Jacksonville woman with down syndrome earns Black Belt

She becomes the first person with down syndrome to do so at Zone Martial Arts School on Beach Boulevard.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – 29-year-old Christina Haas earned a first-degree black belt in karate this weekend during a ceremony at Hanna Park.

She becomes the first person with down syndrome to do so at Zone Martial Arts School on Beach Boulevard. It was a moment Christina Haas spent the last four years working toward.

“It feels powerful,” Christina said about every time she puts on the belt. “I like to feel power and strength.”

This achievement is something her parents say they will never forget.

“It was a joy,” said Christina’s mother, Luisa. “I was so proud of her because she has been working so hard.”

Christina endured more than a dozen grueling tests over the years. They challenged her physical and mental endurance. Some of the drills included takedowns, defense mechanisms, and breaking boards.

“Back chuck, front chucks, all of that stuff,” she said.

At 29 years old, Christina handled it all flawlessly. Luisa and Michael Haas say their daughter is fearless and encouraged the family to take up karate, including Michael and Christina’s younger sister, Gemma.

“She pushed me to go,” Michael said, as they would go to the school more than three times a week. “She pushed all of us to go every day,”

“She is not a quitter that’s for sure,” said Luisa.

Erik Ekholm is the instructor at Zone Martial Arts. He said Christina had to stop attending sessions during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She missed more than a year, 15 months to be exact.

Ekholm said he feared he and his staff would never see her again as a student. But Christina was determined to go through the doors eventually to earn that black belt. That is exactly what she did and using everything she learned at Zone Martial Arts.

“Being in the zone, staying on target and following through,” is a statement students abide by. Christina inspired many along the way.

“I would like to say she is an angel,” Luisa said. “She teaches me every day.”

“To watch her persevere and to just set her mind to it and accomplish that goal, that is what is important in life,” Michael said.

“Perseverance and I can fight for you,” Christina said. “That cannot be broken.”

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