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Dianna Sipper, 7, takes first at national karate tournament

Butler County resident Dianna Sipper is four feet of fury.

The seven-year-old recently competed on the national stage at the 27th annual Southern Open National Martial Arts Championship in Columbus, Ga.

But she didn’t just compete—she walked away with four trophies, including a pair of first-place awards nearly as tall as herself.

According to her parents, Mike and Vickie Sipper, their daughter has fundamentally changed for the better since taking up martial arts just a short six months ago under Grandmaster Larry Webb and his Georgiana-based dojo.

“She was being picked on pretty badly at school, and she would not stand up for herself,” said Dianna’s mother, Vickie. “She’s pretty timid and quiet, and so we signed her up.  We’d signed her up for softball at the same time, and she chose to stop softball and do karate because it fell on the same nights.”

Dianna’s father, Mike, echoed those sentiments.

“It’s not a night-and-day thing, but she’s a little more open, and she’s not as shy,” Mike added. “When she started, she had a fear of competing and she didn’t want people watching her in class.  And now she wants everyone to look at her.”

One of the reasons behind Dianna’s skyrocketing self-confidence might also stem from her results.

At the national karate tournament, she placed first in open-hand kata, a division in which students perform a routine of detailed patterns of martial arts movements and techniques.

She also took first in sparring, facing students all across the belt spectrum ranging from white to brown.

She also racked up a second-place award in the weapons category for her bo staff performance and fourth in the musical weapons category, in which participants perform a weapons routine set to music.

There was originally a good deal of apprehension in allowing the seven-year-old to compete at a national competition with only a single tournament’s experience under her green belt. But at Grandmaster Webb’s urging, Mike and Vickie inevitably conceded.  And as her results showed, Webb’s faith in Dianna—one of his standout students—was well founded.

“I tell Grandmaster Webb that he has the patience of a saint,” Vickie said.  “He is wonderful.”

“Most of the students that come into that program, just like [Dianna] after the program ended, still continue now by going to Montgomery two to three times a week to his class,” Mike added.

“The kids who do that are treated like his family, and he treats them that way.  He teaches them respect and discipline, and you can tell the difference in the six months that she’s been there.”

That focus on the mental aspects of karate, rather than the physical ones, was an especially appealing factor to Mike.

“My son’s in the army, and I was fine with that,” he continued.

“But that’s what I wanted for her—to have someone to teach them discipline and respect at a young age. And she’s been great with it.”

Though Webb’s popular karate lessons at Georgiana have ended for the time being, there are plans to start back up as early as Oct. 1.