In February 2020, Derrick Shaw came to Fale Dojo / NJPW NZ Dojo from Portland, Oregon, USA with a particular set of goals in mind. One of which was to advance his outlook as a professional wrestler. To get to that next level, Shaw embarked on an arduous journey to reset and refocus.
Shaw trained as part of the 2020 February intake and was the eldest in a pride of eight young lions. This may have seemed like a disadvantage for Shaw, but the minor setback only fuelled his desire to excel.
The young lion from Portland weathered the storm of the 2020 COVID-19 global pandemic. While other international students went back to their respective countries, Shaw remained in New Zealand where he trained for two consecutive intakes. At the conclusion of his six-month training, Shaw emerged a proud graduate equipped with a much-refined outlook. He returned to Portland refreshed and ready to test his craft and newly developed skills.
“I had seen a message from Tony-San,” Shaw shared recently. “Tony-San was checking in with me to see if I had reached out to some local promotions for work. Tony-San had been hearing good things about Dojo graduates that were wrestling throughout the world, and he wanted to hear about my journey.”
“I told Tony-San that I was about to message DEFY Wrestling [U.S. independent promotion]. He told me to reach out to another Dojo graduate, Juicy Finau,” Shaw explained. “Since Juicy had a scheduled booking with DEFY, Tony-San suggested that I ride up with Juicy while getting to know him and introduce myself to the heads of DEFY.”
Shaw heeded the advice from Coach Tony Kozina, leading to some important doors being opened.
“I got chatting with DEFY and I let them know if they had room on future dates to please let me know and I would gladly work for them,” he recalled. “To my surprise, they asked me if I could work that following weekend.”
“Of course, I said yes,” Shaw responded with gratitude to the offer. “Getting to DEFY had been a goal of mine for the last 4 years. Now that I have, my goals have changed. I made the initial priority of getting the opportunity to work for them!”
As a son of Portland, Shaw waited with anticipation to wrestle in his hometown and especially in front of his support system. Shaw was not only returning as a refined wrestler, but he was also returning as a changed person.
“Being able to wrestle in Portland was a huge deal,” Shaw, then alluded to the time restrictions for public gatherings which included professional wrestling events. “I had been back for several months and had not wrestled one time due to the level restrictions of the pandemic.”
He elaborated: “Portland has far stricter and randomized rules at any given time compared to the rest of the States. I started reaching back out to promotions as things started to ease up. DEFY is a Seattle home-based promotion but they happened to be coming to Portland.”
“Wrestling in front of my family and friends was a huge deal for me,” he said. “I could show everyone that travelling across the world to New Zealand was well worth the sacrifice.”
“Hearing the ring announcer introduce me as a graduate of Fale Dojo even got the crowd excited so that in turn got me fired up even more and ready to fight,” Shaw revealed with amazement.
“I felt the aggression levels turn all the way up. I was oozing with confidence and power,” Shaw described of the discipline that grounded him during his match. “I felt as calm as a raging storm heard only in the distance but as violent as a hurricane. I took the no BS attitude and never let go. I may have had it before but nothing at the level of intensity I have now. I reminded them that I still have everything it takes, and now a lot of extra abilities I didn’t have before.”
One of the main skills which Shaw developed during his training at Fale Dojo was the ability to communicate with confidence. This was a skill that Shaw crafted through his role as the Front of House for the Dojo’s General Community Classes. These skills he now brings to his own community.
“I’ve carried over the ability to strike up a conversation with anyone much like I did when I was greeting people at Fale Dojo,” Shaw explained about the role he thrived in. So much so that he became well-liked by the members. Furthermore, Shaw set a high bar for future lions who would come into the role.
“Being a familiar and approachable face helps a lot when it comes to doing uncomfortable activities like continuing to work out when you’re dead on your feet, or when I’m training with the Oregon Wrestling Club,” Shaw stated. “I give the new students that extra push of encouragement that I gave the members of the Dojo’s General Classes.”
“I also remain well-groomed, well dressed, and well-mannered when interacting with the public and people I’ve never met before,” Shaw added with great emphasis. “This was crucial as the Dojo receptionist because I wasn’t even from New Zealand. So, my game had to be spot on or well, let’s just say people rarely left because they second-guessed the Dojo.”
During Shaw’s time with Juicy Finau, the two lions reminisced about their experience at Fale Dojo. This is helpful for graduates from different classes to network and develop their insight. In the case of the Fale Dojo culture and values, much emphasis is put on brotherhood and acknowledging one another wherever alumni find each other in the world.
“Meeting Juicy was an absolute blast,” Shaw shared with immense fondness. “After we got over talking about our experience at Fale Dojo; the chores and the morning runs, and all the 1000’s of squats we did every day; we went on and on and on about food.”
He continued: “We talked about cooking Chanko. We talked about another graduate, Oskar [Münchow], and how I became the new Oskar – acting as head chef of the Dojo and the chauffeur.”
“We talked about the difference between American and New Zealand Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Krispy Creme. But best of all, we saved the best for last – the dreaded Night Markets!”
“We ate all the food and we both said we spent more money on food there than anywhere else in NZ,” Shaw said with amusement. “It felt amazing being able to talk about our experiences and even the same locations and recall them so vividly.”
Moving forward with his reset and refocused mindset, Shaw looks to maintain the discipline that he gained from this training for the long road ahead.
“I’m currently reaching out to new areas in the States beyond the Pacific Northwest area,” Shaw stated. “I’m taking the strong advice from Tony-San and setting my goals and aspersions even higher.”
“Of the many lessons I’ve learned at Fale Dojo, I’m applying mental endurance, because my journey is just starting and I’m excited,” said Shaw the Dojo graduate. “Like the training at the Dojo, I refuse to show anyone in my current surroundings that I’m tired.”
“It’s wild when you don’t show tiredness how much the people around you change,” he explained. “They either work much harder, make excuses because they can’t do something, or they quit. Keeping that mindset sets me apart because I also use that during my matches.”
“I share that with anyone who is presently training at Fale Dojo / NZ Dojo or who is thinking about becoming part of our amazing international fraternity,” the young lion advised in closing. “Work smart, develop discipline in your craft, and always stay humble and hungry. Get to know your brothers that you’re training with and stay connected wherever you are in the world. As well, focus on you. You are the only person that can get you through to the other side. You’re also the same person who will just as quickly prevent or block your own success or ability.”