CARMEL VALLEY — At 12 years old, third-degree black belt and martial arts prodigy Channah Zeitung carries a big stick everywhere she goes.
“The bo staff is my best friend,” Channah told The Coast News. “I’ve always had it with me. I take it on planes, in the car — even if I don’t have to use it.”
Channah, who began her martial arts training at the age of two, is an 11-time American Taekwondo Association (ATA) world champion and six-time Pan American titleholder.
By age 4, Channah became the youngest three-time California State Champion in ATA martial arts.
Earlier this year, she received a Global Child Prodigy Award in the sports and martial arts category from Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi in New Delhi. She was also named an ATA brand ambassador.
But as a toddler, Channah recalled martial arts wasn’t necessarily her first choice.
“I first started off with dance, but it wasn’t my jam,” Channah said. “I cried every time I went and I didn’t like it. Luckily, there was a taekwondo studio across the street.”
And the rest is history.
Today, Channah is a junior instructor at Church’s Martial Arts in Encinitas and Carmel Valley. Under the direction of Master Trish Church, co-owner of Church’s Martial Arts with her husband Chief Master Ken Church, Channah has dedicated thousands of hours over the past decade toward perfecting her craft.
“We owe Channah’s success to Church’s Martial Arts,” said Gloria Zeitung, Channah’s mother. “It’s not just kicking and punching. It’s an amazing program. Without them, she wouldn’t be who she is. They’ve made her mentally and physically strong.”
Trish Church noticed Channah’s intense work ethic, focus and eagerness to learn were exceptional, especially for a young child.
After entering the school’s Legacy program, Channah quickly became a superstar at Church’s studio, which has been serving North County students for more than 30 years.
“[Channah] was a two-year-old taking all classes all day long and really started accelerating her learning,” Trish Chuch said. “Then I started working with her privately and put her on the tournament circuit. She was the highlight. She was so adorable, photogenic and bubbly.”
Channah has also studied under prominent martial arts figures, including Jackson Rudolph, a fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo and a 12-time International Sport Kickboxing Association (ISKA) U.S. Open weapons champion (Rudolph currently has won the most men’s U.S. Open titles in history).
Rudolph explained Channah is performing at the same level or greater than other competitors nearly twice her age.
“The most difficult things about bo is balancing both finesse and power,” Rudolph said. “It’s impressive Channah was able to pick that up so young. Training requires thousands of repetitions and there is no other alternative.”
Prior to COVID-19, the sixth-grade student at St. James Academy in Solana Beach had plans to appear on a talent show in Italy, in addition to competing in various martial arts tournaments.
But social-distancing measures haven’t slowed her down. Since the lockdown, she has continued to compete in virtual tournaments.
Recently, Channah made a public service announcement video encouraging kids and adults to respect each other by wearing masks amidst the ongoing pandemic.
Channah has promoted anti-bullying campaigns, making several appearances at schools and county fairs in California and Arizona. She also spearheaded the Pink Belt Campaign to help raise money for children of mothers with breast cancer.
Beyond her success in taekwondo, the vivacious North County wunderkind said her true aspiration is to become an actress.
And when she is not practicing spins and strikes with her jahn bong (bo staff), she is working on monologues. She made her acting debut in 2018 on Nickelodeon’s “Game Shakers.” Channah also loves watching martial arts movies, including the classic “Karate Kid” and more recent spinoff, “Cobra Kai.”
She has made several television national television appearances, including NBC’s Little Big Shots, Little Big Shots Australia, The Steve Harvey Show, Wonderama and Katie Couric’s syndicated talk show on ABC.
Channah has been working closely with Samuel Warren, a prominent feature film and television casting director and owner of Samuel Warren & Associates International Casting Services.
Warren said Channah has what it takes to achieve her dream of becoming a Hollywood actress.
“She’s really going to hit — a lot of producers love what she does,” Warren said. “Right now with her skills, I think she will be ready for any opportunity that comes. She will be able to make a livelihood in this business.”
And Channah believes she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.
“Even though you are small, it doesn’t mean you can’t achieve big things,” Channah said.