You won’t find many stronger than the Singleton sisters.
In this basement dojo in Livingston, Charlotte, 10, Sophia, 13, and Vivian, 15, all train at their favorite sport, karate. But that strength was earned.
“I wasn’t really tough or strong or anything before I took karate. And now I’m winning national championships,” said Charlotte.
Both Charlotte and Sophia won national championships this past year in Chicago in kumite, the fighting form of karate, while Vivian medaled with a third-place finish in her age bracket.
But their goals go well beyond national titles. They want to make the U.S. Olympic Karate team, a goal not so crazy for three of the country’s top prospects in their age groups. To the sisters, it’s not a matter of if, but when.
“I’m just a girl from Montana who hasn’t exactly done anything big or gone anywhere," said Sophia. "But when I go to the Olympics, I’ll just feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m the girl from Montana who’s going to maybe win.'"
Sophia had only one point scored on her the entire national tournament and is already a front-runner to make the Junior U.S. National Team. If she does, Sophia would become the youngest member in the team’s history. What's even crazier is the Singletons have only taken karate for two years and for the past year have been self-taught.
“We don’t exactly have all of the things that other kids do because with us, we have a phone that we watch YouTube tutorials of karate," Sophia said. "It’s only us today, but you know what? We are going to keep fighting and we are going to keep going.”
They also have caught the attention of senseis from around the country, who video chat with them and help them train. But they have no coach, and, yet, their style of training is working.
Practicing with her sisters, Charlotte, who the family calls Lottie Karate, was 57-2 this past year, winning 15 tournaments. That caught the eye of Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine, which named her one of November’s SportsKids of the Month. She’s the first karate athlete to ever receive the honor in the magazine’s history.
“My dad was just looking at them and he ran over and he was like, ‘Look who’s in the magazine.’ And I looked and I started freaking out,” smiled Charlotte.
Her positive attitude has also earned her a following. At just 10 years old, Lottie Karate has more than 2,000 followers on Instagram. She receives messages daily from her followers about how she inspires them in karate.
“When they reach out to me like that I feel to push better in karate. They inspire me, as well, to go further in karate,” Charlotte said.
And then there’s Vivian, whose life has been changed by karate. She has epilepsy and, before starting karate, would have 50 to 60 seizures a day. But now, Vivian doesn’t have any.
“I trained really hard in karate and one day my mom noticed, ‘I haven’t seen you do an episode at all this week,'" recalled Vivian. "And so as I watched, I started stopping and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a miracle. Karate has just changed me completely.'”
Vivian’s epilepsy means she has to train 10 times harder than others just to make a simple move look natural. But she has the drive and a third-place finish at nationals to show her determination.
Karate turned her life around, but she’s not done. Vivian wants to make the U.S. National Team with her sisters and then teach the sport.
“I love karate so much, I’m going to stick with it for the rest of my life, I’m going to own a dojo when I’m older. I have big dreams,” she laughed.
Regardless of the championships or Olympics, karate has brought these three sisters closer together.
“Charlotte is super funny and witty and just awesome. Sophia is motivating, strong and she just inspires me so much,” said Vivian.
“I love being here with them and learning new drills. They push me to do better,” added Charlotte.
“I’m so glad that they are on this journey with me," said Sophia, "because I don’t want to be alone on it.”
The journey has just started for these three, and they are ready to put the karate world on notice.
“I’m just a girl from Montana. Nobody knows me yet," Sophia said. "But I hope one day they will.”