Blind Oceanside girl gets a kick out of karate

By: ALEXANDRA DELUCA - For the North County Times

OCEANSIDE ---- Inside the Shorin Ryu Karate dojo in Oceanside, Chloe Deremiah, 5, balanced on a trampoline, kicked on command, expertly blocked punches, and deftly handled her stick-like weapons.

On the other side of the studio, Chloe's mother, Tina Woodring, sat holding her daughter's cane, beaming with pride.

"She's by far totally exceeded (my expectations)," said Woodring.

Chloe's instructor, Sensei Tina Le, agreed.

"Her focus is amazing," said Le.

Chloe, who earned her yellow belt in karate earlier this month, was born with septo-optic dysplasia, a birth defect that results in an optic nerve that is too small in diameter for light to get back to the brain.

In Chloe's case, she has been blind since birth, something that does not seem to have stopped her from enjoying life.

"She can do anything, basically," said Woodirng. "I don't want her to have any limitations."

Woodring got the idea to sign Chloe up for karate lessons when she saw a flier for karate classes at the community center on Camp Pendleton.

"I wanted her to learn to defend herself," she said.

Woodring called around to several karate dojos about enrolling Chloe in classes, but most dojos said they couldn't teach Chloe or that it would cost extra to train her.

"I think a lot of places don't want to be bothered with a child like that," said Le.

Woodring took Chloe to one of the classes at Camp Pendleton that was taught by Le and her fellow Sensei Jorge Lopez, but the other children were a distraction. Still, it was obvious Chloe was enjoying herself, so Le suggested that Woodring enroll Chloe in private, one-on-one lessons at her Oceanside dojo.

In July, Chloe began her twice weekly lessons. The first few lessons were difficult: Chloe had a hard time staying focused and talked throughout her lesson. Still, Le saw Chloe's potential.

"I could see what she was capable of doing," said Le.

Le said she was unsure at first how hands-on she should be with Chloe.

"The first time I was guiding her around," said Le. "Then her mom said, 'Just let her go.' I learned fast that she can maneuver herself."

The first challenge, said Lopez, was gaining Chloe's trust. Since Chloe took to Le right away, she began training her. Now, both Lopez and Le work with Chloe.

Woodring said she is amazed at how quickly Chloe has taken to her instructors.

"It takes a lot for my daughter to trust someone," she said. "She's taken to these two. They're willing to go above and beyond to work with her. They have a gift."

Le and Lopez work by teaching Chloe to rely and react to her senses. When she hears or feels an object, she will block it or push it away.

Le said Chloe has totally transformed in the two months she has been working with her.

"There has been a noticeable change," said Le. "She walks with more confidence. Her coordination is much better. She is able to focus. She's more mature now."

Woodring agreed.

"Her attitude has changed," she said. "Her behavior has changed. She listens better now. Now she's more confident (and) she's not afraid to try new things. Everyone's amazed."

Woodring recently retired from the Navy after eight years of service and was considering moving back East, but decided to stay in the area so Chloe can continue her lessons with Le and Lopez.

"She's taken to this place," said Woodring. "I can't move her."

Le said she and Lopez are hoping to start a class just for students with disabilities. Woodring said she would like to see that happen.

"I wish they would get more kids with disabilities," she said. "These Senseis are awesome."

Woodring said she is grateful that they have treated Chloe just like any other student.

"It gives her a half hour to be normal," she said. "Just because someone has a disability doesn't mean they can't do it."

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Whoa....good for her, though allow me to suggest instead judo or teh BJJ instead of a striking art.