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Beyond the belt

Martial arts instructor dedicates his teaching to son he lost last year

Posted: July 26, 2008 1:21 a.m.
Updated: September 26, 2008 5:03 a.m.

David Moreno gets the children's attention.

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On April 2, 2007, David Moreno's life changed forever.

His son Joshua Moreno, 20, a volunteer karate instructor at the Santa Clarita Community Center in Newhall, was killed in a motorcycle accident.

After the untimely death of his son, Moreno was determined to continue his son's work at the community center.

The elder Moreno, who had been teaching classes of his own at the center, took over Josh's karate class with one goal in mind - to keep kids out of trouble and away from gang violence.

He wanted to inspire the kids to rise above the negativity they were faced with on a daily basis and to cultivate into successful and fulfilled adults.

His gift to the children was his love and devotion to karate.

"I want to influence these kids to honor and respect the sport," Moreno said.

Moreno's class offers a safe haven where he teaches not only martial arts but discipline and obedience.

"I try to work them so hard that all they can think about when they go home is eating and going to sleep, and not go out and get into trouble" he said.

Under Moreno's teachings, participants have shown their skills outside of his classroom.

In January, members competed in the 2008 USA Mixed Martial Arts Winter Olympics in Las Vegas, Nev.

All 16 members that attended the competition placed in the top three of their age groups. There were 10 first place finishers, four second place finishers and two finished in third place.

This past June, members of the karate team returned to Las Vegas and showcased their talents on an even larger scale at the 2008 USA World Championships.

The team competed alongside participants from England, Canada, Guatemala and Mexico. Three of the team's competitors finished first in their event.

Moreno said that the feeling of seeing the kids succeed at competitions is the highest honor possible.

Ruben Caldera, an adult competitor on Moreno's team, was a first place finisher and the only competitor from the squad to compete in the point sparring event. In point-sparring, points are awarded based on where the opponent is struck.

Caldera, a four year karate competitor who holds red belt, said that he likes the self confidence that karate gives him. As the only adult competitor he said it's inspiring to see Moreno's work with the kids.

"He's really good," Caldera said. "He helps the kids and brings them together."

For Moreno, karate is more than the competition. His joy comes from the seeing smiles on the kids faces.

"I've learned that little one's compete from the heart," he said. "When I see them smile I know that Josh is somewhere returning that smile."

The memory of his son serves as motivation for Moreno everyday.

Moreno said he hopes to inspire the kids to be champions in life and leaders of tomorrow.

"He's just a great person and sincerely cares about the kids," said Community Center sports coordinator Efren Galindo. " He teaches them about being respectful and having determination and discipline. That's what really sets him apart."

Moreno finds that it's important to invest time outside of karate with the kids. He makes time for barbecues and beach trips, where the youth have a chance to forge a bond outside of the studio.

Moreno's vision for his young competitors is to take what he has taught them and use it in their everyday lives.

"He's not so much concerned about progress," Galindo said. " His biggest thing is watching them become great citizens and great people and take that outside the community center."

"Karate gives the kids a lot of motivation to stay out of trouble. It's a grueling sport and demands a lot," Galindo added.

Moreno said he would love to one day see the kids excelling as prosperous adults.

For him, there will be nothing better.

"One of these days they are going to be a lawyer or a doctor and I can kick back with an ice tea and say yep that was mine."

wmcneal@the-signal.com

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