ENCINITAS — Four-year-old Channah Zeitung rolled around on the floor of a martial arts center and laughed — acting every bit her age. But a few minutes later, she was all business as Motley Crue’s guitars announced the beginning of her routine.
Gripping her staff, Channah bowed and took a few steps forward. She exclaimed: “I’m Channah Zeitung from Church’s Martial Arts — I will begin!”
Then, Channah launched into her routine, swinging the staff with command while moving through her taekwondo form. For good measure, she punctuated the end of the demonstration with a fierce “KIYA!”
Channah’s routines have dazzled judges across the country, even while competing against kids several years older than her. Nationally, she’s currently ranked first in four events, including traditional forms and traditional weapons, in the American Taekwondo Association’s 8 and under division. Statewide, Channah is second in combat sparring.
She’s also been known to demonstrate at other places, including at shopping plazas. And more people outside the taekwondo sphere will soon be introduced to her.
Recently, she traveled to New York City and filmed a segment for Katie Couric’s show. The clip is due to air later this month (the exact date hasn’t been set.) For the segment, Channah showed Couric some moves.
“We did kicks — there were a lot of people,” Channah said.
When asked what she liked best about the experience, Channah shyly replied “eating dinner.”
“People forget just how young she is because she looks so accomplished in competition,” said Trista Church, who trains Channah at Church’s Martial Arts in Encinitas, which Church co-owns.
Church recalled a competition where Channah dominated on the mat. Yet in between the routines Channah could be spotted sucking her thumb.
“We have to remember that she’s 4,” Church said. “She’s only going to do something if it’s fun, so we make training as fun as possible.”
When she was 3 years old, Channah tried dance lessons, but simply didn’t like it. She took to taekwondo, however, right off the bat. From the beginning her talent was evident, her teachers say.
“She was drawn right to it — her coordination and dedication was off the charts for someone her age,” Church said. And not only does Channah receive lessons, but occasionally she helps other kids her age with their training.
“Her enthusiasm is contagious,” Church said.
Channah, who trains two to three hours a day, currently has a purple belt. Gloria, her mom, anticipates Channah will earn a black belt by the time she’s 6.
“She can’t get enough of taekwondo,” Gloria said. “We’re very happy we found something she likes so much.”