Janesville's Victoria-Anna Kampmann, 9, already a martial arts champ

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Anna Marie Lux
Monday, November 18, 2013

JANESVILLE--Nine-year-old Victoria-Anna Kampmann told her father at age 4 that she wanted to study the martial arts after seeing the action film, “The Karate Kid.”

Her parents, Pascal and Valerie Brinkman-Kampmann, then enrolled young Victoria, whose nickname is Vanna, in a martial arts school. For awhile, the whole family, including Vanna's older brother, got involved in classes.

Eventually, the school closed.

But Vanna, a third-grader at Janesville's Adams Elementary School, wanted to keep learning.

Today, she attends Fearless Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Janesville, where even the icon of martial arts cinema Bruce Lee might be proud of her determination.

Vanna practices tae kwon do, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kick boxing and mixed martial arts for hours after school during the week and on Saturdays.

Ask her why, and she responds with a spurt of enthusiasm:

“I like everything about it,” she said.

Vanna's martial arts teacher Jessica Savoie calls the girl dedicated to the sport.

“It is rare to see a 9-year-old this committed to the martial arts,” Savoie said “It's even rare to see an adult as committed as she is.”

Vanna's hard work is earning her recognition.

She will be awarded four national championship titles and one second-place title with the American Karate Association at a banquet in Chicago early next year.

Among her honors is a tie for first place in a musical form of tae kwon do, where she performed kicks and punches to the beat of the music.

“At her age, this is huge,” Savoie said. “To have that kind of recognition from the American Karate Association is a big accomplishment. She has had to train and compete a lot to get to where she is.”

Savoie has worked with Vanna about three years.

“She always tells me and her family that she wants to be in the Olympics for tae kwon do,” Savoie said. “I think she will make it to the Olympics. Whatever she puts her mind to, she will accomplish, whether it is the martial arts or being a surgeon. We want to help her progress with her dreams.”

Part of the reason for Vanna's success is her ability to stay committed.

“Many kids are done after a couple of months because they don't enjoy the martial arts,” Savoie said. “Vanna seems to enjoy every minute of it.”

Vanna and other children make up about 60 percent of the school's students.

“Parents see a need for kids to protect themselves, so they put them in the martial arts,” Savoie said. “Our school is family based. Many parents train with their kids. A lot of times, parents will see their kids become kinder and better disciplined as a result of learning martial arts.”

Vanna is a minority at the gym.

“The ratio is two women to 10 or 12 guys,” Savoie said. “Women stay away from the martial arts because the sport has been portrayed as violent. But it's not really that way. Our school looks at it more as being able to defend yourself physically and mentally, not just about beating up someone. We promote a lot of self esteem along with the physical part of it. We try to teach our kids and our adults to talk it out or to walk away from a lot of bullying situations.”

Young people involved in the martial arts are less likely to be involved in physical situations because they have strong minds, she said.

“If someone is making fun of one of our students,” Savoie said, “they will likely feel compassion and empathy for the person causing the problem for them.”

A typical day for Vanna includes practicing tae kwon do, a Korean-style martial art, known for its powerful kicking and energetic hand techniques. She also works on her jiu-jitsu technique and kickboxing with her hands and feet.

“Vanna uses a freestanding bag to work on punching and kicking,” Savoie said.

Pascal Brinkman-Kampmann said he always wanted to do martial arts as a kid.

“But I never got to it,” he said. “We introduced Vanna to it, but we have never pushed her. I believe kids should try many things so they get an idea about what they like.”

Valerie Brinkman-Kampmann said her daughter is a different person when she practices martial arts.

“It's almost a physical change,” Valerie said. “She loves to dress up, which is opposite of her rough and tough life in the gym.”

Vanna competes with both boys and girls under controlled conditions.

“At her age level, they are not allowed to do many things,” Valerie said. “When compared to some other sports, martial arts are low on the list of dangerous sports.”

At first, Valerie was nervous about Vanna's interest in the martial arts.

“I have watched her in sparring and grappling matches,” Valerie said. “I would have preferred her to be in something else. But that's just not her. We ask Vanna regularly whether she is enjoying it. She always says yes.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at (608) 755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

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