Shotokan Karate offers a workout for mind and body

See it in its original context HERE

Dance studio A at Le Gym doesn’t look like your stereotypical dojo. There are no calligraphy prints on the walls, no nunchucks or throwing stars and no paper screen doors for villains to jump through. There isn’t even a
row of Mr. Miyagi’s cars to ‘wax on, wax off’. Under the mentorship of sensei Melarie Taylor, this unassuming space is transformed into a dojo three times a week. Nearly 50 students study here in the newly formed Concordia JKA Shotokan Karate Students Association.

Although karate has been practiced at Concordia since 1973, this is the first year the club has had official Concordia Student Union club status.

Shotokan Karate is marked by its carefully choreographed technique. “It’s pretty much done the same routine you’d imagine a dance routine would go, but obviously it’s not the same goal,” said club member Jean-Philippe
Thériault.

“Shotokan karate is different because other styles are more about instincts and reflexes whereas Shotokan is more technically aimed,” he said.

A typical practice starts with a series of stretches and exercises to fine-tune every move. Semi-free sparring is next, which means that the attack is announced and that the fighters never actually make contact with their moves.

“It’s always controlled, we never actually hurt anyone. We stop the fist, the kick or the attack just before contact. No one has slipped yet to my knowledge. It’s a pretty safe environment,” said Thériault.

After the high-impact workout, the students have the chance to cool down and meditate in an effort to balance mind and body.

“You try to empty your mind, focus on breathing. So it’s really a blend between meditation and a big workout. I think it’s the best of both worlds,” said Thériault.

The level of interest in the club has exceeded his expectations. “It’s very nice to see,” he said. “It’s all about curiosity because everybody has a preconceived notion about martial arts. People see karate and think
it can be useful in a real context.”

Thériault admits that at an advanced level, this fighting style would be useful in warding off attacks, but one of the tenets of shotokan is to not seek out violent situations. In essence, it is knowing how to defend yourself, but only doing it if necessary.

“There is a very important part in the motto which is ‘refrain from violent behaviour,’ so you realize that you don’t need to fight. You know that if you have to fight you will be able to but you don’t want to seek dangerous circumstances,” he said.

Despite the misconceptions about the sport, the interest has been strong in the Concordia community, warranting three classes per week.

Thériault says the club is open to anyone interested in karate, with no previous experience necessary. “We always welcome newcomers. It’s a very complete sport and the more people know about it the better,” he said.
“We’re not all Bruce Lees.”

The Concordia JKA Shotokan Karate Student Association meets on Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. (beginners), Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (intermediate) and Monday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (advanced). Call Le Gym at 514-848-2424 ext 3860 for more information.

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