Coleson Shaw trains on a punching bag during a class at Clyde Stanley Martial Arts. Blake Branch/Press-Herald
Coleson Shaw trains on a punching bag during a class at Clyde Stanley Martial Arts. Blake Branch/Press-Herald

It takes years of hard work and determination to earn karate’s most coveted possession, the black belt.

Those who have reached the rank of black belt know the rigorous toll martial arts takes on the body. Balance, strength and agility are of the utmost importance. Students often abandon their quest due to the degree of difficulty.

Coleson Shaw is not one of those students.

He’s defied the odds before, and is plenty tough enough to last in the dojo.

Shaw started his journey to the black belt on June 2, 2008, at Clyde Stanley Martial Arts.

“My brothers were taking karate before I was,” Coleson Shaw said. “They said I might like it, so I tried out the class. They quit taking classes four or five years ago at their purple or red belt. I kept at it; I wanted to keep going.”

Six weeks ago, Coleson finished his journey with a promotion to the rank of Shodan, first degree black belt.

“It was just a feeling of accomplishment,” Shaw said. “Very few people I started with are still there, but it feels good to know I’m one of the ones that stayed.”

The black belt is quite an accomplishment for anyone, but Coleson’s path to the belt is special, and it started almost 15 years ago when Alan and Yvette Shaw found out their youngest son was born with a rare disorder.

Diamond Blackfan Anemia is a rare disorder in which the body’s bone marrow fails to produce enough red blood cells, which carries oxygen to the body’s tissue.

“He was 2-months-old when they told us it was Diamond Blackfan Anemia,” Yvette Shaw said. “There were only two treatment options: steroids or transfusions. We tried steroids and hoped that they would work, but they didn’t.”

With transfusions left as the only option for treatment, Coleson began undergoing blood transfusions every four weeks for the next six years of his life.

Faced with a new normal, the Shaw’s took the challenge head on, as a family.

Coleson’s father is in his 25th season as head coach of the Minden Crimson Tide boys basketball team, Yvette stays busy these days homeschooling their three sons and Coleson’s two older brothers, Cade and Cameron, are avid basketball fans and members of the

Shreveport Force, a basketball team comprised of homeschooled children from the area. A few years back, Coleson joined the team; not a surprise considering he’s always been the most active and, according to mom, the toughest of the three.

“He always tried to do everything they were doing and more,” Yvette Shaw said. “He’s the toughest one of the three of them.

I always told Cade and Cameron,’Ya’ll can mess with each other, but I wouldn’t mess with him.’ He’s always had that fight in him. He never complained.”

In 2007, doctors discovered Coleson’s oldest brother, Cade, was a bone marrow match. After some discussion, the family decided to attempt a transplant that would end Coleson’s monthly transfusions and improve his quality of life.

The transplant was a success, but Coleson spent much of the next year in isolation, wearing a germ mask to protect himself.

As he started to regain his energy and his appetite for activity, Coleson began to take an interest in karate. It wasn’t long before Cade and Cameron were signed up, with Coleson soon to follow.

“At first I couldn’t go with the other kids, because I would have had to wear the mask,” Coleson Shaw said. “But Sensei Clyde Stanley said he would give me private lessons.”
Coleson and Stanley began their one-on-one lessons and Coleson began to feel the positive effects on his legs and lungs.

“It made me stronger, faster, quicker and more flexible,” Coleson said. “It’s given me a lot of confidence in my abilities.”

Coleson began competing in karate tournaments after making his way through the ranks with Stanley. In the first tournament he ever competed in, Coleson was matched up against a state champion in the first round. Outsized and outmatched, Coleson was forced to tap out.
Never the type to give up, he went back to work with Stanley in preparation for his next tournament. The result in his next tournament was a much better showing and a trip to the finals. Waiting for him in the tournament championship was the same state champion who made quick work of their last fight.

This time, the two battled to the finish, with Coleson putting the pressure on his opponent.
Coleson lasted the entire match, but the judges declared the reigning state champion as the winner.

After the match, the tournament champion made a point to find Coleson. What he told him was nothing new to anyone who knows the Shaw family.

“He said that I was one of the toughest people he ever fought,” Coleson Shaw said. “That taught me that I can do anything I want to if I work hard.”

Coleson’s Sensei only echoed that sentiment, one that has come to define the life of one of his favorite pupils.

“He is as tough as nails,” Stanley said. “For as long as Coleson has been my student, he has never once complained about anything. He is a great role model for all the other kids, as well as the adults in our school.”

The influence of Coleson on Stanley is evident, but Coleson’s father said the influence Stanley has had on Coleson’s life is something that could never be overstated.

“Clyde has been such a blessing,” Alan Shaw said. “The time and the interest that he’s put into Coleson has meant so much to us. He’s an encourager and a teacher; every time

Coleson would start to get down, he was there to build him up. He’s been such a blessing in all of our lives through what he’s done for Coleson.”

Coleson had back surgery last April, but currently doctors say he is 100 percent healthy. He’s as active as any almost-15-year-old while juggling basketball and karate, and is striving towards his goal of placing first in a tournament.

“I tell him all the time that the sky is the limit,” Yvette Shaw said. “If he can think it, he can do it; nothing can stop him.”

Coleson says to always beleive in your goals.

“Don’t quit,” Coleson Shaw said. “No matter what you’re up against, you can do anything if you believe you can do it.”

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