Going into the Christmas holidays, Chattanoogan Ryan Rogers can cherish historic achievements from the last two years - because of a discovery on Halloween.
Representing Green's Karate on Hixson Pike, Rogers won a bronze medal in kata (form) and a silver in kumite (sparring) in the men's 18-to-34 novice division at the 2012 U.S. Karate Nationals. He won a bronze in 18-34 men's intermediate kata in this year's nationals at Greenville, S.C.
In the meantime, he became the first Chattanooga-born person to serve the USA-NKF as a nationals judge, doing so at the 2012 event along with his teacher, Sensei Corei Green.
Those all took on extra significance when Rogers was diagnosed this fall with autism spectrum disorder level 3 (Asbergers), making him the "first documented person in history," according to Green, with those non-handicap-division competition achievements as well as the judging component at U.S. Karate nationals.
Green has been a pioneer in guiding special-needs students to national-level accomplishments, beginning with Brandon Earnshaw, with moderate autism, medaling in 15-younger handicap competition in 2007 and 2008. That continued with the first female with autism to qualify for the nationals in the non-handicap competition in 2010 and then Katie Whipple in 2012, the first blind female to go to nationals in a non-handicap division -- and a silver medalist in 18-34 women's beginner competition as well as a 16-older handicap gold medalist.
But Green wants to be known as more than a special-needs sensei, and he had success with other students at this year's nationals. David Brady of Dunlap won gold in men's 35-45 beginner kumite from Green's Karate, and Sonny Ravinder, Angelina Short and Sophia Baleerio earned silver as a 9-under team in synchronized kata.