Shawn Sealy (right) being congratulated by Ryan Brathwaite during the awards ceremony.
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Shawn Sealy is looking for his second gold. And he is proud that despite his visual challenges he was the first of his mother’s four children to do so.
He won the Tai Chi Empty Hand Segment at the Bridgetown Burning Martial Arts Festival at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre last week Saturday.
The 45-year-old was blinded by a condition called neurofibromatosis, also known as NF. It is characterised by the growth of non-cancerous tumours of the nervous system.
Sealy, who also plays the guitar after being inspired by international blind guitarist Jose Feliciano, began doing the art with Erskine Husbands – also known as sifu (teacher) Sammy – at the Way of Life Tai Chi School on January 14 .
Although his condition has progressed since it started at the tender age of 12 and is now considered Stage 2, he decided that nothing would hinder him from pursuing what he loved, and one of those loves was Tai Chi.
“It wasn’t difficult at all. It’s just like doing other things. You become accustomed to doing stuff. I’m also accustomed to playing the guitar. I wash my own clothes, try to cook for myself sometimes, press my clothes and polish my own shoes, so it came easy. Members of my church, which is the Kingdom First International, came out to support me,” he told NATIONSPORT.
Husbands said he decided to teach Sealy a short shaolin form he learnt in Trinidad just to get him started and accustomed to the art. It was one which concentrated on hand movements for the first section before moving on to body movements for the next half.
However, he marvelled at his reception of something he has actually never seen.
“He really understood it. I did more talking than actually trying to hold him into these positions and it was good to see that he could understand a 45-degree angle going onto the heel and shifting the weight,” Husbands said.
“I was overwhelmed with his first performance. He actually made history twice. He was the first visually impaired person to perform at the Fish And Dragon Show on February 24, then the following Friday at Combermere School’s cultural show. He was well received both places and then we got him into Bridgetown Burning where he made history again. He was the first visually impaired person to compete and also won in his division.”
Sealy’s performance made it three gold medals for the club since Husbands won the Advanced Weapons Segment and Marguerita Jordan the women’s Wu Shu Empty Hand female segment.
Sealy said he usually trained in the wee hours of the morning while he did his devotions.
“I train on mornings from three o’clock. That is the time I get up to pray and while I am praying I train too. It is very relaxing. I focus on Phillipians, Chapter 4, Verse 13 - ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. That is my focus, my meditation. It comes easier when I do that.
“Sometimes you feel like another presence is there with you; it is God’s presence. I use that motto ‘the man who tries and fails is better that the man who never tries’. If you never try you never know,” he said.
Sealy is hoping to compete at the Caribbean Taste of China Open Martial Arts Tournament in Trinidad and Tobago which usually comes off in May and Allamby’s Black Tigers Kempo Karate Tournament set for November. (RG)