PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) - On Wednesday an 11-year-old Plano boy will achieve something many other kids his age have not. Eric Ford is receiving his black belt in Tae Kwan Do and he's managed to accomplish the goal despite being born with Down syndrome.
"He does everything all the other students do," explained Eric's instructor John Drew, of Action Martial Arts in Allen. "He does his patterns, forms, board breaking, sparring."
Eric, who also has Juvenile Diabetes, has been training at Action Martial Arts for the last four years. To date, his disability hasn't stopped him from thriving in an athletic field few have mastered.
"I was kind of leery of knowing if it was the right fit or not," said Eric's mother, Anita. "He's come a long ways from the first time he walked on the mat."
Experts say achieving the level of black belt doesn't come easy. "It takes a lot of practice, a lot of repetition, a lot of hours in the gym," Master Drew said. "For Eric, it's been a long journey and he's done a great job."
"They treated him as an equal from day one and that's something I truly respect," his mother said. "He loves to come because he loves it, but he also loves to come because it's unconditional love here."
Eric is taking another major step on his journey. On Wednesday, at 5:45 p.m., he and several other students in his class are testing for their first-degree black belt.
While Eric is just relieved to finally reach his goal, his mother hopes her son will encourage others to strive for theirs. "I hope Eric is an inspiration to all individuals with Down syndrome. That's always been something we've had to work around."
Four years after that hard work began Anita says she's glad she enrolled Eric in the program that has helped him grow physically and mentally. "I knew that it would also add so much to his life," she said.
Interestingly, Eric's mom and dad started taking Tae Kwan Do classes soon after their son began, but he holds the higher rank.
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