Children in the Taekwondo class at Northwest Colorado Taekwondo practice their punches while warming up before a class Monday afternoon. Paul Cruz started the karate classes three years ago in Craig, and hosts students ages 3-54 six days a week.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Children in the Taekwondo class at Northwest Colorado Taekwondo practice their punches while warming up before a class Monday afternoon. Paul Cruz started the karate classes three years ago in Craig, and hosts students ages 3-54 six days a week.

Tae Kwon Do taking hold in Craig

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Children went through an obstacle course testing their agility and taekwondo techniques at Northwest Colorado Taekwondo class Monday afternoon at 420 Breeze St. Here, a white belt works her way through the kicking station of the course.

Hidden away in the world of fitness in Craig, but gaining notoriety, are the martial arts.

Northwest Colorado Tae Kwon Do, a business operating at 420 Breeze St. in a room at Holistic Health and Fitness, was started three years ago by Paul Cruz the Northwest Regional Director for Kom Do Kwan Martial Arts Association. At the time, it was a realization of a lifelong pursuit for Cruz.

“Ever since I was 14 this has been the thing I wanted to do with my life,” Cruz said.

Northwest began as a small operation in Craig, with just a handful of students showing up. Over time, though, it has taken on a life of its own.

The dojang in Holistic now boasts 70 students from all walks of life: boys and girls, men and women from ages three to 54. Parents and family members show up to classes (which take place six days a week for the various age and belt levels) just to enjoy the atmosphere.

“We’re getting big and hopefully we just keep getting bigger,” Cruz said. “The last three months I’ve signed up at least one person every week. It’s all word of mouth right now.”

Aside from the obvious benefits of learning martial arts like being able to defend oneself and gaining flexibility and strength, Cruz’s Tae Kwon Do classes offer guidance and life lessons. Among the five words members at Northwest live by are “courtesy” and “perseverance.”

“That’s the big thing with me is anybody can learn to kick and punch but learning the mental side of things is the hardest part to reach,” Cruz said. “They’re learning and having fun, but they’re also working their bodies out and conditioning their minds.”

Cruz’s goal is to provide students with a means to mental stability and problem solving.

“There’s always going to be something throwing you that curveball,” he said. “If you’re not prepared to deal with it, that’s when bad things happen.”

Cruz, who also teaches a three-hour self-defense course every other month in Craig, loves the community Northwest Colorado Tae Kwon Do has become, and especially enjoys his job because of the help he feels he can provide.

“It’s just getting these guys prepared for life,” he said. “Keeping everybody on track and mentally stable so they have a good life. This is what I do for a living and I love it.”

Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com.

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