BRANSON, Mo. — During the month of March, KOLR 10, Ozarks Fox, and are honoring Remarkable Women. We asked people in the community to nominate women who inspired them, and our panel of judges selected four finalists.

One of those finalists is Vashon Borich-Leach, who is a martial arts instructor in Branson. She teaches Karate and Tai-Chi, but, as many of those who have taken her class will tell you, her lessons inspire and empower students in the real world, too.

“When you are in here, you’re not just getting athletic and learning self-defense, you’re becoming a leader, you’re becoming a better person,” said Borich-Leach.

She co-owns and teaches at Branson Karate and Tai-Chi, reaching a variety of people.

“We have students as young as seven all the way up to the oldest student we’ve had was 83 years old,” she said.

No matter their age, her students and their parents say Borich-Leach is an inspiration because of who she is as a person and how she carries herself in the dojo. A mother of two, who was once a single mom, and a serial entrepreneur, it’s her energy and grace that others admire.

Thomas Witty is one of those parents and the person who nominated Borich-Leach to Remarkable Women of the Ozarks.  

 “I really admired her energy and enthusiasm for working with younger people, especially young girls, and helping them develop and have good self-confidence,” Witty said.

He enrolled his daughter, Zoe, in karate classes when she was 14 and says it’s paid off for her.

“I think activities like this are important for children’s and adolescents’ development,” he said. “And particularly when you’ve got a good teacher who’s the same gender and is able to model what it’s like to be a successful adult navigating all the things that women in our society have to navigate.”

Borich -Leach says she is humbled and honored to have been thought of for this recognition and credits her own mother and other strong women in her life for inspiring her to be who she is today.

“Probably my biggest inspiration is my own mother. She’s in her eighties now, believe it or not, and she still has her own marketing firm down in Houston, Texas. I remember watching her build this business into what it is today,” Borich-Leach said. “But there’s also been some amazing women in my life. I’ve had some great teachers and great coaches that inspired me.”

Now, running her own business, she teaches classes specifically for women. One of those is a women’s self-defense course called T.U.F.F. Chick, which stands for tough, unstoppable, fearless, and free.

“Which are the things I believe every woman should have,” Borich-Leach explained.

Borich-Leach also has a heart for women who are working to escape domestic violence situations. She designed a pair of boots and is donating the profits to organizations that help women find shelter or transition out of dangerous living conditions.

She said the idea came about during the Covid-19 pandemic when the number of domestic violence incidents in the Ozarks increased.

“I always thought how my mother being a Texan, she said, ‘women, we have to learn to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps,’ and work together and help each other,” Borich-Leach said. “And so, I thought, what if I designed a pair of boots?”

Borich-Leach said her goal with all of her efforts is to empower those who walk into her studio to embrace more than just the physical aspects of martial arts in the dojo, but also learn and carry with them self-discipline, respect, and honor.  

“If you hang around me long enough, I’m going to teach you to believe in yourself and to achieve great things,” she said.

Watch a new Remarkable Women story every Tuesday in March. The winner will be announced on April 1.