‘It basically saved my life’: Panthers superfan ‘Dojo Kat’ uses karate to inspire others

“Karate is the thing that keeps me alive,” Barb Leonard said.
“Karate is the thing that keeps me alive,” Barb Leonard said.
Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 11:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - When Barb Leonard stepped on the scale and saw the number 401 staring back at her over a decade ago, she realized something needed to change.

“I had gotten to the point where I couldn’t do basic household things,” Leonard said.

So she underwent weight loss surgery. After some of that weight came on over the years that followed, her doctor said something had to change.

That’s when Leonard turned to karate.

“Karate is the thing that keeps me alive,” Leonard said. “So it basically saved my life.”

After years of work, she finally obtained her black belt in January 2021.

Leonard has also been a diehard Panthers fan ever since the team was created. After spending time with some Carolina superfans, she decided before last season that she wanted to get in on the fun.

When choosing her superfan persona, there was only one way she could create her alter-ego.

“My two great passions in life are the Carolina Panthers, and martial arts,” Leonard said.

So she created “Dojo Kat”, a karate-inspired character that cheers on her favorite team while also showcasing her love of karate.

Leonard says the team’s mantra, “Keep Pounding”, also served as a personal motivation for her during all the highs and lows of her weight loss journey over the years.

“That’s not a reason to quit, it’s a reason to keep pounding,” Leonard said. “Physical therapy, you keep pounding. Broke this elbow last October, had four surgeries, keep pounding.”

She hopes her story can serve as encouragement for anyone else out there looking to take control back over their life and health.

“My whole mission with this superfan thing is to inspire other people,” Leonard said. “Because I used to be the person sitting on the couch that didn’t think I could do it.”

Her other goal with “Dojo Kat” is to remind everyone to be themselves, even if it looks a bit different.

“I think that encourages people to reach into themselves and be the best you can be,” Leonard said. “Doesn’t matter if it’s different. We don’t need everyone to be the same.”

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