Sensei Steve Burch and dojo administrator Jason White met with me after an evening class in their new Kildonan Karate Dojo at 1115 Henderson Hwy.
The beautiful new white sign above the building reflects the interior, where staff and students have created the only stand-alone JKA (Japan Karate Association) dojo in Manitoba in 25 years.
"I wanted my students to experience their own dojo" said Sensei Steve, who brought his classes from Bronx Park "It’s a totally different feeling being in a dedicated dojo compared to a community club."
"I always wanted a dojo for the students built by the students. I saw the ‘for lease’ sign, crunched some numbers to see if we could do it and thought we could make it work in three or four months. I encountered lots of unexpected expenses and was past the point of no-return, financially, but with the combined commitment of the students and their work and sweat through a thousand hours of labour over the past nine months — here it is. They built it, they live in the area and it is theirs to come and train in."
The space is now a serene setting for the teachings of karate. Gleaming woodwork surrounds the hall and freestyle kanji characters painted by a student accentuate the space with Japanese words translating to ‘Family’ and ‘Never give up’.
While the class was being dismissed, Jason explained that JKA is the only organization recognized by the Japanese government to promote Shotokan Karate around the world.
"Kildonan Karate is now the headquarters for the JKA of Manitoba, which currently has three other dojos located at Sir John Franklin C.C., Clifton C.C. and Phoenix C.C. in Headingley.
"The JKA Manitoba reports nationally to the JKA in Ottawa who reports to the JKA in Tokyo."
The strict adherence to the principles of a martial art is important in that students can be assured proper guidance and utmost safety. The JKA motto is "Keepers of the highest tradition".
Even after senior students have long gone home on this evening, there are two students hard at work, challenging each other, testing their limits.
"Those are my sons in the purple and orange belts" White said. "I am very proud to have my boys here. These are the people I want them to have as role models. That’s who I want my kids to look up to —good people, respectful people like Sensei Steve."
A dojo by definition is more than a building; it is the list of rules by which its inhabitants live every day.
"Seek perfection in character; be faithful; endeavour to excel; respect others; refrain from violent behaviour."
For more information on the Kildonan Karate Dojo call 204-334-7171 or visit kildonankaratedojo.com.
Evan Comstock is a community correspondent for East Kildonan.