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BY CHRIS O’DELL, [email protected]
Published: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 2:31 PM CST
Eight years ago, William Binns III was a promising brown belt under the direction of seven-time U.S. Karate champion Tim Kirby.

Binns was also a bright student at the University of Texas in Austin, majoring in chemical engineering.

However, around that time, the now 32-year-old began a downward spiral that involved drugs and depression. That despondency ultimately led Binns to attempt suicide by way of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head

But Binns survived the incident, sustaining permanent brain damage and paralysis to his right side. The wound also caused multiple strokes and seizures.

“It’s amazing that he’s still alive,” Kirby said. “He’s just an amazing individual that does not know the word can’t.”

Kirby said Binns was as gifted as any student he had before the injury.

“He was truly one of the most talented brown belts in the country,” he said.

Kirby initially trained Binns at Kirby’s Karate and Fitness in Round Rock. The seventh degree black belt owner eventually moved his gym to North Texas though and temporarily fell out of contact with Binns. Not long after the accident, Kirby and Vision Martial Arts owner Diane Reeves decided to reach out to Binns and get him back into the gym after hearing the news of his injury.

“We did a trial class first and he hasn’t quit since,” Reeves said. “He’s an amazing individual. We really enjoy having him here.”

Despite the numerous obstacles that Binns faces every day, he decided to dedicate a majority of his free time to earning the black belt that he was never able to acquire before his injury. He began training regularly at Vision Martial Arts in Plano, working out nearly every day after his first training session.

“His determination is what impresses me the most,” Reeves said. “He is not a quitter. No matter the obstacles, he’s got the perseverance to get through them.”

Binns first had to begin relearning everything he had lost due to the brain damage. His mother, Pearlie, said he always knows what is going on but doesn’t always know how to get it out.

“It’s really frustrating sometimes,” Binns said.

For someone that had to relearn every word, Binns endured major setbacks in his martial arts career. However, progress began to increase with each training session, eventually allowing Binns to have partial use of his right side.

“He improved on just about every level,” Reeves said. “His verbal skills have gotten better and his physical skills have gotten much better.”

The training has also cut down on the number of seizures Binns has suffered in the last several months.

“At first it was ridiculous,” he said. “But it’s gotten a lot better now.”

Along with training at Vision Martial Arts, Binns also participates in the Pate Rehabilitation program, designed specifically for brain injured individuals. The program focuses on returning the injured participants to their highest possible level of independence and quality of life.

“It’s really demanding,” Binns said. “But it’s good for me.”

The hard work eventually paid off for Binns in a big way. On May 20, 2010, the 32-year-old became the proud owner of a black belt in martial arts, joining his instructor in that category.

“There’s no telling that guy no,” Kirby said. “If he’s convinced he’s going to do something then he does it. And this wasn’t an honorary black belt or anything. He earned it as much as anyone ever has.”

Kirby, who has produced 58 black belt students in his career, noted that Binns’ journey stood out above all the rest.

“It’s a heart-warming story,” he said. “It’s heart-wrenching as well. It’s the most inspiring story I’ve ever been a part of.”

Reeves echoed those sentiments.

“I’ve seen people overcome things before,” she said, “but he has definitely overcome more than I’ve ever seen anyone do before.”

Binns currently lives at home with his mother, who helps with his everyday life.

“He’s an absolute joy to be around,” Pearlie said. “I’m glad he’s here with me.”

And the story was only made possible because of a simple motto that Binns now lives by.

“Never stop trying,” he said.

Since Binns has earned his black belt, he can be seen at the gym helping other students in their journey to acquire a black belt. He said teaching the kids is something he truly enjoys doing now.

“I really enjoy helping them out and teaching the others,” Binns said.

Reeves and Kirby now use Binns’ story as motivation for other students who may feel discouraged or upset at times.

“Everybody loves him there,” Reeves said. “He’s a real hero to the kids. We use him as an example all the time by telling them if Will can do it, then they don’t have any excuses.”