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You can now call him Grand Master.

Mike Vasquez successfully tested for his eighth black belt recently at Port Huron Tae Kwon Do.

“It feels great,” he said. “Looking back, I knew it was something I could do. I had to do it to represent my school.

“I thank the good Lord for it, but it does make me feel old.”

Below is the remainder of the conversation I had with Vasquez, in which he reflects on his latest accomplishment as well as his future plans.

Hayes: How will your role change now that you are a Grand Master?

Vasquez: Grand Masters don’t compete. It’s time to give back to other instructors as well as students. I’ve always been in that position. But I’m no longer a Master Instructor; now I’m a Grand Master.

Hayes: Did the test go the way you thought it would, or did it exceed your expectations?

Vasquez: It was actually everything I expected. It was challenging, but my adrenaline was pumped up. It wasn’t just me testing. I was the highest rank testing, but there were others. Everyone was rooting for each other. We were happy to see everyone perform so well.

Hayes: Were there other students and instructors from your school testing?

Vasquez: Yes. That’s the biggest accomplishment I truly enjoy. Knowing they came to me to improve themselves and I was able to help them move on. It’s great to see someone like Shaun Pachmeyer earn his fourth-degree black belt and become a Master Instructor.

Hayes: Walk me through the day. How long did your test take, and what was the process?

Vasquez: The test started with a black belt class, which was also part of it. The class went from 10 (a.m.) to 11. We had a short, 30-minute break, and then we started back up and went to around 2:30 (p.m.). We had well over 100 people there. Everyone wanted to see their family member do well.

Hayes: How rigorous was it?

Vasquez: A two-minute form will drain you. They wanted to see me do over 10. There are punching and kicking techniques, self defense, sparring. The most interesting part to a lot of people was breaking boards. It’s a form of concentration and focus. It requires a discipline to see through objects. For my break, I broke two house bricks. I had my daughter hold them on a board on her head. I completed a roundhouse kick to break them.

Hayes: What lies ahead for you and the school after your latest accomplishment?

Vasquez: I’d like to grow our student body and have them do well in competition. Above all, I’d like to have people come here and feel good about themselves and know we teach a very tradition-rich martial art. It is not watered down. They can feel good about that and learn a true martial art.

http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20100721/SPORTS/7210325/Hayes-Vasquez-adds-8th-black-belt-to-collection