Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Family kicks it together

The Suan family. Front: Sharon Suan, Back from left to right, Jennifer Suan, Eric Suan, Maria Suan and Camerin Suan.

As Eric and Marie Suan flip through the family photo album in their martial arts gym on Thornton Street, Eric remarks he can tell the ages of their children by the color of the belts they were wearing in the photographs.

In many of the photographs, the Suans are wearing their dobok, a traditional Tae Kwon Do uniform, or other uniforms from different martial arts.

Master Sgt. Eric Suan, 42, and his family have been teaching martial arts in Clovis for three years. The family presently teaches at the Force of One gym on the corner of Thornton and 12th streets.

But Suan has been teaching the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do for 14 years.

The Air Force and martial arts have been a part of Suan’s life since he was a child. His father, an airman, practiced shaolin kempo and introduced his son to martial arts at the base youth center.

When Suan was 6 years old he studied Tang Soo Do at the youth centers on base in California and in Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. He also boxed when he was 10 years old.

On Nov. 15, 1988, a 20-year-old Suan enlisted in the Air Force.

He said he decided to enlist with the Air Force because he saw it as an opportunity to travel, and because his father was an airman.

“(My father) was the only one that joined the military and saw the world and I followed my dad’s footsteps, which most kids do,” he said.

His first assignment was at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, a place, he said, was like the frigid craters of the moon compared to the sunny coasts of Hawaii.

His first assignment was as a corrosion control specialist, inspecting and treating nuclear missile silos for corrosion.

“I’d check the sites and make sure they weren’t wasting away,” he said.

After six and 1/2 years, he developed allergies from the chemicals he used on the job and cross trained to aviation resource management systems. The assignment brought him to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan, and to the Tae Kwon Do gym of Joseph Giampetro.

Much like Suan’s father introducing him to martial arts when Eric was 6, Suan said he enrolled his 6-year-old daughter, Sharon, for Tae Kwon Do lessons to improve her social skills and for exercise. And since he had the time, Suan also signed up as well.

“It was a great opportunity to keep going (with martial arts),” he said.

Eventually Suan took over teaching Tae Kwon Do classes at the base, with Maria handling administrative tasks and taking lessons as well.

Soon, Maria earned her black belt and started teaching alongside her husband.

“(Eric) always go me into it,” Maria said. “I think one of our first dates, he had me watching a martial arts movie. I thought it was really nice that we can all do it as a family.”

After 11 years at Kadena Air Force Base, the Suan family moved to Cannon Air Force Base in 2006. Eric Suan was assigned to the 27th Special Operations Support Squadron where he oversaw training of aircrew for the 27th Special Operation Wing’s mission.

A month after moving to Clovis, Suan taught Tae Kwon Do at the base youth center.

Eventually he branched out of the base and set up his gym on Thornton, calling it Force of One.

Suan said the name comes from a collage of inspirations such as “Star Wars” (May the force be with you), a chuck Norris movie “A Force of One,” and the Army slogan “An Army of One.”

Just like the Air Force, martial arts also offered Suan the opportunity for travel. He said he traveled in southeast Asia studying different martial arts such as Muay Thai kickboxing and weapons, which he teaches at his gym.

“My philosophy is all martial arts have something to offer and we’ve pulled a piece of every martial art and made it our own,” he said.

In August, Suan was honored during his retirement ceremony and is on terminal leave.

But he plans to work as a civilian employee with the 551st squadron and make Clovis his home.

“I’m living the life, I think” he said. “I have a martial arts business. I’m still contributing to the Air Force. I’m still doing martial arts, the Air Force, and I get to raise my family in the same atmosphere.”

He will work at Cannon as a civilian contractor in the 551st SOS where he will provide specialized training for the air crew.