published Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Blind karate champ wants to open people's eyes

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    Katie Whipple of Sequatchie County, Tenn., is shown in her karate uniform. Being blind hasn't impaired her success in the discipline.
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DUNLAP, Tenn. — Katie Whipple was born blind, but her parents raised her never to consider it a handicap.

Her many accomplishments include graduating from college, skiing expert-level slopes and living alone in Japan. Most recently, though, she captured a national karate title.

This summer, Whipple went to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to compete in the beginner women's division at the Karate National Championships. She took gold in the female disabled competition and silver in the female beginner competition.

She was the first blind female to qualify and compete in the event's nonhandicap division.

"If you think that you can do it, and you at least want to try, don't give up and let other people tell you no," she said. "Keep looking. There will be someone out there that will say, 'Hey, I'm willing to teach you. I may not know how to teach you, but I'm willing to give you a try."

Last year Whipple decided she wanted to take up karate. She asked several instructors, but none was sure how to teach her.

After a computer search, she found sensei Corey Green of Green's Karate in Chattanooga, who had experience in working with children with autism. She figured if he had worked with special-needs children, he might be up for the challenge of teaching her.

Green, who has 15 years of experience teaching people with special needs, said he didn't think twice about teaching Whipple and was excited to have her as a student. Within seven months, he had her ready to compete at the nation's highest level.

"Katie has this drive," Green said. "She has a perseverance and doesn't give up."

Whipple is continuing to take classes and working toward her karate blue belt and purple stripe.

"I hope that I can open up other people's eyes to see that they shouldn't stand in the way of people with special needs, because they are capable of doing it," she said. "And also, people with special needs to say, 'You know, if she can do it, maybe I can do something, too.' It may not be karate; it may be something else."

Whipple and a couple of other students Green teaches will do a karate presentation at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at Heritage Plaza.

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