Karate School at James Bay Community School
By Rita Button
A long time ago when I started school, in a one room multi-grade rural school, recesses and noon hours in summer and fall were spent playing softball—all students participated. Teams were picked by the two best players at the morning recess and this organized the play for the day. I was always the last one chosen.
In Shodan David Da Silva’s class, I wouldn’t have known the humiliation of being the last one picked. While Karate isn’t a team sport, it is a team-building pursuit. While I watched the seven students gather in the customary circle that begins the class, I realized that this was a far different world from the one I had experienced such a long and impressionable time ago.
After the class has run a few laps around the gym, students return to the circle where Shodan David begins by asking each one the question: How are you feeling? Each answer reveals the respect that all members of the class have for each other. Right away, I know I’m going to like what I see.
The seven students in the first class—5:15 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays—range in age from six to fourteen. The youngest is also the newest; the class I attended was her first class. She is in street clothes while the rest of the students wear their Gis along with the appropriate coloured belt showing the level that each has attained. Shodan Paige, who has attended this class for nine years, helps by modeling certain stances, adjusting students’ positions in their quest for perfection, and partnering with students when the numbers in the class prevent everyone from having a partner.
When Shodan David calls for students to “partner up,” the preferred partners for each student are obvious, yet they have also been coached to include everyone, for students do not always go to their preferred partner whenever the call for partners is given.
Shodan David knows that variety is one of the mainstays of teaching. He changes the pace to maintain focus and interest. At times, the students sit in a circle and repeat the Japanese words that Shodan David shouts to them. Although the language is more the traditional form, it is a good exercise in focussing and in learning to use their voices. At other times, the students practice the stances Shodan David explains, and Shodan Paige frequently demonstrates. Likely, the favourite part of the class for students is using the pool noodles to simulate attacks to practise using the appropriate techniques they’ve learned to protect themselves in case of attack and in ways that prevent injury. Shodan David circulates in the class and watches carefully. He wants to ensure that students are fine after a questionable stance or move.
Focus, respect, working together and enjoying the challenges of learning new techniques are ways in which the students grow and learn. Their constant smiles illustrate their enjoyment. The more senior students help the younger students learn the basics; as Sensei Charlie, the more experienced member of the school, says, “Teaching someone else results in more learning for the teacher.”
New students are welcome. $65.00/month gives a student entrance to two classes a week for a month. The family fee is $100.00/month, allowing the whole family to attend, no matter the number.
When students have progressed to a certain level, they are encouraged to try the adult karate classes at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre where they will have the opportunity to progress through the levels. However, James Bay Community School is a great place to start. Shodan Paige, for example, has been attending these classes for nine years and loves them. Her interaction with the students and the senseis shows her enthusiasm and skill.
I watched only the first class on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m., but the second class, beginning at 6:15 p.m. is the more senior class at the school. Focus, respect, skill, confidence, strength and team play are only a few of the learnings that occur as a result of participation.
Just so you know: you’re welcome to drop in for a free class and register directly at the class, or you can register at the front office at the school. Shohan David likes to know if someone new is dropping in so that he can plan a “little something” for them (David’s words). The web site is https://www.caskkarate.ca/contact-us or call 250-298-7243.