East Tennessee girl excels at taekwondo despite a physical disability.

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Her prognosis at birth was dire; doctors did not expect her to live. Ten years later that little girl has found a way to thrive, through martial arts.

Alana Joseph said, "It helps me with my self-confidence, friends at school, and most of all I get to be with my best friends and just having a good old time out here."

Her family says it's amazing Alana is even here.

Her father Tim Joseph said, "She was born with 17 cysts on one side of the brain and come to find out after scans there was at least that much more on the other side."

Alana Joseph was given little chance to live and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She was confined by casts and a wheelchair.

"She went through countless programs, a few surgeries," her father said.

Then she started lessons with Tim Walker at US Taekwondo Academy on Western Avenue.

"Taekwondo is a Korean martial art. The translation for the word taekwondo is the way of kicking and punching, the way of using the hands and feet in self defense," US Taekwondo Academy instructor Tim Walker said.

Alana said, "Before taekwondo I just completely gave up. I was just sitting in my bed just watching TV not even getting up and being active. But taekwondo has really improved my balance, my muscle, my hope."

It's also improved her attitude. Alana said she used to be bullied.

"They used to make fun of my Cerebral Palsy because I was different and they didn't understand but when I was in taekwondo I would start stepping up for myself. I wouldn't let no one hurt my feelings and my teacher's motto is if you look like food you will be eaten," she said.

She doesn't look like food that will be eaten anymore. She's found a way to compensate for weak muscle tone from the CP on her left side.

"Most people do it different with their left side but I try to make a mirror image," she said.

Her favorite move is an inside crescent kick to the head.

Her instructor said, "She is what martial arts and taekwondo is all about."

"She's an inspiration to me," her father said.

Alana said, "My daddy is a third degree black belt and I really think since he's helped me do pretty much everything through life I think that's pretty much encouraged me to get out there and work my best."

She's worked her way up to green belt.

"I hope to get to black one day," she said.

She's on her way. Alana won a first place trophy at the Georgia Open and second place in two categories, including sparring.

"Alana had a nine to nine fight in her match, in her sparring match, until the very last second and I'll tell you what the audience was on their feet and they were screaming and cheering and it was awesome. It was really inspiring for me and our other students," Tim Walker said.

Alana remembered, "I was focused on my target I didn't even hear my dad doing woo woo all over the crowd."

She hopes to hear more cheers in her future competitions.

Tim Walker said, "Alana is the perfect example of what Taekwondo is. We teach the five tenets of taekwondo: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, and indomitable spirit. And Alana really does represent all those things."

Tim Joseph said, "A child that was handed a very rough deck of cards to deal with in life, she's played the hand as a poker champ."

She's played it as a taekwondo champ.

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