By Charles Whisnand
Appeal Sports Editor
One of Bill Knapp's students just walks into the room at the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada to enter Knapp's Shukokai Karate Leadership School, but is quickly stopped by Knapp.
Knapp admonishes the student that he must first bow before he enters. While Knapp is disciplining the student, he's also actually empowering the young man at the same time, which is really what his school is all about.
Knapp began his school, which is part of the Amateur Athletic Union (AA) National Karate Program, on May 7 and already has 20 students of all ages coming for his instruction. "I'm satisfied with it," said Knapp about the turnout he's had so far.
And Knapp has plenty of credentials to run his school. He's a fifth degree black belt and master teacher with more than 35 years of training.
He represented the United States at the World Championships three times and has won more than 50 gold medals in local, regional, national and international competitions. Since he's operating an AAU school, Knapp's students also have the chance to move on to elite competitions such as the Junior Olympics.
In his more than 20 years of teaching, Knapp's students have won many national, international and Junior Olympic events. One of his students who won a world title recently graduated from the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
"You empower the student," Knapp said. "To make them more comfortable with themselves. It gives you a sense of confidence."
Knapp, 58, teaches the traditional Japanese style of karate and is only one of a few fifth degree black belts who practices his type of karate in the country. "I think there's four of us," said Knapp about the number of fifth degree black belts in the country.
"I'm on a mission for my system," Knapp said. "It provides a better way of life. Let's just say I'm on a mission for karate. It' doesn't necessarily have to be my style."
Knapp comes to Carson City after traveling all over the world and teaching karate in New York for more than 20 years.
He decided to settle in Carson after visiting his nephew, Grayson Gold, a few years ago. "I really like the area," Knapp said. "The High Sierras are a beautiful place."
He said it made sense to open a school in Carson. "Every Japanese village has a karate teacher," he said.
It's important that everyone in his school succeeds, Knapp said. "It's all about mutual benefit, (to) develop better citizens," he said. "Trying to uplift everyone, that's the idea, really."
Karate is an art-form, Knapp said. "What you have is practicing an art," he said. "Just like a piano player has to hone his notes and fingering, our students strive to hone our bodies and doing movements with them.
After a while the movements of the bodies become superlative. That's what karate is about. If you train the body the mind will follow."
But Knapp is on another mission as well. In a letter he wrote to the Carson City School District, Knapp covered his vision and covered the concern that he has that local gangs are recruiting 11 and 12 year olds.
Knapp said karate is one avenue to empowering students to avoid temptations such as gangs. "You can make better decisions," he said.
One of Knapp's top students is his son, 12-year-old Tristin Knapp, who has excelled in Junior Olympic competition.
Tristin, a seventh grader at Carson Middle School, has already achieved a high standard of green belt after training for two years.
"It's just fun to do," said Tristin on why he does karate. "You can learn self-defense. (There's) a bunch of reasons. It's cool."
Nineteen-year Rose Stanton just recently began karate. "I wanted a centering, I wanted a focus," Stanton said. "Not that I needed more discipline, but I appreciate the (discipline) of karate. It definitely keeps you in good shape. It's good for the body."
Knapp said those of all ages are welcome to join the school. "You're never too old," he said.
He also said the school can work with those who have financial concerns. For more information on the school, call Knapp, 315-9219.