Aimee McIntosh, an instructor for the Sooke Martial Arts Association, developed a love for karate nearly three decades ago.
Since then, the 32-year-old Sooke resident has earned a first-degree black belt and is one of six sensei in the club.
Karate, she says, taught her the value of respect.
“It’s shown me if you want something, you have to work at it,” says McIntosh, who began training with the Sooke Martial Arts Association when she was five.
“I learned the value of respect. I learned how to teach. I learned how to speak and be spoken to. I have a greater sense of self-confidence that really hasn’t wavered even through even my teenage years.”
Founded in 1982 by Ian Milne as Sooke Martial Arts, the group manifested into the Sooke Martial Arts Association in 2010, and is now a non-profit run by volunteers.
From beginners to individuals with experience in other styles, the club welcomes members from all corners of the Sooke Region.
The association practices Shotokan considered a traditional and influential form of karate.’
Between September and June, about 50 members of the club are drilled and taught by six sensei.
There are two classes a week – junior for those under 13 and senior for those over 13 – and several competitive tournaments a year.
The most important link that brings the club together: family.
“We’re very family friendly. Many people that start with us involve their kids. It actually becomes a family activity for them,” says McIntosh, whose father is also a member and lead sensei of the association.
“The parents have to be a part of it as well. It’s a family requirement to be involved.”
Of the six sensei, three have been with the club since its inception: Don McIntosh, Nicky Logins and Trina Lacroix. The other sensei include Reese Anderson, Aimee McIntosh, and Levi Niblack.
Student belts run from white to black, but there is only one promotion a year.
Not all students get promoted. There are criteria they need to meet, which includes attendance, knowledge, and expectations set out by the sensei.
McIntosh says it can take anywhere from seven to 13 years to earn a black belt, depending on the age students start.
It took McIntosh 13 years to get her black belt, but her father, who started as an adult, earned one in seven years.
“It often comes down to maturity levels,” McIntosh says.
“We found ages 17 and above tend to be able to handle the responsibility of being a black belt or a sansei better.”
Recently, members of the association took part in two tournaments.
At the Victoria Cup in Saanichton May 4, two juniors and four seniors came home with medals. That competition was followed up with Hasting Martial Arts open tournament in Saanichton where four juniors earned medals, and the club’s brown belt student received five medals.
“We encourage students to go into tournaments to expose them to it. It gives them a healthy dose of competition,” McIntosh said.