BRANSON, Mo. — During the month of March, KOLR 10, Ozarks Fox and Ozarksfirst.com honor notable women. We asked community members to nominate women who inspire them, and our panel of judges selected four finalists.
One of those finalists is Vashon Borich-Leach, who is a martial arts instructor at Branson. She teaches karate and tai chi, but, as many who have taken her classes will tell you, her classes also inspire and empower students in the real world.
“When you’re here, you don’t just do athletics and learn self-defense, you become a leader, you become a better person,” Boris-Leach said.
She co-owns and teaches at Branson Karate and Tai-Chi, reaching a variety of people.
“We have students as young as seven years old until the oldest student we had was 83,” 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 mother and serial entrepreneur, it is her energy and grace that others admire.
Thomas Witty is one such parent and the person who named Borich-Leach one of the Notable Women of the Ozarks.
“I really admired her energy and enthusiasm for working with younger people, especially young girls, and helping them grow and build their confidence,” Witty said.
He enrolled his daughter, Zoe, in karate lessons when she was 14 and says it paid off for her.
“I think activities like this are important for the development of children and adolescents,” he said. “And especially when you have a good teacher who is of the same gender and who is able to model what it is 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 thanks her own mother and other strong women in her life for inspiring her to be who she is today.
“My biggest inspiration is probably my own mother. Believe it or not, she is now in her eighties and still has her own marketing business in Houston, Texas. I remember seeing her make this business what it is today,” Boris-Leach said. “But there have also been incredible women in my life. I had great teachers and great coaches who inspired me.
Now running her own business, she teaches classes specifically for women. One of them is a self-defense class for women called TUFF Chick, which means tough, unstoppable, fearless and free.
“What are the things that I think every woman should have,” Boris-Leach explained.
Boris-Leach also has a heart for women working to escape situations of domestic violence. She designed a pair of boots and donates the proceeds to organizations that help women find shelter or get out of dangerous living conditions.
She said the idea originated during the Covid-19 pandemic when the number of domestic violence incidents in the Ozarks spiked.
“I always thought of my mother being a Texan, she said, ‘women, we have to learn to cope,’ to work together and help each other,” Boris-Leach said. “So what, I thought, what if I drew a pair of boots?”
Boris-Leach said his goal with all his efforts is to enable those who enter his studio to embrace more than the physical aspects of martial arts in the dojo, but also to learn and take with them the self-discipline, respect and honor. .
“If you hang around with me long enough, I’ll teach you to believe in yourself and achieve great things,” she said.
Watch a new story from Remarkable Women every Tuesday in March. The winner will be announced on April 1.