Saturday, February 22, 2020

Veteran Offers Irish Stick Fighting Class

Martial arts event open to all

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

While most folks see a shillelagh as a quaint and even poetic marker of life in Ireland, Clearing resident William Seiyo Shehan sees it as a wooden stick that can save your life.

He wants to show everyone how.

Irish stick fighting (or Bataireacht) is the art of stick fighting in
Ireland, using a bata or shillelagh. It is a complex style including many strikes and parries, unarmed techniques and grappling. Irish stick fighters are some of the best in the world, Shehan said.

Tuition is $125 person, $100 for those who register before
March 17. There is a $20 discount for military veterans, active-duty military and their families. There is a $10 discount for City of Chicago and suburban municipal employees.

Tuition includes a free bata (fighting stick).

Adults of all ages and physical abilities are invited. Previous martial arts training is not required. Teens under age 18 are welcome to register, as long as they have a parent’s written permission.

“Irish stick fighting has value for people who are in top physical shape and already trained in martial arts—all the way to senior citizens who use canes, people who use wheelchairs and those with zero martial arts experience,” Shehan said. “It has something for everyone.”

For registration details, visit or find Shehan's group on Facebook.


Shehan has a motto he lives by: do what you can, when you can, with what you have on hand.

The 52-year-old Army veteran was in the news in 2016 as he worked to draw public attention to the tragedy of suicide among military veterans.

Shehan understands the challenges that veterans face. On
a daily basis, he deals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, nerve damage and other health issues, including a traumatic brain injury resulting from a 1990 stateside training accident when his Army Humvee went down a ravine and flipped.

After hospitalization and therapy, Shehan decided that  moving around made PTSD more bearable. Moving is something Sheehan is very familiar with, having done a lot of it while as a boy.

While growing up, he called Charleston, S.C. home. His grandparents were missionaries who took his mother and then him on their trips. His mother attended school in Edinburgh, leaving her with a Scottish accent. When it was Shehan’s turn, he visited about 10 foreign countries; some in Central and South America, Mexico and Pakistan.

When his grandmother was in her 70s and decided “she couldn’t handle a teen boy,” Shehan attended a boarding school in South Carolina. He was 20 when he enlisted in the Army in 1987.

After being discharged from the Army, Shehan decided to roam. “The way I dealt with PTSD? I didn’t drink, didn’t do drugs, none of that. I would go and move from town to town. As soon as I got into a place where people got to know me, got comfortable with me, the more I got uncomfortable, and so I would move.”

He also moved from company to company, always climbing the ladder to success. Shehan acknowledges that while this may have seemed like a positive thing, he was still moving.

Shehan landed in Chicago 18 years ago, the longest he has lived anywhere in his life.

“When I came here, my wife got ahold of me and we got some help at the VA,” he recalled. “I did things just for veterans, and I did a lot of that for a while. I got into chess. I figured if I could control 64 squares on the board, not that I could control them very well, but I could get some control. It allowed me to gain some control over my life.”

He also had support from his wife, Renee, and two daughters, Ava and Mia.

A convert to Buddhism who serves as a lay chaplain at the Jesse Brown VA center on the West Side, Shehan integrates his religious beliefs with martial arts and physical fitness.

“The type of Buddhism I practice is not just about avoiding bad things or being detached from physical things. It’s about getting your ass there and doing something to make the world a better place.”

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