By Spc. Sophia R. Lopez, MND-C PAOJune 16, 2008
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - As a child growing up in Phoenix, Staff Sgt. Dimas Estrada learned the sport of taekwondo from his father, a black belt. Continuing the family tradition, Estrada is passing on the ancient martial arts technique 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 at World Class Taekwondo in Watertown, N.Y. He wanted to find something to keep his children busy while he was gone. Estrada also uses taekwondo to keep busy when deployed. He now teaches the sport, holding classes Tuesday through Saturday at the Paul R. Smith Fitness Center at Camp Victory. Estrada said practicing the sport here helps connect him to his kids back home even though they are thousands of miles away. "This sport really brings my family together," Estrada 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 them to make friends, increase their flexibility, relieve stress and stay in shape. His children are already winners in the sport, having collected more than a dozen trophies. His seven-year-old son, Christian, is now a red belt, and his six-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, including a knee surgery. Regarding his kids, he said, "I was cautious at first of them getting hurt, but now I have confidence in them." When he redeploys from Iraq, he expects there will be another family member who 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.