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KICKING, PUNCHING AND COMPETITION BRING HARMONY AND SELF-CONFIDENCE TO COTTONWOOD FAMILY’S HOME

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Pity the poor police officers who respond to a domestic dispute call at the Dennis DeLoach residence.

They would face three black belts - two of them national karate champions - and a host of pint-sized pugilists.But it wouldn't happen. The martial arts have created an unusual harmony in the DeLoach home. Precision execution of a swift side kick, stiff punch or a back flip has become a strong bond between parents and their five children.

"It's brought us closer because we work out, play and travel together," said mother and black belt champion Camille DeLoach. "We understand each other because we do the same thing."

The family goal is for every DeLoach to hold a black belt. But the original intent four years ago was to constructively channel the aggressive and competitive spirit of the oldest son, Josh.

Their 6-year-old cried when he first saw the bigger kids uncharacteristically focused, their bodies tense and flexed, with eyes staring straight ahead like robots awaiting the next command. But he quickly caught on and began traveling out of state to various tournaments.

The family went along and soon dad and mom were smitten by the competition and joined in.

"I played football at Utah State and Camille was a cheerleader at BYU, so there's a natural rivalry there," said father Dennis. "But seriously, we both love the competition."

That's an understatement. A week after Camille delivered their youngest child, she was on the mats capturing one of the several hundred trophies accumulating in their home.

Dennis, Camille and Josh are black belts, and Camille and Josh won national championships last year. Their daughter, Jordan, is an intermediate competitor and their younger sons Dallin and Dayton are just beginning. Even 1-year-old Salem shows some promise when she smiles and thrusts her right leg out to the side to the delight of her siblings and parents.

While the family has picked up self-defense techniques over the years, the moves are never used carelessly at home. "We are trained when to use them," Camille said.

That's during the tournaments that the family travels to, three or four days of the month. It takes time and money to travel, but it has fostered family unity, Dennis and Camille agree. The fact that Dennis is a dentist and can command his own work schedule helps when it comes to travel commitments.

Other positive effects from martial arts training are self-confidence and concentration, which have helped the children's performance in other sports, music and school, Camille said.

"It keeps the kids busy and out of trouble."