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Face of Defense: Soldier Continues Family’s Martial Arts Tradition

By Army Spc. Sophia R. Lopez
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, June 17, 2008 – Army Staff Sgt. Dimas Estrada uses taekwondo to keep himself and other soldiers busy, teaching classes in the sport five days a week at the Paul R. Smith Fitness Center here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Staff Sgt. Dimas Estrada, left, engages Ukrainian Army 1st Lt. Andrey in a sparring match during a taekwondo class June 10, 2008, on Camp Victory, Iraq. Estrada, an air and missile defense operations sergeant for Task Force Mountain, is carrying on his family's taekwondo tradition while deployed. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sophia Lopez
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

While growing up in Phoenix, Estrada learned the sport of taekwondo from his father, a black belt. Continuing the family tradition, Estrada is passing on the Korean martial art to his own children.

Estrada earned his black belt in 2006 in Afghanistan. Prior to his deployment, Estrada, an air and missile defense operations sergeant, enrolled his children in classes in Watertown, N.Y., to keep them busy while he was gone.

Practicing the sport here helps connect him to his kids back home, even though they are thousands of miles away, Estrada said.

“This sport really brings my family together,” he said. “The taekwondo school where my kids attend is almost like a family readiness group. Most of the students there are military family members, and the instructor told me that my children [would] be in good hands.”

He said the sport is a good way for his children or anyone else to make friends, increase their flexibility, relieve stress and stay in shape.

Estrada’s children already are winners in the sport, having collected more than a dozen trophies. His 7-year-old son, Christian, is now a red belt, and his 6-year-old daughter, Christianna, recently earned a blue belt.

“I’m really proud of my children, not just because they are following in my footsteps, but because they really enjoy the sport,” Estrada said. “Regardless of how many tournaments they compete in or how many trophies they win, I will always be proud of them.”

Estrada understands first-hand the risks involved in the sport. He was unable to compete for several years due to injuries and a knee surgery.

“I was cautious at first of [my children] getting hurt, but now I have confidence in them,” he said.

When he redeploys from Iraq, he said, another family member can help him train: His wife, Deanna, has recently taken up the sport.

Taekwondo, which uses only the hands and feet to strike, is regarded as the world’s most popular form of martial arts, having the most practitioners.

(Army Spc. Sophia R. Lopez serves in the Multinational Division Center Public Affairs Office.)

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