Welcome to our series, #WHYoming, brought to you in partnership by Kaumo Law.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
This week, I had a chance to sit down with Willie Pineda. He is a 10th degree black belt and a teacher of the martial art of Kenpo Karate. He’s the founder of Pineda’s Kenpo Karate studio in Rock Springs. Many call him by name, while his students refer to him as Sifu, a Chinese term for master/teacher.
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Willie, how did you end up in Rock Springs?
I was born here.
Willie, how did you end up opening your karate studio?
(Willie started practicing Kenpo Karate as a teenager. I lived in Colorado for many years learning and teaching in Kenpo Karate studios throughout before returning to Rock Springs, where he would carry on the Kenpo Karate legacy.)
I helped start three studios in Colorado, so I decided to start one of my own in Rock Springs.
What is something unique about you?
My dedication and passion for karate. I am also very competitive.
(Willie has been inducted as an Outstanding Martial Artist into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame, as well as the Kenpo International Hall of Fame.)
What do you appreciate most about our community?
Our community is small and the people are friendly. And it’s close to fishing and hunting.
(Willie is a big fisherman and enjoys taking his grandsons fishing on nice days.)
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
My advise to people is to be honest and nice to others. Follow the Golden Rule.
“I come to you with only karate, empty hands.
I have no weapons, but should I be forced to defend myself, my honor, my principals, should it be a matter of life or death, of right or wrong, then here are my weapons, my empty hands.”
~ Karate Creed
Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?
The best hang out for me is the golf course. And anywhere I’m hanging out with my family.
(Willie is a member of the Men’s Senior Golf Association at the White Mountain Golf Course. One can often find him on the golf course when he’s not in his karate studio.)
Would you rather walk, ride a bike, take a horse or drive a car?
I would rather walk or take a car.
What would you sing at karaoke night?
I would sing The Unicorn Song by The Irish Rovers
How would your friends describe you?
They would say I’m very serious at Karate and a jokester outside.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
When I got my black belt; it’s the hype. I worked so hard for it.
My second best accomplishment is reaching the highest level in martial arts, a 10th degree black belt. Three masters of karate including my old teacher Al Tracy, the Great Grandmaster of Kenpo Karate Association of America came in to watch one my classes last year and surprised me with the plaque.
Al Tracy is passed away now. I’m honored that he gave me my 10th degree.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?
Bruce Lee. I’ve always been a big fan.
Why do you continue to live in Wyoming?
For the kids.