By Jason A. Vrtis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Four years of intense training, dedication and extreme self-discipline culminated into one special test for Arizona graduate student Don Shaw and senior Angel Bravo.
In front of two high-ranking instructors in their karate federation, Shaw and Bravo demonstrated the preparation and skill necessary to earn them the rank of Shodan, or first-degree black belt.
"It was a great honor to have two senseis come out and test us," Shaw said.
Bravo and Shaw are part of a local Shorin Ryu Karate Club that is led by instructor Jeremy Sheridan and his assistant John Boyle.
"The club teaches more of a street awareness style, unlike other karate styles that are more suited for tournaments," Sheridan said.
That style seems to fit Bravo and Shaw quite well.
"People come in thinking it's Jean-Claude Van Damme stuff, but it's not," Shaw said. "You have to start out small and work your way through a progression."
Starting out small is exactly what they did, sticking with a program that saw 100 to 200 people sign up, but ending with a core of only 15 who remained to handle the enormous personal challenge.
Both Bravo and Shaw appreciated the discipline and commitment it took to accomplish this goal.
"It showed me the type of commitment I could make and keep," Bravo said.
Said Sheridan: "We train twice a week, every week, and it becomes a big part of your life."
The club started six years ago when Sheridan and Boyle were training together and were dissatisfied with the existing clubs, so they decided to form their own.
"We are very successful for a small core of people," Sheridan said.
Sheridan is a second-degree black belt and has gone through the same training as Bravo and Shaw did.
"I admired their willingness to learn, and their ability to analyze new techniques and incorporate them into their own styles," Sheridan said.
Shaw is a candidate for a dual master's degree in pharmacology and perfusion sciences. Bravo is a management information systems senior. Both have jobs and have found it difficult to stay with the program.
"The hardest part is after a long day of work and school,
you still have to come down and suck it up and do it," Shaw said.
Shaw, 30, received his bachelor's degree in general biology in 1988 and is now working at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine in the immunology department. He enjoys leading an active life and tries to get outdoors when his schedule permits.
Bravo, 21, was on the reigning intramural Cactus league basketball championship squad, and also likes to stay as active as possible.
Both will be continuing their training for higher ranks.
"Maybe sometime in the future," Shaw said, "I will start up my own school with my wife."
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