessons means much more to Evans Middle School pupil Lee Ann Schiffhauer than mastering the martial arts.
Today she is an outgoing 13-year-old, but she was not always that way. Her second-grade teacher told her mother, Bobbi, she wasn’t worried about Lee Ann’s grades, but rather how quiet she was.
“In third grade I was silent,” said Schiffhauer. “Silent Night was going on in my head,” she added with a laugh.
She started Kempo karate at Seigler’s Karate Center when she was 8 years old. Her mother soon saw what the karate did for her.
“She is very bubbly, very energetic, very social,” she said. “She got her first-degree black belt and everything just changed.”
Schiffhauer has worked her way up to a third-degree Kohai black belt. She plays for the CSRA Heat club volleyball team, played for the Evans High School JV volleyball team this past season and plays the flute in the school band.
“It’s (karate) helped me in school and in volleyball and other sports,” said Schiffhauer. “It helps me to focus. It helps me commit to things because I’ve been doing it since I was 8.”
Seigler’s Karate Center general manager Jennifer Waters has been working with martial arts for 20 years and is impressed with her protege.
“She puts a lot of hard work into her training and she is motivation for a lot of other girls who train here,” said Waters. “She never gives up.”
Schiffhauer, who calls Waters her inspiration, also is taking lessons in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. She appreciates what the martial arts have taught her.
“The karate itself teaches me self-discipline and self-defense, so if I ever do get into a situation where I need to defend myself, I feel I can,” she said. “The self-discipline and the endurance and the perseverance, that comes out of it. It’s not just the punches and kicks, it’s what comes out it, from the teachers – what they teach you to be and who they teach you to be. The point is to be focused in life.”
As part of her training, she helps assist with teaching smaller children one night a week for 30 minutes. She enjoys helping and wants to turn it into something more.
“At age 14, which I’ll turn in April, I want to get a job here,” said Schiffhauer. “Then I get to work with the younger kids. I like them. They’re fun.”
The confidence she gained helped when she was accepted to play on the JV volleyball team, even though she still had some jitters.
“I was very nervous and scared because I thought they wouldn’t like me because I’m just a little kid,” she said. “They were really cool and they were fun. I love those girls.”
Schiffhauer is able to help older students, including her parents, who began taking lessons after she began.
“She did encourage us to join and I think that has helped her also,” said her mother. ‘‘I go to her for help of course, because she’s a higher rank than I am and much more powerful.”
Schiffhauer’s abilities and work ethic lead others to believe in her.
“I think that no matter what Lee Ann does in her life, she’s going to excel at it because of how hard she applies herself,” Waters said.