BY CHARLES WHISNAND
Appeal Sports Editor
The students at Carson City's Chi Kwan Taekwondo begin every sentence with sir when they first talk to someone and end with sir when asked to respond themselves.
It's that kind of discipline and respect that led eight students at the school to complete their black belt exams on Saturday. Students at Chi Kwan under Master Chi Duong, the school's owner and head instructor, range from ages 4 to 70. And the students who completed their black belt exam on Saturday ranged in ages from 12 to 54-year-old Robert Zappettini of Carson City, who earned his fourth degree black belt.
Joining Zappettini were 13-year-old Taylor Bradshaw, 15-year-old Erin Chang, 14-year-old Nick Hummel and 13-year-old Logan Williams all of Carson City and 14-year-old Cody Campbell of Stagecoach, who all earned their first degree black belt; and 17-year-old Paul Chang and 12-year-old Zach Rorison of the Bay Area, who both earned their second degree black belt.
Rorison studied at Chi Kwan before moving to the Bay Area, but it was important enough for him to earn his second degree black belt at the school that he came back to Carson.
The eight students went through a 3 1/2 -hour test on Saturday that included sparring, forms, self-defense, the breaking of boards and bricks and weapons. Among the weapons were spears, swords and fans (which can be a surprisingly dangerous weapon).
As part of the test the students also had to read a two-page essay. Essay topics for each student were:
Bradshaw " The intimidation of the brick; Campbell " My art and I; Hummel " My master, my father; Logan Williams " Unity of mind, body and spirit; Erin Chang " The monster in my dream; Rorison " Taekwondo and I; Paul Chang " Empty mind; Zappettini " Desire and commitment.
The eight joined other Chi Kwan black belt students, including 60-year-old Ralph Seiler, a fourth degree black belt and 20-year-old Josh Rankin, a third degree black belt, who lives in Las Vegas. Master Chi is himself an eighth degree black belt.
Each student had to progress through the four levels of each belt " white, yellow, green, blue and red " before reaching black belt where there's a total of 10 degrees.
Zappattini talked about his essay topic when discussing how far he's come. "The first word that comes to mind is persistence," he said. "It's a lot of hard work, persistence. It's rewarding."
Zappattini has studied taekwondo for 10 years. "I was always interested in the martial arts," he said.
Many of the same themes came up when the students talked about what it meant to earn a black belt. Many of the students also talked about how earning a black belt was really the beginning of a new process rather then the ending of an old one.
"It's kind of like a new beginning," Rorison said. "The higher you get the more knowledge you obtain."
"I think because I came so far in taekowndo and it would be a waste not to get my black belt," Rorison also said about why the accomplishment was so important.
Erin Chang said she expects to continue with taekwondo at least through college. "I wanted to learn a little bit more about my heritage," said Chang about why she took up taekwondo.
"I definitely think it's a big accomplishment that most people don't make in their lives," Chang also said about earning a black belt.
For Paul Chang, who will be a senior at Carson High and is a standout for the CHS boys swim team, said the process was more important to him than the accomplishment. When Seiler asked him what's most important Chang said, "What's in here," pointing to his head.
And Chang stated the most obvious reason for why he does taekowndo. "I do enjoy it quite a bit," he said.
Many of the students talked about what the school has done for them as well. "They've taught me to respect others and to be a gentleman," Campbell said.
Campell also said that the black belt meant "that I've accomplished one of my goals and it was hard to do."
"It's one of the greatest accomplishments of my life, symbolizing the hard work and effort," Williams said. About the school, Williams added, "it's become a second home to me."
Hummel said he began taekwondo to "learn how to defend myself and how to become a better person. It builds your character and it prepares you for the challenges up ahead."