The plum blossom is not only beautiful but also resilient, notes the owner and Sifu of the newly-opened Plum Blossom Martial Arts Academy.
Much like the plum blossom, Sifu Peggy McRitchie, 53, has had to be resilient against more challenges than anyone should have to face.
At 23, she was assaulted in broad daylight. In the early ’90s she battled for three years against cervical and ovarian cancer, and in 2011 she was in a serious car accident that totalled her vehicle and left her disabled for over a year.
"The plum blossom grows in the most adverse conditions," said McRitchie. "It will even bloom in winter. So I chose plum blossom because it is resistant and beautiful all at the same time. You can be beautiful but you can have this passion inside of you."
The oldest of six children, McRitchie was the only one of her siblings to take up kung fu, to the heartbreak of her father, Richard Kudding, who had hoped to see all of his children take up martial arts.
"It was four girls and two sons and they all tried it, but it was never a passion (for them) like it is for me," said McRitchie. "But he’s quite happy and proud that at least one out of the six is carrying on his lineage."
Originally, McRitchie’s parents came from Indonesia, then moved to Holland during the Second World War. McRitchie would later be born there.
Kudding learned and developed Shaolin Kempo, a mixture of the five different animal styles of kung fu, while serving in the Dutch army, and he soon started to teach classes. After he moved the family to Winnipeg, he continued to teach McRitchie and other students.
Kudding later moved to Calgary to teach there. McRitchie held onto her passion for kung fu even as she built a career as a palliative care nurse.
"The dream of one day being able to open my own school was always in the background," said McRitchie.
After the aforementioned car accident two years ago, she realized it was time to retire from nursing.
"You realize that life is short and it can change in a heartbeat," said McRitchie.
"I needed something more, something that was positive, that can give back to the community. People laugh at me because they say ‘you were in the dying business, now you’re in the healthy-get well business.’"
So McRitchie healed up with the power of tai chi, then started teaching workshops at Winnipeg community centres, but the idea of her own location was still in the back of her mind. Now that she’s set up on the second floor at 2989 Pembina Hwy., she plans to be there for a long time.
"I’ve been working hard at this dream," said McRitchie. "When I found this commercial space in April and signed the lease, I knew I was in for the long haul."
Plum Blossom has nine different programs including kung fu for adults and kids, Yang Tai Chi, and women’s self-defence.
"My dream is to be known as a good quality school where there is respect and a sense of family," said McRitchie.