For most parents, being able to inspire and teach our children is a number one priority. For Patty Shafer, however, the tables turned a bit when she found inspiration from her son to begin a long and successful karate journey.
As a young child, Shafer’s son, Tommy, had both attention problems and seizures. Today, Tommy is a 19-year-old and has long since put those problems behind him. A Wilmington High School Class of 2011 graduate as well as a United States Marine, Private First Class Thomas Shafer has recently completed boot camp and is currently stationed at Camp Pendleton in California.
PFC Shafer’s journey was a long one and, in many ways, his mom credits his success to his karate training. A student and, eventually, a teacher at The Academy of Traditional Karate, PFC Shafer developed his skills for success and, at the same time, shared them with other students at the school.
The one person, however, that PFC Shafer wanted to share those skills with the most was his mom, Patty Shafer. Of course, as a working mom, Shafer didn’t always make a lot of time for herself.
“I’ve lived with seizures all my life and actually work in the epilepsy field,” explained Shafer. “I was well aware of the importance of both structure and fitness and, still, I wasn’t listening to myself. As working mom you don’t always find the time.”
Eventually, PFC Shafer won the battle to get his mom on the karate floor and they began to train together. Shafer has recently lost both her mother and mother-in-law and the time was right to start taking care of herself.
“Adolescent boys don’t always want to spend a lot of time with their moms so I couldn’t possibly say no,” joked Shafer. “I can honestly say that for the whole first year I really did it just for him.”
Shafer knew that karate had helped her son as well as others at the school immensely and, after that first year, she began to realize how much it was benefiting her also.
“I see that the structure, social support and fitness have helped many kids, including my son, both succeed and exceed expectations,” said Shafer. “As my own training continued I began seeing a big difference in myself also.”
Eventually, PFC Shafer graduated high school and, inspired by both his family’s military background as well as the events of September 11, he chose to join the United States Marines. As her son was heading off to boot camp, Shafer herself was also embarking on a new journey, her training for black belt.
“Training for your black belt is a six-month process,” said Shafer. “It was very hard without Tommy there and I was really wondering if I could keep up on my own.”
Inspired by her son’s journey through boot camp, Shafer realized that she, too, could succeed.
“I was busy finding a new structure for myself,” she said. “During those six months of training I found myself developing new and stronger relationships.”
One of those relationships was with Sensei Dean Dieker, a full time instructor at the school.
“Patty was already training when I started at the school,” said Deiker. “As an instructor I have both trained and worked alongside both her and Tommy.”
Leadership and support is an enormous part of the community at the karate school and Shafer had plenty of both during her trip to black belt.
“When you enter the program it is a completely non-threatening, supportive environment. No one is judging you against another person,” explained Shafer. “If I needed a kick in the butt to get going I got it and if I needed a little extra support I got that too.”
On January 18, 2011, Shafer tested for, and earned her black belt. Ten days later, at a special Black Belt Promotion Event, Shafer was awarded her belt. The event and the award would have been special enough for Shafer but, thanks to modern technology, her son, PFC Shafer was able to participate and congratulate his mom via Skype.
Today, Shafer is determined to continue her karate journey and, at the same time, help educate children at the school. Shidoin Patty, as she is referred to at the school, takes great pride in working with young children as they embark on their own journey. Truly a mom at heart, Shidoin Patty is able to draw from her experiences with her own son and support the students.
“She is able to do an incredible job with the young kids,” said Sensei Deiker. “Her different life experiences give her different abilities.”
While PFC Shafer is busy serving his country and making his mom proud, Shidoin Patty is working hard to serve her community and make him proud in return. An important part of the school’s leadership team, Shafer knows how valuable the role she, Sensei Deiker and the other instructors play is.
“The quality of the students at the school speaks volumes towards the quality of the staff,” she said. “The school gives so much back to the community through demonstrations and other events and I am very proud to be a part of it.”