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Beginner to black belt: discovering martial arts at UVic


September 12, 2022

University is one of the best times in life to try new things and discover new passions. With over 30 sports clubs and various active living programs like martial arts and racquet sports, the opportunities to cultivate new interests and forge new friendships are endless.

For the last five years, Sensei Aaron Usatch has passed on his martial arts knowledge as a volunteer Shorinji-Ryu Karate instructor at UVic. Shorinji-Ryu Karate is a style of karate founded shortly after World War II in Japan that focuses on energy (Chi) meditation, martial science, philosophy, and history.

The club’s mission is simple, to preserve martial arts in modern society.

With 24 years of training in classical martial arts, Usatch is invested in sharing his knowledge with the next generation—even if the next generation has never stepped foot in a dojo and is entirely brand new to martial arts.

“Absolutely, everyone is welcome. The dojo is a place that does not discriminate,” said Usatch. “It’s a safe environment with no judgements—the ideal student is anyone with the desire to learn and grow as a human being.”

For Usatch, martial arts is a passion and a lifestyle, something he shares with students like Viet Dung Le and Brianna Bock, who started in the Shorinji-Ryu Karate program five years ago and are now preparing to test for their black belts. Both students had no previous martial arts training before enrolling but progressed through the belts quickly with hard work and dedication to the craft.

Next month, Usatch, Dung Le and Bock will travel to Kyoto, Japan, for an international global summit celebrating and commemorating the 128th anniversary of Dai Nippon Butokukai (DNBK), the oldest martial arts association in Japan.

Shorinji-Ryu Karate at the University of VIctoria

The UVic dojo is a member of DNBK, and every four years attend the event as special guests of the Japanese royal family. During the trip, Dung Le will test for his black belt, something he has been preparing hard for mentally and physically leading up to the trip.

According to Usatch, getting ready for the summit in Japan is a long process for his advanced students. They train extremely hard for what will undoubtedly be a life-changing process—something neither Dung Le nor Bock ever imagined would be the case when walking into the UVic dojo brand new to martial arts.

In Kyoto, the daily sessions run from 5:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. The students and sensei must stay completely focussed throughout—an intense and exhausting endeavour that few ever get the chance to experience. While in Kyoto, Dung Le will test for his black belt to see if his hard work paid off.

“It’s the most rewarding thing in the world to watch humans get challenged, gain confidence, develop self-awareness, discipline and resiliency. My job as sensei is to pass on my teachings and this is the first generation of students, I have trained who will hopefully continue to preserve the art,” said Usatch.

UVic Active Living offers a wide range of martial arts programs, from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to fitness boxing, self-defence, and Shorinji Ryu Karate, to name a few.

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