Of sound mind and body
Gypsum resident David Mills, successfully passed his black belt test in Tae Kwon Do last month in Louisiana, becoming the first student from James Lee’s Karate to attain the rank. In addition, James Lee himself advanced to third-degree black belt. The tests, which lasted a grueling six hours, covered all aspects of Tae Kwon Do, from basic techniques to advanced movement combinations and sparring. Test participants were graded by 30 judges from around the country.”It was a long, hard day,” said Mills. “After showing your technique, displaying combinations of moves and sparring 3-on-1 over the course of six hours, you’re pretty well wiped out. But, it was an amazing experience.”Mills, 26, began training in Tae Kwon Do almost four years ago as a beginner at James Lee’s. Reaching the level of black belt is a rare achievement. As he progressed through the rankings, Mills felt more and more that this was a sport meant for him.
“I’ve always been a very physical, movement-oriented person. It’s how I express my personality,” said Mills. “Tae Kwon Do combines art, skill and movement into a single activity. When you add the traditions and credentials of the sport, it becomes a part of your way of life.” Physical benefits aside, Lee said that martial arts will also help build character, self-esteem and confidence.”Tae Kwon Do encompasses every aspect of life,” said Lee, who founded James Lee’s Karate in 1998. “It’s more than just the techniques – it’s about respect for yourself and others, accomplishing goals and learning to relax while building energy.”Lee began training in Tae Kwon Do at the age of 9.
“It’s something I impress on all of my students, from the 4 year olds to the 60 year olds,” said Lee. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the fastest, the strongest or the most technical. As long as you’re giving your best, Tae Kwon Do will give its best back to you.”Lee has been recognized many times as one of the best in the country. He was inducted into the Tae Kwon Do Hall of Fame in 2002; he was the 2003 United States Karate Alliance world sparring champion; he was a member of the 2002 world champion U.S. National and International Teams; both he, and the school, have been named top-10 in nation. Giving back
To earn his third-degree black belt, Lee had to demonstrate that he was giving back, as well. “From the third through the ninth degrees of black belt, you are judged not only on your physical proficiency, but more and more on what you do with your talents,” said Lee. “Starting the dojo was one way of giving back to a tradition that has given so much to me.”Lee recently completed an expansion and renovation that doubled the size of his facility in Eagle. His program offerings have been steadily growing, too. In addition to Tae Kwon Do, the dojo (school) offers instruction in Goju-Ryu Karate, cardio kickboxing, and Kobudo, a traditional combative art that originated in Okinawa. Summer camps for kids, after-school programs and tournament hosting round out the activities.”I love teaching, and I especially love working with kids,” Lee said. “I get to see so many improvements in my students, from increased confidence and respect for themselves and their families, to academic improvements and more interest in learning.”For more information on James Lee’s Karate, or to sign up for classes, call (970)-328-4360, or visit http://www.jamesleekarate.com.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.