View Full Version : When picturing a martial arts instructor, a 10-year-old girl isn't usually the first

10/24/2005 5:27pm,
Updated Sunday, October 23, 2005 12:08 AM CDT

10-year-old is Sycamore's Karate Kid
By Dana Herra - Staff Writer

DeKALB - When picturing a martial arts instructor, a 10-year-old girl isn't usually the first image that springs to mind.

But then Dana Hienbucher isn't a typical 10-year-old girl.

The laid-back Sycamore fifth-grader was certified last month as a junior martial arts instructor at the Karate Institute, 235 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.

“It's actually quite unusual,” head instructor Andrew Torok said. “We started this program about a year and a half ago, and out of the 10 people who could be eligible, she's the first one we've certified.”

Torok said the junior instructor certification, though stringent, is not the same as becoming a certified sensei.

“We have a process almost like becoming certified as a school teacher, where you not only learn the subject but also learn how to teach,” he said. “The junior instructor doesn't have her own classes, but she helps with teaching lower-belt classes and the younger students.”

Dana, who took up karate three years ago, said she went through the certification process because she enjoys teaching.

“I think it's really, really cool,” she said. “Sometimes kids take things better from other kids than they do from adults.”

Torok said younger students having trouble are sometimes intimidated by the class instructors, and feel more comfortable approaching Dana, who always has time to help another student.

“She even bowed out of doing a tournament three weeks ago to coach her little sister,” Dana's father Ron Hienbucher said. “She didn't compete, she just went as a coach, and coached her to a first and a third.”

Hienbucher said parents will often approach him after class and tell him Dana really helped their child to grasp a technique. He also believes Dana's success inspires other students. In two and a half years of tournament competition, she has brought home 49 trophies.

“The first time she wanted to do a tournament, she asked her instructor, and he said he wasn't sure if she was ready for it,” Hienbucher said. “She said, ‘The only way I'll be ready is if I go.' She came back with a trophy after her first time out and was hooked.”

Dana said she was first drawn to karate after watching a demonstration at a Fourth of July picnic. When her parents enrolled their quiet child in classes, they weren't sure what to expect.

“I knew she liked it, but I would never in a million years think she would get this into it, especially the fighting part,” Hienbucher said. “She's so laid back and shy. But she becomes a different person out there. She's very intense.”

To become certified as a junior instructor, Dana had to reach the level of brown belt, spend a year assisting with lower-belt classes and training first-time tournament competitors, and provide letters of recommendation from her parents and teachers. She also had to join the Professional Karate Commission, one of three professional groups she's involved in.

“Dana works one-on-one with some lower belt students, so she has to really understand not just the skill, but how to explain it,” Torok said.

Dana said she hopes to open her own karate school one day with the help of her 5-year-old sister, Taylor.

“Maybe other kids can look at me and say, ‘Hey, if that girl can do it, so can I,'” she said. “And you never know, someday some bully or bad guy might try to hurt you, and you need to know how to defend yourself.”

Picture and original article at


10/25/2005 3:10am,
So much wrong with that.

I'm curious as to why stories appear like this so much in the news. HOW is this news? I mean, martial artists will laugh at it and non martial artists just end up thinking the whole idea of MA is ludicrous.