If you walk behind Emily Scott, she may not hear you.

If you walk behind Emily Scott, she may not hear you.

If you make the mistake of grabbing her, may God help you. Big mistake.

Scott, 16, is a third-degree black belt in taekwondo. But more remarkable is that Emily Scott was born deaf.

When Emily was about 18 months old, her mother, Melissa Scott, noticed her daughter was not hearing properly.

“We’d be right behind her, screaming her name and Emily wouldn’t respond,” says Melissa, who  worked as an interpreter for the deaf before having Emily.

At age 2, Emily got hearing aids. But years later, while in kindergarten, Emily still could not hear, even with the aids.

Her doctors discovered that the cochleas in both of Emily’s ears had not fully formed at birth. The cochlea, which resembles a snail shell, is located in the inner ear and is responsible for sending electrical impules that travel along the auditory nerve to the brain.

Doctors inserted a cochlear implant in her left ear when she was 6. Six years later, Emily got the implant on the other side.

A cochlear impant is a small electronic device that electrically stimulates nerves inside the inner ear. It consists of two parts. There’s an external portion that sits behind the ear and an internal portion, a magnet, that is surgically placed under the skin.

With the implants, her hearing is 85 percent. Without them, she’s completely deaf.

Emily’s deafness led her to martial arts. Otherwise, Melissa would have signed her daughter up for dance instead of martial arts.

“For self defense,” Melissa says. “That a way we know she can defend herself when she can’t hear somebody come up behind her and grab her. She knows how to defend herself and get out of a hold.”

Emily can do more than defend herself.

“Technically, her hands are registered as deadly weapons,” Melissa says. “That’s why I keep her with me.”

Emily started taekwondo at 6 years old. The family was living at the time in Fort Worth, Texas.

They moved to Independence in August 2004. Emily started training at a dojo in Lee’s Summit the following year.

Her name is woven into her black belt. Also woven on the belt is a “III.” This signifies she’s a third degree black belt. There are 10 degrees.

Emily leaped from degree to degree by going through rigorous “boot camps” that involve hours of having an instructor drill them on proper stances and forms. Emily also trains with martial arts weapons.

“I want to go as far as I can,” Emily says. “As much as I can handle. That’s how far I want to go.”

Emily teaches younger students the proper stances, kicking and punching techniques.

She trains without the right cochlear implant because it falls off when she is training. This means she cannot hear out of her right ear.

But martial arts training is mostly “monkey see, monkey do” in that it is based on observation and less on verbal commands, says Brian Davidson, Emily’s instructor.

 Perfect for Emily.

“She’s one of the top students at the school,” Davidson says. “She practices each movement over and over. She asks questions.”

Davidson says he does not alter his training because of his students’ physical setbacks.  Emily was no exception.

“I have to yell sometimes,” Davidson says. “She reads lips real well. I can probably whisper and she still would know what I’m talking about.”

But Emily says she struggles to hear her instructor. “If he says to do a couple of exercises, I have to look at my neighbors to see what they are doing,” Emily says.

Phyllis Scott, Emily’s grandmother, said: “We always have told the instructors to please try and look at her while talking so she can read your lips. She’s a very sightful person. When she watches people, she copies what they do. She’s very observant.”

Taekwondo has given Emily “big time confidence,” says Melissa.

“She went from very shy after we moved to Independence to now and seeing her blossom, to come out of the shell and have the confidence to stand up and say ‘this is who I am,’” Melissa says. That’s what she has gained from taekwondo.”

Without taekwondo, Emily admits she would be shy.

The confidence has led her to a job at Subway,  inside the Blue Springs Wal-Mart.

She started there this week.