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Biker, black belt, bowed strings -- all for the fun of it

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Nora Kniskern's brother, Carl Wilcox of Montrose, has initiated several climbing expeditions of Colorado's 14'ers. Nora and Mark have joined Carl in climbing Mount Sneffels, Uncompaghre Peak, Handies Peak, Sunlight Peak and Precipice and Courthouse. Photo

Nora Kniskern is a member of Women on the Move, bike riders who ride every Friday with their buddies. Their rides average about 30 miles. Recently their ride was from Paonia to Crawford, back by Needlerock to Paonia for lunch. Sometimes they schedule a longer ride or participate in local charity rides.

Nora and her husband Mark lived in Milwaukee. Nora was having difficulties with her sinuses and in 1993 visited her brother, Carl Wilcox, who lives in Montrose.

She recalls, "I felt so healthy in Colorado and decided, 'This is where I want to be some time."

In August 1996 Nora and Mark moved to Delta. They bought their current house in 1997.

Mark taught math, physics and computer programming at Delta High School and Nora went to work for Delta Family Physicians.

In January 1998 their son David was born.

Mark is now a software engineer for Twentieth Century Fox, and Nora is retired.

Nora's dad was a professor, teaching biochemistry engineering at University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. He was also a highly proficient pianist. He played in church, at Christmas parties and other social gatherings for their fellow professors and families.

"Our mom insisted that all three of her children take piano lessons for five years," Nora said. Nora considered herself a piano failure and started violin lessons when she was eight or nine.

Her violin teacher, Jennette Hoff, was excellent with children and carried a teaching commitment of 200 students, "teaching every breathing moment," Nora recalls. Several of Hoff's older, proficient students assisted in teaching Hoff's younger students.

When Hoff passed away, several of those older students continued teaching Hoff's younger students. During Nora's senior year of high school, she taught violin in that capacity.

As a college freshman, Nora auditioned and was accepted as a violinist in the regular orchestra and the chamber orchestra at University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.

Nora has played with the Valley Symphony Orchestra as a violinist since the early 2000s. She is a student of Debbie TenNapel, concert mistress of the Valley Symphony Orchestra and conductor of the Valley Youth Orchestra.

During the rehearsals of the Valley Youth Orchestra, Nora works with the young musicians as a mentor. She will play her violin with the student and guide him or her with fingering, bowing, rhythm and counting.

In the Valley Youth Orchestra, the young musicians fall into three classifications: concertino for the youngest, philharmonic for the middle in ability, and symphonic for advanced musicians. Some of the youth in symphonic classification play in the Valley Symphony Orchestra.

Mark and Nora's son, David, is also a violinist. David and Nora have played violin duets at weddings, funerals and other occasions.

One of Nora's favorite activities is karate.

"Karate is good for self-defense and good for self-confidence, especially for children and women," Nora said. "But it is also good for muscle toning, which helps us keep physically strong.

"Karate helps you develop focus and concentration. You have to focus in karate."

Nora's karate sensei (teacher) is Rodney Grantham. He teaches Seidokan, a karate style from Okinawa.

"Sensei Rodney is a gifted teacher. He's perceptive, understanding and sensitive. I've really learned a lot from him," Nora said.

"He does not let us get overwhelmed, and leads us gradually. He's supportive, showing us the next step, or kata, is the natural thing. People learn easily from him."

Grantham hosted the International Seidokan Black Belt Conference in 2009 at Camp Cedaredge.

The conference was open to students worldwide with black belts or advanced brown belts. People came from far away, including Japan and Puerto Rico, and stayed at the camp. Local people drove up every day, Nora said.

Sensei Grantham taught classes at the conference, as did guest sensei. There is no language barrier in karate.

Sensei Grantham currently holds a sixth degree black belt. As a master, people respect him and seek him out for his knowledge of Seidokan.

Belt designations go from white to yellow to green to brown to black. The apparel karate activists wear is called a gi (pronounced gee).

Nora began karate lessons in 2005. She currently holds a third degree black belt, earned in 2015. She earned first degree black belt in 2010, second degree black belt in 2012. Next summer, August 2019, she hopes to achieve fourth degree black belt.

"One of the first things you learn in karate is how to fall," Nora said. "This is important as you will be falling a lot in training.

"Practicing karate is cumulative; each kata (learning form) progresses in complexity, building on what you have learned before. All katas are teaching tools. The basic first kata is kihon, and in karate you will always be doing kihon kata until you die ... or quit training."

All students are expected to teach each other in a positive, supportive way.

"You learn the most by teaching, more than any other way," Nora said.

Nora attends classes on Monday and Wednesday at the dojo (training hall) in Cedaredge, starting at 6:30 p.m. In addition, there are advanced classes on Sunday evenings.

Nora will teach adult classes for sensei Grantham for three weeks this fall when Grantham goes to Okinawa with fellow student sensei Adam DeAngelo.

Nora's husband Mark practiced karate for about a year and a half, earning a yellow belt. When he joined Twentieth Century Fox, he was traveling a lot and couldn't work the classes into his schedule.

Son David started karate lessons when he was eight years old, earned the third stripe on a green belt, then decided to quit. There were not many children his age in the classes at that time.

Nora notes that karate is never offensive. "It is for protection, training, education and discipline," she emphasizes.

There are five special people that Nora feels gratitude to and thankfulness for being there to enable her to be involved in these three activities that bring such meaning and joy to her life. They are her husband Mark; Lucy Orros, good friend and workout partner; her karate sensei Rodney Grantham; Debbie TenNapel for both Valley Symphony and Valley Youth Orchestra; and Sydney Shaw, organizer of Women on the Move.

"These people inspire me to be a better person; they lead by example. I'm extremely fortunate to learn from them and have them in my life," Nora said.

The Kniskern Family: Mark, Nora and David
Nora Kniskern, feet firmly planted, and Ben Resz, on the floor, are practicing prearranged kumite technique to use in self-defense.
Nora is an avid bike rider and a member of Women on the Move, a group of friends who ride every Friday.
Violinists Nora Kniskern, son David Kniskern, and nephew Tom Hall play at Ridgway Park for the wedding reception of Nora’s brother.
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