People in the 10: ‘It gives you a sense of confidence’


Wind River Country is filled with unique people with diverse backgrounds. People in the 10 is a County 10 series that shares just a small piece of the stories that make up our community.

(Dubois, WY) – Stephanie Arrache not only owns and operates Waterwheel Gifts and Books, but she is also an attorney, a mom, a wife, a writer and she is the first and currently only wheelchair para-karate athlete on Team USA.

She has been on Team USA since 2019 but has not competed against other wheelchair para-karate athletes on the national level due to the pandemic. This could change in April with the scheduled 2022 USA Open International Cup in Las Vegas.

She began practicing the Korean karate style called Tang Soo Do when she was eight or nine. Her dad and brother started training first, which piqued her interest. It wasn’t long before she fell in love with it.

Stephanie shared she was born with a tumor on her spine, which is how she ended up in a wheelchair nine years ago.

“I had my first major back surgery when I was 10. I credit karate with getting me through it because of the mental training and everything. My sensei at the time was close with Chuck Norris. And so Chuck Norris called me on the phone and sent me all sorts of autographed stuff, and for years, he sent me Easter candy and Christmas cards, and so it was kind of cool.”

Her family moved about an hour away from her original karate dojo and she started high school, so she ended up stepping back from training.

It wasn’t until 2018 when she took her then two-year-old son to a dojo where they lived in California for a class and met Sensei Tamara Canedo.

“I told the sensei, who is my sensei now, I hope he loves it as much as I loved it because it meant the world to me,” Stephanie shared.

Sensei Tamara questioned her as to why she wasn’t still training and told her to show up at the dojo on Monday evening.

After sitting in the parking lot contemplating whether or not to go in that Monday evening, and some tough love encouragement from her mom over the phone, Stephanie went in.

“It was amazing. Everyone was so welcoming.”

Sensei Tamara practices a Japanese style called Shito-ryu and having retained much of what she learned as a child, Stephanie was able to adapt quickly to the new style.

“Even though there were different katas, there were still kind of like the basic maneuvers and stuff. My original style and everything went from the ear, and my new style and everything goes from the hips. That was basically the difference just kind of tweaking, but my form is all still there. She let me start at the belt I had reached in my old form.”

Stephanie competes in katas, which are like choreographed dance routines, she explained.

“You’re basically pretending like you’re fighting off an attacker. So you’re blocking and attacking. And they usually last a couple of minutes.”

With Stephanie living in Dubois full-time now and Sensei Tamara in California, the two train over Zoom and with videos. This has been difficult over the last year with life getting in the way, but not wanting to disappoint the head of the para team, they find the time.

She is most looking forward to the international competitions so she has someone to compete against. Europe and South America have decent-sized wheelchair karate programs. Being the first wheelchair para-karate athlete on Team USA has its perks, but it also means you are the only athlete.

“I don’t want to win by default. I want to win because I earned it.”

Stephanie encourages everyone to try karate, especially girls.

“I think that everybody should do karate because it gives you a sense of confidence. I think every girl should be required to take karate because it gives you confidence in yourself and your abilities.”

To view all of the posts from the People in the 10 series, click here.