Kenpo Women’s Symposium
Helping Women Find Community and Grow

Rhiannon Leppert

Rhiannon Leppert moved to Spokane, Washington, a couple months after high school graduation in 1998. She quickly learned that women were being attacked regularly on the walking trail near her apartment, so she decided to look for a self-defense school. She walked into Northwest Kenpo Karate to interview the owner, Mr. Chris Panting. Rhiannon intended to interview several school owners of different styles before making a decision, but that wasn’t necessary. After he shared with her the advantages of Kenpo, Mr. Panting said, “I’m not the cheapest guy in town, but I’m worth every penny.” Rhiannon wanted to find out for herself, so she signed up and was hooked from the beginning. He was definitely worth every penny and every second of effort. Growing up, she was bullied relentlessly, and Mr. Panting was instrumental in helping Rhiannon find her inner strength and self-confidence. She trained from 1999 until 2006, earning her 3rd degree brown belt. Her goal was to earn her black belt, but when she and her husband had their first of 5 children in May 2006, she took nearly 15 years off from Kenpo.

Over those 15 years, she thought often about Kenpo and missed the days of training, the friendships, and the challenge of martial arts. When her oldest child became a teenager, she knew it was time to revisit what brought her happiness, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment. Rhiannon returned to Northwest Kenpo Karate under its current owner, Mr. Kurt Becker, in June 2020. She was hesitant to put on her 3rd degree brown belt because it had been so long since she trained, but Mr. Becker assured her it was not only appropriate, but welcome. She started back at the very beginning with the yellow belt techniques and worked hard to relearn all of the basics, techniques, sets, and forms. Sixteen months later, in October 2021, she tested for 2nd degree brown belt and was promoted. Rhiannon says she is well on her way to preparing for her next test and is grateful to be back on this journey. Mr. Becker has been such a blessing and has helped her regain her confidence in the martial arts. He also speaks a plain and simple truth to her when she gets stuck on a form, set, or technique: “Stop thinking and just do. Your body knows what to do.” 

As a mother, Rhiannon feels it is important to equip her five children with skills and teach them healthy discipline and structure. She also desires for them to have other great role models in their lives. She loves that her children have embraced Kenpo, and she is truly excited for her daughters and the legacy they are already creating as future women in Kenpo.

Rhiannon will be testing for her 1st degree black belt in September 2023. She is grateful for her instructor, training partners, and her family for their unwavering support.

In her professional life, Rhiannon works as a licensed mental health counselor. She is passionate about helping her clients identify their strengths, develop goals, and work their way to mental wellness. She is also pursuing a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision.

Rhiannon’s other hobbies include playing the trombone, clarinet, and piano, singing alto in her church’s choir, and competing in triathlons and other races. She has completed the Coeur d’Alene Half Ironman, countless sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, half marathons, and a variety of other running races. She has also completed the 1.76-mile Long Bridge Swim in Sandpoint, Idaho. She loves camping, kayaking, and reading a good book by the lake. Her children are her greatest accomplishment, and she feels lucky to be their mom.