Two West Coast youth are headed to Trinidad this July to test for their black belts in Purple Dragon Don Jitsu.
Ucluelet local Everett Watson and Tofino local Barkley Ahier have both been training under local Purple Dragon instructor Sempai Ian Shu for about six years and both are ready for the next level of their martial arts careers.
All three will travel to Trinidad this summer where Ahier and Watson will undergo a rigorous three-day test to achieve their black belts.
The trip will cost about $3,500 per person and Watson said the group has raised about $2,000 of community support so far through bottle drives and raffle-ticket sales.
They hope to see a solid crowd show up to support their pursuit at a fundraising buffet dinner on June 6 at the Ucluelet community centre.
The event will include a silent auction and raffle, with items donated by local businesses, as well as demonstrations from Purple Dragon students ranging from 5-18 years old.
â€œYouâ€™ll be well entertained, well fed, and be supporting a good cause,â€ Watson said.
â€œThe dinner is going to be one of the main ticket items as well as the silent auction…Basically every business that could help out has, weâ€™ve had tremendous support from community members as well as businesses, which helps a lot.â€
Tickets to June 6â€™s event can be purchased at Solidarity Snacks, Ucluelet Elementary School, and the community centre for a limited time but will not be available at the door.
Watson, 17, said Purple Dragon offers a unique combo-boost to his fitness and discipline.
â€œMartial arts isnâ€™t all just kicking and punching and yelling really loud,â€ he said.
â€œThereâ€™s a mental part too and I find it really enlightening to be able to defend yourself and move your body in the way you want to move it…One thing martial arts is all about is control: controlling your movements, controlling your body, and controlling your mind.â€
He added a keen focus is put on respect and listening.
â€œItâ€™s helped me in school. Itâ€™s helped me keep control of my emotions a little bit more and to think first before I speak,â€ he said.
He touted Sempai Ian as a solid instructor and mentor who pays close attention to his students and said Shuâ€™s teachings have prepared him well for his upcoming test.
â€œSempai Ian is an excellent teacher…Iâ€™m really confident in the way heâ€™s been teaching and training us,â€ he said.
â€œIâ€™m really, really, excited to be able to go. Iâ€™ve been waiting for this for six years…Just to know that Iâ€™ve been able to go halfway around the world and spend three days basically working my but off in the Trinidadian heat and make it through the black belt grading would be something that would boost your confidence…to know that you can stay strong under hard circumstances.â€
Along with the black belt achievement, Shu and his students plan to take in a world championship tournament and experience Purple Dragonâ€™s 45th anniversary celebrations.
â€œThe students are hoping to reach their black belts, which would be an excellent achievement for them and for myself as well having raised them to that level,â€ Shu said.
â€œIâ€™m hoping that seeing all the local black belts there is going to really inspire them and push them to take it to a higher level like it did for myself…Itâ€™s something you have to travel to see really.â€
Shu joined with Purple Dragon in 1996 and has traveled to Trinidad several times to train with Professor Don Jacobs, the martial artâ€™s founder.
Shu is a third degree black belt and instructor who has guided two West Coasters through their black belt testing already and hopes to see Ahier and Watson make it four.
â€œI moved here in 2008 and started teaching shortly thereafter and have been doing it ever since and would like to continue doing this for many years to come,â€ Shu said.
â€œEven on a bad day, itâ€™s such a pleasure to go and teach…Iâ€™ve gotten to teach these kids all the way along so that, I have to say, is very rewarding; watching them grow from little kids into young adults and still continuing to train.â€