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Reprinted from
Taos News
August 2, 2007

Know your neighbor: Dan Thor

Dan Thor By Kathy Cordova
For The Taos News

Dan Thor, who manages dual careers in the Taos area, has come full circle from California to New Mexico with his activities in medicine, martial arts and his friendships. The process of weaving his avocation in this matter remains extra special to this week's subject.

"My wife Penny and I have been together for 18 years, and married for nine years," Thor said about his family.

His two stepsons were raised in Angel Fire. Both work as engineers. Matthew Laverty lives in Lubbock, Texas; Chip Laverty lives in Albuquerque.

Thor related that many of his extended family members live in the San Francisco Bay area.

Thor attended California State College at Hayward and received credentials to work as a drug counselor. During a rescue mission of a youngster, he met the subject's father. The grateful dad, a martial arts instructor, offered Thor a self-defense class. This exposure led to more involvement in the martial arts field.

As his knowledge of Taekwondo continued, Thor began teaching. Dr. Stephen Cetrulo lived in California at the time, and he studied at Thor's studio in California.

In 1981, Thor decided to move to a more rural setting. He chose Taos as his new place of residence. Cetrulo had also moved here.

'I have see kids come through this program succeed in other areas. If you can change someone's life for the better, you have made a positive impact.'
Dan Thor

"I realized that I couldn't teach Taekwondo full-time," said Thor. "Therefore, I decided to study to become a physician's assistant. Since there was no PA school in New Mexico, I enrolled at UC Davis. I'd attend school for a week in California, and then I worked at clinicals for three weeks. Then, the cycle began again."

At the Taos Taekwondo Academy, three students studied with Thor--Dr. Larry Schreiber, Dr. Lucas Schreiber and Jordan Schreiber, now an attorney in the public defender's office in Martinez, California. Jordan Schreiber also teaches Taekwondo in California.

The association with the family extended to another level, as Thor completed his clinical rotation at Family Practice. After completing this program, Thor, now a physician's assistant, joined the Cetrulo's medical practice.

After work at the office, Thor takes off to the Taos Taekwondo Academy on Paseo del Canon. On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, he teaches from 4 to 7:30 p.m. On Wednesday, Da works with students from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Friday serves as a travel day to regiona competitions in places such as Denver, Las Vegas, Nev., Orlando, Fla., and the largest meet in the world at National Taekwondo Headquarters in Little Rock, Ark. Joann Obara also teaches at the academy.

Students may begin studying Taekwondo at 4 years of age, although a few started younger. On Tuesday and Thursday, Tiny Tigers (4-6) meet. Karate for Kids (7-12) meet separately from the little ones. Two different classes meet on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Adults, 13 and older, meet in the evening. Pre-schoolers meet for shorter classes.

All participants begin at the white belt level. They eventually work toward the black belt level, what the studio owner terms as "the first stage of a serious student." A student must participate for a minimum of one year prior to eligibility for a first-degree distinction.

Thor possesses a seventh-degree black belt (a senior master). A strict award system requires many years of study prior to earning the degrees. In the master level degrees, a participant must perform certain tasks, achieve specific levels (number of students, experience, etc.) and await availability of a slot. According to the military pyramid structure, Thor's next level, eighth-degree black belt, would name him a chief master. Ninth-degree, grand master, remains the highest degree.

Dan Thor also worked as a surgical technician at Holy Cross Hospital many years ago.

Hobbies and interests
Thor listed Taekwondo as "an avocation." His main interests allow him to work on his main pastime. He especially enjoys the opportunity that travel to competitions allows for special time with his wife. Thor likes golfing. He formerly enjoyed rock climbing, but due to time constraints, gave up this activity.

Community involvement
In addition to helping patients, Dan Thor believes his work at the Taos Taekwondo Academy helps him work with the strengths and weaknesses of Taosenos.

"This is a give-and-take situation. My love of teaching and students' impact on me is wonderful. I have see kids come through this program succeed in other areas. If you can change someone's life for the better, you have made a positive impact," he said.

Plans and goals
"I'd like to keep the Taos Taekwondo academy going, even after I retire. We average 80 to 90 students and it's all good. I'm eligible for an eighth-degree distinction in two years. Some day, I'd like to earn that degree. If you haven't already guessed, Taekwondo is my passion," concluded Thor.

© 2007 The Taos News