Lauren Biggs bows to visitors, uses "sir" and "ma'am" and calls her instructor and boss "Mr."
The show of respect comes partly from her father, who is in the U.S. Army and was deployed to Afghanistan in June, and also from the influence of her passion -- martial arts.
The 18-year-old Evans High graduate works and trains at ATA Martial Arts in Evans. She has been training since she was 9, when her family lived in Virginia.
They moved to Evans in 2004, but Biggs moved back to Virginia and lived with her instructors so she could earn her black belt in tang soo do, a Korean form of martial arts.
After returning to Evans at the end of 2006, she put her pursuit of the sport on hold. But while driving one day she happened across ATA Martial Arts, run by Darin Prazer.
She started as a white belt in songham, a form of taekwondo, but quickly jumped up to a green belt after Prazer saw she had previous experience.
In February, she became an instructor at the school and now works there full time.
"It's awesome," Biggs said. "It doesn't feel like a job. I love working with the kids. Maybe they'll find it's their passion, too."
Prazer's school is less than a year old. The American Taekwondo Association boasts more than 1,500 independently-owned schools nationwide, and Prazer's goal is to open 10 in the area.
Biggs' goal is to earn her instructor certification and lead instruction when Prazer's second school opens, something she hopes will happen within five years.
She is enrolled in both the ATA's leadership and instructor programs.
Instructor certification requires 300 hours of teaching and a knowledge of all forms. Enrollment in the leadership program is required to compete at the ATA's national and state levels.
Biggs recently won two first-place medals and one for second place at an ATA regional tournament in Atlanta.
She won the weapons and free-sparring competitions and finished second in forms, which tests traditional songham methods.
Biggs used a longstaff in the weapons competition, which consisted of a 20-second choreographed freestyle routine that took her a month to master.
The free-sparring competition pitted Biggs against an opponent. The winner is the first to five points, or most points after two minutes.
Biggs won 5-0.
The competition doesn't seem to be what drives Biggs, though.
She said she likes Prazer's school because of its focus on family and respect, and less on the individual.
When Prazer asked if she was interested in becoming an instructor, she responded, "More than anything."
"She's doing even better than we expected," Prazer said. "Not only is she a good technician, but she's a good person. That's why I decided to hire her."
Biggs said a successful job as an instructor involves equal doses of patience and know-how, and she has had to earn the respect of adults in her classes -- some more than 20 years older.
She was recommended for her brown belt and tested July 26.
She hopes to have her black belt by November and soon after, a black collar -- the distinction given to a certified instructor.
"I love it," she said. "It's what I want to do forever."
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