Craig welcomed a Grand Master of martial arts to town this week, and the city will soon have a master to call its own.
Northwest Colorado Tae Kwon Do, which teaches Kom Do Kwan at Holistic Health and Fitness, was founded by Paul Cruz in Craig in 2009. While Cruz is the top dog in Craig, this week, his master Jason Thomas came to visit and administer black belt tests.
Thomas, of Austin, Texas, is the president and founder of Kom Do Kwan, and has visited Craig several times since the school opened. Every time he visits, he’s been more and more impressed.
“Every time I come here, parents tell me all about the cool things (Cruz) does for their kids and the dedication he has to this,” Thomas said. “What he’s done here is amazing. I have a school in Austin with about 100 students. Paul has 80 here. You think about the population of Austin versus Craig, and that’s unbelievable.”
Thomas is Cruz’s second master during his time in martial arts, and Cruz said since studying under Thomas, he feels he has really come into his own. It also has been fun for Cruz to be able to show off what he’s built in Craig.
“Meeting him has been the best thing that happened to me,” Cruz said. “He doesn’t come to test me, he comes to meet and see what I’m doing. And he called me and said, ‘I owe you a trip to Craig.’ My old master would never have done that. I think the school has about doubled in size since he was last here, so for him to see that is really cool.”
Thomas’ visit included some special martial arts training, such as knife defense or bow staff work for students, but the main reason he came to Craig was to help with black belt testing.
Dave Soule and Leah Powell will endure the lengthy black belt test Saturday, and Cruz will test to become a fourth-degree black belt. Soule will be the first student to go from white belt to black at the Craig school.
“It takes a lot of commitment to get here,” Soule said. “For me, martial arts has been more of an emotional state, where it’s something I’m bringing into the rest of my life. The process has been very fulfilling.”
Powell is taking her test and eventually planning on opening a new Kom Do Kwan school in Louisiana with her husband, Mike Miller, who also trains with Cruz. She expressed both excitement and nerves about the test Friday.
“It’s a very big step for me because I’ve invested a lot of time in it,” said Powell. “It’s very special that Jason (Thomas) is here because it shows that (Kom Do Kwan) really cares about their students, no matter where they are.”
Cruz is the second-in-command of Kom Do Kwan and after his fourth-degree test Saturday, Thomas said he will be given the title of master in addition to getting a higher belt. It’s a way to show the appreciation for Cruz’s dedication and passion for the martial arts and community, Thomas said.
“It’s an unbelievable accomplishment, what he does in keeping active with the community and the time he gives to this school,” he said. “If you’ve been out to see him you can tell he loves it.”
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org