View Full Version : Story of Courage

21st June 2003, 09:29
This was in the Albuquerque Journal the other day:

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Teen Doesn't Let Down Syndrome Hold Him Back

By Isabel Sanchez
Journal Staff Writer
Carson Proo has a cell phone, is learning to drive, hates math. He's a gymnast, goes to a charter school and wants to find someone who will teach him to play bluegrass on his mandolin.
Carson, 17 and on the verge of earning a black belt in karate, has already won a third-place trophy in a national karate contest. He's interested in Buddhism. He meditates in the lotus position, the one where your feet sit on your opposite knees.
He's also won trophies for his gymnastic performance in Special Olympics last year. The karate, which he's been practicing since age 7, helps him focus.
"I don't get nervous. I just do my best," he says.
Carson's father, Victor, says he stayed in a fetal position for about an hour after his son's birth. Then, he says, he was able to accept it, that Carson has Down syndrome.
The young man who practices his katas by watching videos of his karate class and who helps teach at the dojo, showing younger students how to warm up, couldn't crawl until he was 2.
"I did not know that people like Carson existed," his father says that a special needs child could live a healthy, normal teenage life.
Carson's Special Olympics trophies are for floor exercises and work on the still rings. These and karate are activities that allow him to be part of a team, his father says.
"He's one of those kids who are just a joy and a treat to have," says Randy Sanders, head teacher and owner of New Mexico Shotokan Karate. "He works hard, no matter how difficult something is. It doesn't always come easy to him, but he doesn't ever let it get him down."
Karate, says Sanders, has given Carson a goal, "something to really work toward. The discipline, the ability to allow himself to be stubborn enough, no matter how hard something is, 'I'm going to conquer this, I'm going to be successful' I think we've helped him with that."
"He has an ability to watch and then do," Victor Proo says of his son. Carson's learning woodworking and already makes mosaic-topped tables.
Because some concepts are difficult for him anticipating what traffic might do, for example Carson's probably going to have to have someone with him when he drives. But he's studying for the written test, has driven the family Jeep in a deserted parking lot and, when other kids in school are driving, he can say he knows how to drive too.
Carson's an 11th-grader at Amy Biehl High School. Co-founder Tony Monfiletto says the school hired a teaching aide to work one-on-one with Carson, who's taking regular classes on a modified curriculum.
"The benefit that he provides to his classmates is incredible," Monfiletto says. "He's such an asset to the school kids really learn a lot, being around people different than they are. They learn compassion. His presence is felt by every kid in the school. They all know him. I think in some ways he's a greater asset to the school than the school is an asset to him."
Students at Amy Biehl last year climbed La Luz trail and worked at Channel 27, the public access channel. Carson reads to special needs kids in second and third grade at Montezuma Elementary School.
"He's great with kids," Victor Proo says.
"I love babies," Carson says. "They're all cute."
Carson lives very much in the moment, an advantage to someone studying Buddhism, which requires a "this-moment mind." Meditation, he says, gives him "mental fire." In concentration, he says, he finds the wisdom of the path.
And he loves movies. "Movies are my life," he says. Action movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan.
He likes "Charlie's Angels" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," a transcendant martial arts movie.
"That was so cool," he says. "I have it."
One of his dreams is to act in movies, using his karate skills.
A sign on his bedroom door says "Carson Taylor Proo, FBI special agent," an homage to Agent Mulder of "X-Files." Carson's still watching the reruns.
He isn't just Carson, aka an FBI agent: He's known sometimes as Chickenbreath or Monkeybutt silly names that make him laugh, nicknames his parents gave him, knowing he would be teased at school. If he could laugh at Monkeybutt inspired by a trip to the San Diego Zoo he might be able to laugh off other names. His parents aren't sure if he was teased but assume he was. If so, Carson didn't complain.
Someday Carson hopes to work with animals, perhaps as a veterinarian technician.
"He can do more than stocking shelves," says his father, a respiratory care practitioner in the intensive care units at the University of New Mexico Hospital.
"He manages to garner respect in his own way."
Victor Proo built a Web site, http://homepage.mac.com/vproux50 recording Carson's activities at the gym and karate class, of course, but also speaking at a conference held by an association for people with disabilities in Boston last year. Hundreds of people, parents and professionals, attended. Carson used 3x5-inch cards as prompts and talked about his experience as a Down syndrome teen in high school, his hobbies, his travels.
Victor Proo, the father who curled up in the fetal position when his son was born, is videotaping Carson at karate class and elsewhere to make a documentary. He wants new parents of Down syndrome children, teachers, health care workers and the public to become aware of the abilities of special needs people. And he wants Carson's story to inspire others. Because of his son's courage and humor and compassion, he says, "He is my most admired hero."
What is Down syndrome?
Each human cell normally has 46 chromosomes, 23 from each parent. Chromosomes come in pairs. If they don't separate correctly, a cell can have 24 chromosomes instead of 23 too much genetic information.
A person with 47 chromosomes will have Down syndrome if there are three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two. If it's chromosome 13, the diagnosis is Patau syndrome; if it's chromosome 18, Edward syndrome both are more severe and rare than Down syndrome.
Copyright 2003 Albuquerque Journal

Check out the Quicktime movie to see one of the kata he will perform for his shodan test. I'm not karateka, but his posture and balance look pretty good to me.


Prince Loeffler
21st June 2003, 19:37

This is a very inspiring article. keep im coming please .....

21st June 2003, 20:38
Hi Mark,

The media very rarely focuses on the positive in life, as not many are interested in the inspiring stories out there, we have become a society that looks for the negative. Therefore, kudos to you for highlighting an inspiring story. Other schools have similiar stories and I am willing to bet many schools have students who face challenges.

Our school currently has an adult who lives in a group home and with great concentration, just passed his yellow belt test. His attitude is also terrific.

Additionally, we have 2, 12 year old students who each lost a parent in the attacks on 9-11-01. All deal with their problems heorically. The rest of us just deal with, in comparison, ordinary problems. Its these types of schools that attracts and enables these students, and more importantly the Instructors who help, lead and guide them.

Remember these Instructors when giving thanks for the small things in life, and thank you for sharing the story that you did..


22nd June 2003, 10:27
Hey, thanks for the kind words, but all I did was copy n paste it here. I had read it in the paper, and that night or the next morning, my sister forwared it to me from a friend of hers who saw it in the Journal Online.

I though this would be the place to post it, certainly, it didn't belong in the karate forum, the lounge, though it may have been a good post in the Budo no Kokoro forum which was my other choice. I thought those who teach or those who are having problems picking up whatever it is they take right now may benefit from it. It has little to do with karate thus the post here.

I had a couple/three months of Shotokan karate when I was thirteen and remember little except that the teacher insisted I hit my partner harder. We were all judo shugyosha so while throwing uke through the floor isn't violent or painful :D the thought of actually hitting someone in the ribs with a shuto just seemed out of place, or at least it did with any force on it. It took me about ten seconds to finally place my hand on the spot where I was supposed to hit. The teacher spoke no English (Japanese only, and I mean no English, none, squat) so he had a communication handicap with us as we had with him. I kind of liked it, though, and was a bit surprised when told he wasn't working out. He really tried hard, going from student to student with everything he taught, moving our hips, hands, feet, etc., to get us to understand. Perhaps Carson Proo had a similar handicap, and I've had students who were mentally retarded, but not specifically with Down Syndrome. One was a young kid who was probably the best student I've ever had (or at that time I was the senpai in my dojo, and generally was responsible for teaching the younger ones). He had a great smile and laughed all the time. I know his parents were from Japan, and his mother had a rather difficult time with "Engrish," but that wasn't the problem at all with him. He tried and tried, I corrected him, place him in correct position for ukemi exercises, and worked with him instead of another partner or to just teach.

I doubt he advanced in anything but trying, and to him, any attention paid he just loved.

Anyway, if you didn't catch the web site Carson's father left in the article to chart his progress (not just karate), take a look http://homepage.mac.com/vproux50 and click on QuickTime Movie for a clip of one of the kata he had to perform for his shodan. I don't know much about karate, but in general I can tell good from bad from indifferent, but this guy was throwing his center into everything he did, and it looked to be a very well-done kata. Good balance, he was completely centered (more so than the best students I've seen). Centering which included balance was spectacular. If any shotokan people see any errors I'm sure he would like to know. I think there is an email address on that Hometown homepage included in the article.

These are the kind of students which make the poseurs so much worse than bad budo. Once they sink their claws into an innocent like Carson, it makes it just that much more disgusting. I also think Carson makes all the reasons against having a bad budo forum to expose these guys all the more necessary. Perhaps Carson Proo and his father were lucky, I don't know, but I've visited that school a couple of times just to watch and was welcomed in, never asked when I was going to join, and even asked my opinion of what I saw, and they knew I was only judoka. No one gave me a flier, or asked me to fillout a form for a suggestion box, or anything of the kind. It isn't a big school and the head instructor is not in it for the money, something very refreshing to see. I didn't know anything about Carson those times I visited, but once in a blue moon, I like to check out what there is here.


24th July 2003, 11:01
In my Judo class we have a 23 year old with down syndrome. His parents drive him 2 hours each way twice a week.

My understanding is that they asked about enrolling him at each of the closer Dojos (there are 5-6) and each one said no way. Our teacher (A 6th Dan) said yes immediately and none of us have regretted that he did, regardless of any special considerations we have to take while doing with him.

He recently competed in our yearly competition (This year was the 20th anniversary) and even though he lost every combat (We changed the lists around so he got to do the maximum possible, 8 I believe) he was in seventh heaven and the crowds response by way of applause and cheers was truely heartwarming and obviously appreciated by him.

I think everyone there got the message, and maybe the instructors might think twice next time about saying no.

Great thread, Mark

5th August 2003, 20:00
I've been teaching a couple Downs Syndrome kids for a few years now. One, Megan Crandall has done a superb job and has inspired me on a number of occassions. Our club did a martial arts open house / demonstration and the local media covered it. About 3 weeks later, a Reno TV station did a 5 minute segment on Megan for their evening news programming. Wonderful thing for them to focus on.

I've been asked a number of times about teaching special needs students and what specialized training I have. It's really not that difficult, but it takes patience, flexibility and a lot of encouragement. The rewards are tremendous. The first time Megan did our basic form on her own, I was on cloud 9. I call her my best student, beacause she's made me a better teacher.

Here's Megan getting her Orange Belt. I was honored to have several ranking school heads from the area attend this promotion.

6th August 2003, 02:20
BTW: FYI, I believe that is Kevin helping to put on the belt.


6th August 2003, 02:35

(Requires quicktime).


Prince Loeffler
17th August 2003, 01:38
Hi Mark,

Is there a way to send this kid a congratulatory email. The email address on this site is not shown. This kid is such an inspiration. I was awed by his spirit and determination. Again, Mark Thank for the articles.

17th August 2003, 13:07

At the bottom of the page, next to the counter, there is a button which says "Send me a message."

Click on that, and write your message in the box displayed. Include your email for a response in the box next to that.


7th February 2004, 13:04
Howdy, all! A very inspirational thread.

I have recently opened a small school through my church. While I have worked with a wide variety of children, I am aware of someone debating about enrolling their child in classes. They briefly mentioned that they wanted to talk to me about it, but haven't yet. I also have the older sibling of an ADHD sister that will be old enough to start in about a year.

I would love more information on teaching and working with the kids. My patience level with the kids even surprises me! Any tips and suggestions would be welcome.

Casper Baar
7th February 2004, 16:10
Just tought I'd add some extra information perhaps someone can use this.


Posted above is a link to information about the g-judo tournaments and events as they are organised in Holland. Also links are provided to other european tournaments for judoka's with intelectual and/ or physical disabilities.
I'm afraid I can't tell you anything from personal experience eventhough the tournaments take place in my own town. It's just that Mr. J.J. Philipoom is the owner of sportschool de Lange and this is where I go for my karate-classes.

8th February 2004, 04:29
These are just awesome stories - kinda choke me up. Really makes you relaize what strength of character is all about.

9th February 2004, 10:02
Absolutly great story. I don't know the kata for karate, but his form looked really good, good posture, timing, balance and good seemed to be well grounded!

I hope he goes on to do other great things!

23rd February 2004, 02:30
Inspirational, to say the least. Who said MA is all about Waza? :)

M J Moquin
24th February 2004, 02:51
Originally posted by SMJodo
.....kinda choke me up........

I'm sitting here at work with my eyes all welled up:cry:, trying not to draw attention to myself. Or to the fact that I'm online when I should be working.

Thanks again Mark for posting this!

24th February 2004, 04:18
What can say that has not already been said. I practiced shotokan for years, and have a shodan, and I have to admit that his form was better than most people I've seen. And the determination he exuded with his eyes while holding kibadachi.....just awsome. It's an inspiration and makes me see the shortcomings in my own training. It is the epitomy of true budo in my mind. An art that protects, expands, and unifies mankind. God bless him, I'll have to drop him a note.

24th February 2004, 17:51
If that'd not the definition of martial spirit then I don't know what is...I wish I had the focus and shear determination as that teenager did.

Watching that video put a tear in my eye and made me almost cheer when he passed, and that's quite a funny thing to do in a quite office! :)

Amazing. Truely Amazing.