HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- Taekwondo has taken Reynaldo Martinez all over the world, he's won hundreds of competitions in the sport and he was even inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame. But those personal victories pale in comparison to the moment when he sees one of his students' eyes light up after finally "getting it."
After a short visit with Martinez, it's obvious that Taekwondo is his life's passion, but what might not be immediately apparent is that he's equally passionate about teaching it.
"Taekwondo has afforded me a lot of experiences and opportunities in life," he said. "But passing along the knowledge I have is probably the thing I most enjoy."
Martinez's journey in the Korean martial art began when he was a young boy, living in Puerto Rico.
"I think I was about 12," Martinez said. "A lot of other kids were doing different things, but (Taekwondo) just struck a chord with me and I've been doing it ever since."
A 40-year-old master sergeant who works at Hill Air Force Base, Martinez started practicing under the World Taekwondo Federation in Puerto Rico in 1987.
He was a member of the Puerto Rico national team from 1992-1995 and won a bronze medal in the 1992 Pan American games.
He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1997 and started competing for the Air Force team, winning the gold medal in his division every year from 1997-2001 and earning a spot on the U.S. Armed Forces Taekwondo team that competed against various world military teams. Taekwondo joins combat and self-defense tactics with sport and exercise.
"As you can see, I've pretty much dedicated my life to the art," Martinez said. "It's been a part of me for almost as long as I can remember."
But during all the time he was competing, Martinez was also teaching.
He's served as coach of the Air Force's Taekwondo team and has taught practitioners of all ages and skill levels in Puerto Rico, Mississippi, Germany, Japan, Kuwait, India, Afghanistan and now Utah.
"I've sort of felt it was a responsibility to pass along my knowledge," he said. "I've had some amazing teachers and I wouldn't be anywhere close to where I am, in Taekwondo or just life in general, without them."
Martinez teaches both youth and adult classes three days a week at the base's Warrior Fitness Center.
The Taekwondo lifer says he gets extra enjoyment from working with children. He teaches them more than just the physical aspects of the sport, but also tenets to live their lives by. Things like courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control and having an indomitable spirit are traits he tries to pass along.
"It's one of the most fulfilling things I get to do," he said. "When you're able to work with someone who has never done any kind of martial art before and the whole idea is completely foreign to them, but then in three years, they're getting a black belt. It's just a great sense of accomplishment and really, that's what Taekwondo is all about -- passing that knowledge along to the next generation."
Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.