Laurel 10-year-old has 250 trophies NORTH LAUREL/SAVAGE

REAL KARATE KID GETS A KICK OUT OF COMPETING N.

March 12, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

What does a typical karate prodigy want to do when he grows up?

Star in a movie with Chuck Norris, naturally.

At least that's what 10-year-old Billy Hillmuth III of North Laurel wants to do.

Billy, a fourth-grader at Forest Ridge Elementary School, is a rising star in the martial arts world.

He started karate lessons at age 4 and achieved the rank of black belt at age 7, collecting 250 trophies in regional and national karate tournaments along the way. Some of the trophies fill a corner of his family's home and a few stand taller than 4-foot-5 Billy.

Billy's latest accomplishment is being named to the D.K.T. Force One National Team, an elite group of martial arts practitioner that competes throughout the country and internationally. He helped the team win the 1992 World Karate Championship in Hawaii in November and captured first place in his age division at the tournament.

Mike Ocampo, who's taught Billy karate since he started six years ago, says the young martial arts student is "naturally gifted."

Billy's interest in karate was sparked by the movie "The Karate Kid." After seeing it, he asked his mother if he could take karate lessons.

"When he was doing the forms and the fighting [two karate techniques] I thought that was interesting," Billy said of the movie's title character.

Bill and Patty Hillmuth, Billy's parents, say that karate has helped their son mature and develop good work habits as well as provide him with self-defense skills.

"It's helped him out in school with focusing and confidence," Mr. Hillmuth said. "He stays up there in his grades."

As a preschooler Billy started taking lessons at Kim's Karate school in Laurel. He progressed through the levels of karate, represented by colored belts -- white, yellow, green, blue, red and black.

Billy first took part in regional competitions against karate students from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Delaware, and won eight grand championships and two gold medals in Maryland's Junior Olympics. He couldn't go on to the national Junior Olympics because he was under 13.

Between school, karate practice and martial arts competitions and performances, Billy has quite a demanding schedule for a 10-year-old. On average, he devotes 16 hours a week to martial arts practice.

After school he does his homework, then practices karate for a couple of hours in the basement. Three times a week he takes lessons at Ocampo's Arnis Tae Kwon Do in Arbutus and once a week he studies with a teacher to prepare for national competitions.

In addition he makes a three-hour round trip to Virginia about twice a week to practice with the D.K.T. Force One Team.

In June, Billy plans to take the test for his second-degree black belt at which he may be asked to break concrete. For the first-degree ranking, Billy had to break three wooden boards with a combined thickness of 1 1/2 inches.

Normally, karate students under 18 take a less rigorous test to receive a junior black belt, but Billy passed the adult test.

To become a grand master, a karate student must pass the nindegrees of the black belt, which could take up to 40 years.

Because he has a black belt, other students who Billy teaches at the karate school he attends, are required to call him "Mister," as a sign of respect.

A few years ago, Billy said he missed participating in more typical children's activities, but now he doesn't feel as if he's missing out on anything and he enjoys the camaraderie of the team.

"It's a whole family. Even though we're not brothers and sisters, on a team we're brothers and sisters," Billy said.

Besides Billy and one 9-year-old girl, the other team members are adults.

The team, which has a corporate sponsorship, is scheduled to travel to Australia in the summer and to Singapore in the fall to perform exhibitions, and then back to Hawaii to defend its title.

Billy said he plans to pursue his interest in karate and hopes to be able to compete in the Olympics one day.

And if he isn't able to appear in a movie with Chuck Norris, Billy's considering other careers.

He said he'd like to be either a Ninja policeman, an officer who uses martial arts skills instead of a gun, or work with his father at his car repair shop.

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