HIXSON, TN (WRCB) -- A group of special needs students have found their nitch when it comes to athletics, and it's all because one local karate instructor, gave them an opportunity.
These Karate students have all the excuses one could need for not succeeding. But they chose to ignore the excuses. One's legally blind, the other autistic. Both have set us national records right out of a dojo in Hixson.
Three years ago Katie Whipple knew nothing about Karate, and now she stands tall with U.S. National medals around her neck.
Whipple said, "I actually always wanted to take karate and tried to approach other sensei's about taking karate but was refused."
Refused because Whipple is legally blind. She has a rare eye disorder. The brighter the lights are the less she seesand anything outside of three feet is near impossible to make out.
That's when Sensei Corey Green with Green's Karate entered the picture. Green's not afraid to teach anyone. Within seven months Whipple won Silver in Kata at the 2012 US Nationals becoming the first legally blind person to medal in the non-handicap division.
Whipple said, "if it was a message to the public it would give people a chance and let them prove to you what they're capable of doing rather than assuming they can't."
That's what Green's Karate is all about. In seven years Corey has led 30 students to nationals, they've brought back 29 medals. Four of those belong to special needs students. One to Whipple and three to brown belt Ryan Rogers the first special needs students on record to ever medal at nationals in non-handicap divisions.
Sensei Green said, "what I'm finding is special needs people are becoming easier to teach than typical people. Why do you think that may be? it's because typical people have a sense of entitlement and want everything now. A lot of people quit and don't want to follow through. People with special needs, this is a therapy for them."
Rogers and Whipple are living proof. For Whipple it's been a boost in confidence and for Rogers it's peace of mind, something he battles daily.
Rogers said, "it kinda relieves me of the stress at work or home or anything. My mind will just go at ease more"
Sensei Green says he plans to lobby congress and insurance companies because he believes Karate can be therapy for other special needs students and that Rogers and Whipple are just the start.
Green said, "we teach anyone that wants to learn, as long as they're willing to learn, that's it."
Both Ryan and Katie plan to continue competing in the non-handicap division... Ryan expects to have his black belt in a few months. After that he's aiming at the U.S. National Team.