Gypsum native destined for big things |

Gypsum native destined for big things

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyWill Brendza connects with a roundhouse kick on his opponent during training on Thursday. Brendza is a 16-year-old martial artist from Gypsum.

EDWARDS, Colorado ” Will Brendza might not be the next Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris, but he’s certainly trying.

The multi-talented Gypsum native is an accomplished martial artist. Brendza brought home silver and bronze medals from the Amateur Athletic Association Junior Olympic Games held Aug. 1-2 in Detroit.

It’s not like Brendza was beating up on yellow belts, either. The Eagle Valley junior-to-be competed in the elite black-belt division at middleweight ” 148-160 pounds. Only 8 percent of the athletes in Detroit medaled.

“I’ve been to dozens of competitions and at Will’s level ” the elite black-belt division ” I’ve never seen that level of talent,” Will’s father, John, also a martial artist, said. “It was really impressive. Every one of the kids who stepped into the ring to compete had the potential to be a champion.”

The ascension to award-hogging martial artist was relatively quick for Will. An advertisement for a new after-school program caught Brendza’s eye six years ago and he’s been competing ever since for the Inyodo Martial Arts School in Edwards. Under the direction of master instructor Jason Field, Brendza rapidly earned new and more prestigious belts.

Brendza strapped on his black belt for the first time at age 15.

“He earned his black belt in five years and that’s a lot of work,” Field said. “To me, it’s the equivalent of a college degree.

“He started with me as a fifth-grader, and not only has it been six years, but it’s been a dramatic six years ” from a child to a young man. He’s a leader at the school and he has a consistent personality.”

The Junior Olympic Games in Detroit matched Brendza against some of the top competition in the nation. To prepare for the event, he trained five times per week and mixed up his routine by climbing 14ers and swimming to build endurance. The rigorous schedule paid off.

“I think going to the tournament was an excellent experience,” Brendza said. “You learn so much. Training with your school is great, but when you go to a tournament, you see what other people are doing and you learn a lot.”

Brendza qualified for the national tournament by winning the Colorado state championship in Olympic style sparring. He also claimed second in the taekwondo forms competition and third in Olympic point sparring at the tournament in Loveland.

With all the accolades coming his way, Brendza may be in line for a tryout with the U.S.A. National Taekwondo Team. Brendza is also working toward another ambition out of the ring.

“I would love to be on the national team,” Brendza said. “Going to the Olympics would be really cool. But what I really want to do is the choreography for movies and TV shows. I’m really interested in film.”

Brendza choreographs martial arts demos for as many as 15 people at Inyodo Martial Arts, which has roughly 275 members. Last year, he did the choreography for a fight scene in a school play at Eagle Valley. Brendza is already leaning toward the University of Colorado for its film school after he graduates from Eagle Valley.

“The demos are really good,” Field said. “These guys have a liking for the camera. They like to do big martial arts like in the movies. Taekwondo lends itself to Jackie Chan-type choreography. They are able do the things you see on the big screen.”

No matter what Brendza chooses to do in the future, it’s likely he’ll connect with either his next roundhouse kick or choreographed fight scene.

Sports writer Ian Smith can be reach at 970-748-2935 or

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