A little history…

We have finished moving everything out of the dojo. Many thanks to the members who helped and are providing foster care for our equipment!

Looking around the dojo yesterday, it was almost empty. It was a sad moment — I thought of all the hard work we put into building that dojo, all the members who have passed through its doors and the many great memories.

We’ve been in that unit for 15 years, which is a long time for a rental space. We didn’t want to move, but conditions dictated it.

We have a lot of members who have never trained anywhere else. It must seem strange to them to be talking about relocating. However, it’s kind of normal for dojos to move once in a while for various reasons.

Our dojo has actually moved a few times before. Here’s a little history.

1992: Samurai Club, Yonge St. — The Samurai Club was a martial arts centre operated by Moni Aizik, a Judo/ Krav Maga instructor. He employed instructors in various martial arts to teach his programs. One of them was Aikido, and the first instructors in that program were George and Gerry Hewson. They decided to resign after a few months due to other commitments, and Yumi and I agreed to take the position.

It wasn’t a big stretch for us at that time – we were running Aikido Tendokai out of the Pape Community Recreation Centre (as it was then known) downtown. After Yumi and I took the classes over, we registered with the CAF under the name “Samurai Club Aikikai.”

The only student remaining from George and Gerry’s days is David Cheung, who is now a dojocho in Hong Kong but remains an honoured member and visits us whenever he can. David gave us a lot of support when we set up at Finch.

Another well-known member and mainstay of the dojo trained at that time. Tom joined us then as a junior white belt.

1994: Impact Center, Hunter’s Point Rd. — Moni decided to expand and relocated his school to a very large facility northwest of this previous location. We expanded the number of classes somewhat and the membership started to grow. The dojo was big enough that we were able to start holding seminars, as well. It was a great honour when Kawahara-sensei came to visit us for the first time. It was around this time that we used the name “Thornhill Aikido Club,” since the name of the main school had changed.

Thornhill Aikido Club demonstration.

The students still with us from those days are Marco and Aubrie (who joined as beginners), Vadim P. and Andrei (who joined as junior white belts) and Dennis Adair, a black belt and my sempai (now retired from practice but still an honoured member.}

2000: Waldorf School, Bathurst St. — We felt it was important to get control of our membership, rather than leave it in the hands of a third party. One of our students at the time, Ed Edelstein, was a teacher at a nearby Waldorf school and he arranged for us to rent one of their gyms three times a week.

Kawahara-sensei visits Waldorf in 2003.

Since we had left Moni’s organization and Thornhill, we need a new name. We settled on “Aikido Hokuryukai,” which we registered with the CAF. Hokuryukai means “Northern Dragon Association.” It is a reference to the fact that we started in the Year of the Dragon and to the dragon spirit that O-sensei felt guided his practice.

Group shot from Waldorf, 2004

It was during this period that we started the children’s classes, which we have maintained ever since.

It was a transitional period and not a great location, so we started to plan on something bigger. We did not gain any of our current members at this time.

2005: 1110 Finch W. —  This space needs no introduction. Before we moved here, we incorporated to make it easier to sign commercial leases. (Even though it’s a private corporation, none of the instructors or anyone involved has ever been paid a salary or made any money from it. It is actually run on a not-for-profit basis.)

1st anniversary at Finch, 2006.

We have so many great memories of the space – lots of great training, several new black belts, very enjoyable community events, and all the rest that goes into making up a dynamic dojo.

New Year’s practice, 2020.

2020: The next place, wherever it turns out to be. The help of all members will be welcome in finding a new home for further growth as an Aikido community.

The bottom line? Occasional moves are normal and nothing to be overly concerned about. The main wrinkle this time around is the timing, because of the pandemic. 

By the way, I have only mentioned the students who are still members in this short history. There were many more great students in all these locations. Some moved away and many of them now practice in other dojos. They continue to be good friends.

I am looking forward to seeing what comes next!

Jim Barnes
Aikido Hokuryukai