Taekwondo youths taking final step for black belt | CraigDailyPress.com

Taekwondo youths taking final step for black belt

Nate Waggenspack

After years of discipline and hard work, two Craig youths are ready for it all to pay off Saturday.

Tess Willems and Drake Doherty, both 12, will test for their black belts through Northwest Colorado Taekwondo, a school they've been learning from and training at for 4 1/2 years.

"They've been with me for so long. Pretty much since I started here," said Master Paul Cruz, the founder of Northwest Colorado Taekwondo. "These are two great students who wanted this and have worked for it.

"It's been cool to see them grow. (Tess) started out so shy and didn't want to try anything. (Drake), he walked in here the first time with two left feet."

Since their time with Cruz began, the two say they have learned and changed for the better. Drake thinks he is calmer through his training.

"It's taught me self-control," he said. "You can't just go out and take your anger out on whatever you want."

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Tess, as Cruz did, brought up her shyness, which she has worked hard to overcome.

"My confidence is higher," she said, adding she's more comfortable standing in front of peers and others and giving presentations.

Both are excited to work through the three-hour test they'll endure Saturday, in which they'll spar, do taekwondo forms and break boards, among other things.

Tess admitted to some nerves, but Cruz doesn't anticipate any issues with the work his students have dedicated.

"They haven't taken time off. They come to every class and they still do their sports and other activities," he said. "If a person really wants something, they'll find a way to make the time for it. So they've learned that already by age 12, how to make things happen when you want them."

To become a black belt, aside from the time that goes into advancing through the belts, students have to pass written tests and spend time teaching classes to less experienced belts. Working with new students is one aspect of his time at Northwest Colorado Taekwondo that Drake has enjoyed, and he plans on continuing.

"I'll get to keep meeting little kids like this who are like I was," he said.

Tess and Drake both plan on furthering their martial arts education and seeking higher black belt levels.

"In my mind, this is when the journey begins," Cruz said. "These guys work hard and they make good decisions. Now they're ready for true martial arts."

Contact Nate Waggenspack at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@CraigDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CDP_Sports .