Sensei Ian Shu watches his Purple Dragon students Logan Reed and Bowden Smith execute a dive roll during a summer training camp. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Tofino and Ucluelet martial arts instructor honoured for 23 years of dedication and service

“It felt really good to get the recognition.”

Sensei Ian Shu, a fourth-degree black belt, teaches his students how to kick and punch.

But unlike a kickboxing class, the Purple Dragon Don Jitsu Ryu system is a workout for the mind as much as it is for the body, he says.

“A good martial artist should be aware of their surroundings at all times,” states Sensei Shu. “They should see trouble coming and thus avoid it.”

Since bringing the non-violent martial arts practice to the West Coast over two decades ago, Sensei Shu has enlightened so many kids that he’s lost count.

“Hundreds and hundreds of students,” he tells the Westerly. “Hopefully Purple Dragon will help them grow up strong.”

For Shu, who first discovered the path of Purple Dragon while he was living in Vancouver in 1996, the sport has helped him build confidence and break out of his shy-guy shell.

This July, Sensei Shu was honoured with a special award for his 23 years of dedication and service the Don Jitsu Ryu school of martial arts.

“It felt really good to get the recognition,” he says, adding that he was presented the award in Florida during a training camp with Purple Dragon founder Prof. Don Jacob.

“There was a heartfelt speech. They were bringing people to tears,” he says.

Sensei Ian Shu proudly displays the special trophey he was awarded in July.

Prof. Jacob, a ninth-degree black belt, created the Don Jitsu Ryu system in 1970.

With its international headquarters in Trinidad, there are more than 45 branches of Purple Dragon Dojos (practice halls) in 12 countries. In B.C., there are currently four Dojos, including the West Coast.

Wickaninnish Community School principal Drew Ryan has been training with Sensei Shu for nine years. Last August, Ryan graded for his black belt.

“We trained extra sessions leading up to the grading as well as independent training. I believe Sensei’s approachable manner, his connections to families, and commitment to our communities have garnered him both the respect and dedication of his students,” wrote Ryan in an email.

Ryan is one of six West Coasters to achieve the rank of black belt. The black belt testing is a three-day long affair, notes Sensei Shu, that involves demonstrating katas, self-falls, sparring, and running.

“It’s an intense experience, very physically demanding,” he says.

Grand Master Prof. Jacob makes the long journey to the West Coast twice a year to conduct underbelt grading. He will be in Ucluelet once again come November.

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