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Behind the uniform is a potential Olympian

by Senior Airman Madelyn McCullough
446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

7/25/2014 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Reservists have all kinds of stories. The types of people, professions, and hobbies that make up the Reserve force are a diverse and interesting mix. But once the military uniform is put on, those interesting and diverse elements are often concealed.

Behind the uniform of one Air Force Reservist there hides a college student with a second degree master black belt in Okinawan karate. This young Airman has a goal of joining Team USA to one day compete in the Olympics.

Senior Airman Delano Andres, 446th Security Forces Squadron, McChord Field, Washington, began Tai Kwan Do when he was four and Okinawan karate when he was eight. He joined because his brother did it and because his parents thought the sport would teach him discipline, good character, and good morals and help him grow up to be a good kid.

"Its good discipline," he said. "It keeps you in a sane mind when life gets stressful. It helps you focus on being one with yourself."

Andres has competed in many tournaments and competitions. For the past six years, he has won the Washington state tournament, which focuses on form, sparring, and weapons. He has also competed nationally since he was 14 and has participated in the junior Olympics.

Competing in the Olympics is his ultimate goal, he said.

Getting there however, is not all that easy.

"Training wise, the biggest thing is mental toughness," Andres said. "Anyone can go through the physical pain as long as you don't give up, but being mentally strong and ready for any challenge is the biggest part because you're going to have all different types of styles thrown at you. There will be different sizes of people, different backgrounds, and stuff you don't know unless you have been competing for a while. You always have to mentally prepare yourself for whatever can happen."

He enjoys the challenge, especially because people tend to underestimate him.

"Most people are bigger than me," Andres said. "They're going to look down on me and think they'll beat me really easily."

Usually however, that's not the case.

"My thing is, if you want to win you better knock me out first, otherwise I'm either going to win by points or I'm knocking you out within the first or second round," said Andres.

Though he may have a knack for knocking people out, his training is intended more for defensive purposes.

"When you go out, it's nice to know that if someone tries to pick a fight with you or you need to defend yourself, you know what to do and how to react in that situation," he said. "Or, if you need to defend someone else, even if it's someone you don't know, you're able to do the right thing. You don't use martial arts as an offense or just because you want to beat someone up; it's more self-defense and just protecting yourself and others in a worst-case scenario."

The sport has even helped him out with his training in security forces.

"It made a lot of things a lot easier to learn going through basic and going through security forces training," he said. "During tech school, we went through combative class. It's Brazilian jujitsu and grappling, which is something out of the norm for me, but I picked it up really fast just because I'm used to learning things like that. It helped me better myself in different aspects and added to my overall skill set."

When he is not studying for school or working his two part time jobs, not including the Air Force Reserve, Andres shares his experience by teaching a karate class for ages five and up at Pioneer Middle School in Dupont, Washington.

"Martial arts is a good thing to pick up at any age," he said. "The biggest thing you're going to get out of martial arts is you're going to learn how to focus better, you'll learn mental toughness and you're going to build character, etiquette, and discipline."

Even though it can be a very challenging sport, he encourages beginners not to quit.
"If you want to join martial arts, don't give up because you think it's too hard when you start," he said. "I started when I was young and if you keep going from there you're just going to enjoy it as you grow up and it's really rewarding. I like giving back and I still train to this day. I love training, I love the mental challenge, and I love fighting. I love everything about it."

Andres will continuing training and teaching and eventually, he hopes, to try out for team USA.