We truly value our community at Easton, from our students to coaches and staff, and all those who put in extra time to help around the academy. The disciplines we teach are important, but in the end, they are tools. They’ll only go as far as the people who use them, and how.
Time and time over, we hear our members say how it’s the people – their friends, partners, and classmates — that kept them coming back when they really didn’t want to when they were unsure about this whole martial arts thing. (At least, until they got properly addicted.)
Our community is arguably the heart and soul of the whole operation, and each month we want to shout out some very special members of this community. Not only do they show up and do their part but they’re also great partners and interesting humans.
This month, we highlight Tristan Starr, Julian Preston and Jonathan Montoya.
Tristan Starr, Easton Kids
Easton’s Kids program gives children the opportunity to express their energy in a safe and discipline-oriented environment which aims to prepare them for everyday life encounters while learning the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Tristan Starr, 11, has been with Easton since September of last year, about eight months after his dad, Etienne De Villiers (one of our newest Kickboxing coaches), joined in January.
Tristan began training Muay Thai and Krav Maga three years ago before taking a break from martial arts. However, seeing his dad enjoy Muay Thai at Easton, Tristan thought it would be a good idea to start up again.
He hardly ever misses class, and what drives him to keep coming back is “mostly learning new things so I don’t get bullied around at school,” he says.
He tells Easton that he used to have a problem with bullies, specifically the verbal kind, but martial arts has given him the confidence to stand up to them. Which is good, he says, seeing as “there’s gonna be a lot in high school!” (Though, hopefully not.)
Tristan’s favorite part of Easton includes seeing his friends everyday — shout out to Karina Madinger, who he’s done Muay Thai and Krav Maga with since he was eight. He’s hoping for at least a purple or brown belt, he tells us when we ask him what he envisions for his future in martial arts. We believe in you, Tristan!
Julian Preston, Easton Muay Thai
Julian, 26, currently drives two hours one-way from Wyoming to train at Easton three to four times a week, and has since December 2020.
Julian has wrestled his whole life, began striking in high school with boxing, and started training Muay Thai when he was 20 as extra training for his then-current job as a SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen) — a division of the US Navy that conducts special operation missions such as those in support of the US Navy SEALS.
While an end goal for Julian includes fighting professionally, the thing that drives him on the mats is the same thing that drives him in his career (now in the reserves, he works for the US government as a security contractor, getting deployed for months at a time) — the warrior lifestyle.
“It’s the community I’ve been raised in for the last seven years,” he tells Easton. “I came in when I was 18 and have been raised around guys who are like a bunch of warriors.”
All of the men in Julian’s family have also served in the military, and this drove him to continue the line of warriors. This connection to defense, protection and honor was even more deeply ingrained when he lived and trained in Thailand for a month and saw how Muay Thai permeated every aspect of the fighters’ lives.
His favorite part of Easton is the community! (Could you guess?) And luckily he’ll be moving closer to the drive is only a two-hour round-trip commute. And lucky for us too, since he began shadowing Kickboxing classes and we’re pumped to have him in rotation!
Jonathan Montoya, Easton Jiu-Jitsu
Jonathan, 23, has trained with us since last August. He used to wrestle in middle and high school, and as he got older, realized that if push came to shove, he needs to know how to defend himself and his two-and-a-half-year-old son.
Along with becoming a better fighter (Jonathan aims to compete in Jiu Jitsu) and staying fit, the knowing-how-to-defend-himself piece is largely what drives him to keep coming back. Jonathan also began training Muay Thai because in his words, in a self-defense situation, he’d rather not be rolling around on the ground unless he has to.
Like so many others, Jonathan’s favorite part of Easton is its community. He enjoys making new friends and having teachers that not only care about what they do as coaches, but also care on a personal level.
In fact, even though he lives in Colorado, Jonathan works in Wyoming and commutes to the academy either before or after work to clean for Easton — something we greatly appreciate!
For Jonathan, martial arts doesn’t have an end goal; it’s a life-long practice. He wants to get his black belt and compete and eventually participate in Muay Thai smokers. “Got to keep the blade sharp,” he says.
Jonathan’s advice to anyone hesitant to begin training?
“The first step is the hardest,” he says, “but once you get into it, you’ll fall in love. To get your black belt, you’ll be training eight to 10 years, maybe longer — so don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a day. It’s a long journey.”
We couldn’t agree more, and we’re so lucky to have Jonathan, Julian and Tristan in our Easton Longmont community!
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