A New Milford teen made history recently at the Zen Do JuJitsu Dojo.
Sean Doenias, a 2012 graduate of New Milford, was awarded the rank of Shodan, 1st Degree Black Belt while still at the age of 18.
Twelve years' perseverance as a Zen Do student permitted Sean to become the first teen in the dojo's history to earn black belt.
A young man of few words, Sean let his strength on the mat do the talking for him.
"I didn't know this was such a feat," Sean admitted. "I just really loved what I was doing. I stuck with it because I knew I could only get better with time."
His mentor and the Zen Do founder, Sensei Sean Jugler was more reflective.
"Sean's one of those exceptional kids who just kept focused on his goal," Mr. Jugler said. "And for those who persevere, those who keep trying, day after day, those are the ones that make it."
"Sean sets an example for a lot of people," he added. "He's the one and only person from the kids' class to go from white belt to black belt. That's quite a feat."
Sensei Jugler has structured his dojo according to the Japanese model of a martial arts dojo. Himself a 6th degree black belt in the Zen Budo Ryu style of JuJitsu, Sensei Jugler has been teaching both children and adults in New Milford for 22 years.
Sensei Jugler said his rank promotion philosophy at Zen Do requires great commitment and dedication of its students, and criticized some other venues through which he feels students might advance too easily to black belt.
"I am strongly against this practice as it gives students a false sense of security which, down the road, could actually jeopardize their safety," explained Sensei Jugler. "Any student with a black belt from Zen Do has worked a rigorous program and, equally as important, demonstrated the necessary maturity expected of a black belt."
Sean described his actual black belt test as "grueling."
Amid warm temperatures, the Zen Do "Yudansha" (elder Black Belts), he recalled, demonstrated more than 400 jujitsu moves, called out in rapid-fire succession and almost exclusively in Japanese.
The 90-minute test concluded following 35 minutes of fighting with three opponents. Assisting Sean during his testing as Uki (practice partner) was Dan Pullara, also of New Milford, and a fellow student at the Zen Do JuJitsu dojo.
For more information about Zen Do's children's or adult classes, call the Zen Do Jujitsu Dojo at 860-262-2404 or visit www.zendojujitsu.com.