Spruce Grove Wado-Kai Karate is still going strong.
The local non-profit karate club is approaching the end of its 33rd season. This year, beginning in September, a total of 20 students partook in weekly lessons at cole Broxton Park School concluding at the end of June in correlation with the school year.
Since forming in 1989, the club has operated out of community facilities — mainly school gymnasiums — across Spruce Grove. However, during the pandemic, the club was forced to relocate to community halls when local schools began prohibiting external user groups from utilizing their gyms.
“It was a bit of a challenge but we were able to make it work for the most part,” said Sensai Mike Bujold, Head Instructor, Spruce Grove Wado-Kai Karate.
The club has two programs including ‘Family’ for students five and older and ‘Advanced/Adult’ for students aged 13 and older. This season, the club has fewer adults enrolled than in years previous so it has focused primarily on its Family program. Pre-pandemic, the club would run on both Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Now, practices are only on Tuesdays. Current students include white belts all the way up to brown belts (the last before black).
At Spruce Grove Wado-Kai Karate, Bujold said students can expect to learn discipline and self-confidence, make friends, and of course, develop self-defense skills. One of the four major karate styles, Wado-Kai places emphasis on using the opponent’s strength against them. It focuses on low, strong stances utilizing hip movement for not only striking but joint locks and throws.
In 2000, Bujold began training in Wado-Kai at the club in Spruce Grove under Sensai Danny McCoy. He said he happened to fall into it after deciding he wanted to learn a martial art. Since then, he has earned his second-degree black belt (Nidan) and become the club’s head instructor.
“Fundamentally, (the styles) are all pretty similar across the board but the way we teach and execute them is different. I’ve stuck with (Wado-Kai) because I find this particular style works well for my body and the way I move. It comes naturally to me,” said Bujold.
Each year, the club hosts a tournament in Spruce Grove. This year’s took place on Saturday, Apr. 30, at Millgrove School where over 60 students from across Alberta competed in events such as kata (karate forms) and sparring. It was the first tournament the club had hosted and participated in since 2019. Bujold said almost all of his students made the podium for one event or the other.
“Going to a tournament is like a month worth of classes. You’re going to learn a lot about karate just from watching other people. You’re winning whether you win or not is what I try to impress upon my students,” said Bujold.
This particular tournament was the only one the club participated in this season. For some students, it was their very first time competing in a formal karate competition. Bujold said their excitement was evident. Typically, the club would participate in five tournaments across the province during a non-pandemic year. The hope is to get back on the road next year assuming health restrictions are not put back in place.
Those interested in trying out Wado-Kai can sign up via sprucegrovekarate.ca. The club offers a two-week free trial where new students can drop in for two classes to see if karate is the right fit for them.
“We encourage everyone to come by and give it try. If you like it, you can pay your fee and continue on, and if you don’t, there are no hard feelings,” said Bujold.