The Dragon Cloud Karate Dojo performed its last black belt test in Pahrump on April 21.
The school does not have a physical presence in Pahrump, the karate dojo (school) owned by Jose Hernandez closed its doors in February 2016, when he retired.
But the spirit of Dragon Cloud still remains as they performed their last black belt test in Pahrump for three candidates, Reagan Adams, Deborah Talley and Jacob McKnight. All three of the candidates passed their grueling seven-hour test.
“Officially, this was the last black belt test that will be held in Pahrump,” Hernandez said. “But this doesn’t mean that one of the 500 Dragon Cloud members couldn’t get a black belt from another Dragon Cloud Dojo, the closest one being in San Jose, California.”
Hernandez said besides San Jose, there is one other in California, in Gilroy. Another one is in West Virginia. One could be one opening in Oregon and Idaho soon.
Hernandez founded the Dragon Cloud organization 40 years ago. He had been open for 12 years in Pahrump and is a seventh-degree black belt. Hernandez has been practicing martial arts since 1963.
The black belt candidates
Hernandez talked about the students who were tested.
“Two were from out of town,” Hernandez said. “McKnight had to come from Idaho and Talley came all the way from Oregon. The students from out of town had good foundations in karate and also had family members to guide them in their training. The one student from Pahrump, Reagan, had Andrew Gonzalez, who just got his second-degree black belt.”
Reagan Adams, the only black belt candidate who lives in Pahrump, is a sophomore at Pahrump Valley High School, where she is an honor student. She is also in Junior ROTC and is on the wrestling team.
Heather Ruth, Adams’s mother, said that Gonzalez gave Adams some firm support and encouraged her a lot.
When her karate school closed shop, Hernandez assured her she would be able to test this year.
“I really never doubted that I would have this test,” she said. “I was very excited to get this done for I have been working on this for five years. I wasn’t too nervous about not passing.”
Part of Gonzalez’s training for his second degree was to bring a student from white belt to green and provide instruction to those who needed it, like Adams.
“I will be working on my third-degree black belt and will be required to bring a student from green belt to black belt,” Gonzalez said. “As a first-degree black belt, I was an instructor and an assistant.”
McKnight had his father, Steven McKnight, guide him through to black belt. Steven McKnight, also a black belt, just earned his third-degree.
Karate is a lifetime commitment
Although Hernandez retired as he says, “from commercial karate,” he remains a teacher.
“My situation has changed,” he said. “I am providing guidance to other schools.”
The graduation of the three black belts required a panel of 15 black belts, and despite a formal class not being in town, Hernandez had no problems filling the panel. Only four black belts came from out of town. The rest were all local and former students of Dragon Cloud.
In all, 21 black belts in Pahrump are affiliated with Dragon Cloud, Hernandez said.
“To have 11 black belts in town for the test was a feat in itself,” he said. “I had to fly in the other four, and that means I had to pay for that out of my pocket.”
Karate still being taught
Hernandez said he will take serious students, but where can a beginner start in town?
Gonzalez has a class with NyE Communities coalition, but he doesn’t rank the students because it is a special program. The bottom line is one can talk to him about finding an instructor by calling him at 775-727-9970.
Will there ever be another Dragon Cloud in Pahrump? If so, Hernandez won’t be opening one. It will have to come from another Dragon Cloud black belt.
“That many black belts does not mean there will be another dojo in town,” Gonzalez said. “Not many black belts want to open a dojo. And just because you have a black belt doesn’t make you a good instructor. I plan on opening a Dragon Cloud Chapter in Nevada.”
Happy to stay retired
Hernandez will continue to stay retired and help former students advance.
“I am happy with my legacy,” he said. “I like the black belt candidates we had lately. We are growing stronger and the candidates I think are smarter. About 75 percent of the latest black belts have been college graduates or are going into college. It’s more college graduates than in the ‘80s. The students are more disciplined and value education more.”
Contact sports editor Vern Hee at email@example.com