Several months ago, a tumor caused Cristóbal Cortés to lose sight in one of his eyes. Initially in a state of depression, the 29-year-old soon found hope and relief in an unexpected place: a taekwondo academy.
But it was not just the place that was unconventional; Cortes’s instructor turned out to have more in common with him than the shared native land of Mexico. Guillermo Cesario, owner of Warriors of Taekwondo Martial Arts, is blind.
“He motivates me to keep going. He’s a role model,” said Cortés.
For 34-year-old Cesario, passion in his purpose goes beyond just teaching martial arts. He truly hopes to make a difference in the lives of the children and adults who attend his academy located in Atlanta.
“I want to transform people’s lives. Through the sport of taekwondo I want to inspire people to fight for their dreams,” he explained.
After moving to Georgia 16 years ago, Cesario became blind in 2003, as a result of a congenital illness known as Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy. In his darkest moments, however, Cesario found in taekwondo a refuge that lifted him out of a deep depression and gave him new direction.
With the support of his wife Marina and his sons William and Richard, Cesario opened his academy last year. He trains 25 students, both adults and children.
According to Eréndira Mondragón, her children Axel and Marvin are more responsible and disciplined since beginning training with Cesario, but she believes the experience has been enriching in other ways as well.
“My children see that they can accomplish their goals even if they can’t see, even if they are missing a foot or a hand. They see that they can do anything they want,” assured Mondragón.
Israel Alcántara, whose son Israel has autism and also attends Cesario’s academy, agrees. “He is a good example, not just for children but for everybody.”
Cesario, for his part, feels that his mission is just beginning, and he hopes to impact as many lives as he can, especially vulnerable populations such as the elderly and the homeless.
“Never give up. It’s always possible to start over, and it’s worth it to dream in this life,” assured Cesario.
“I’m grateful to the parents and the children because in one way or another they’ve believed in someone like me. Sometimes society doesn’t give us the opportunity to show what we are able to do.”
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