Terrace shogun dojo is less about the sport, and more about providing support and community for youths, especially those troubled or on the outside of social circles.
“It’s a place where all walks of life are welcome. It doesn’t matter what your social status is,” said sensei Amber Pipe. “I don’t turn anybody away. I use it for a place where people can feel like they have a home.”
Shogun dojo is a light-contact field of martial arts that includes karate, kickboxing and point fighting and emphasizes self-defence and respect for opponents.
It is an inexpensive sport which fighters can continue pursuing into adulthood and will not age out of.
“If you love it, you can always do it,” said Rajan Sangha, co-sensei with Pipe in Terrace.
Pipe said they use the program to encourage youths and challenge them to set goals such as overcoming substance abuse or building self-confidence.
It also requires dedication to get up four days a week for workout sessions beginning at 6 a.m.
With that, the program offers a place for youths to be part of a group, make healthy friendships and get connected.
Pipe says she is so proud of the fight team she has, six youths ages 15 and up who are tight friends, don’t drink or use substances, and welcome and take in new youths who Pipe invites.
The focus of the program overflows from Pipe’s life experience.
At 14, she was cut off from team sports due to a serious arm injury, and it set her on a path of drinking and rebellion, she said.
By 20, she was addicted to crack cocaine and dealing marijuana. Then, 18 years ago, a friend intervened by convincing her to try out kickboxing.
“I started martial arts and it saved my life along with the grace of God,” she said. “It’s the only thing, other than God, that I love more than getting high. And I had to find that.”
Over the next few years, Pipe was able to break her addictions, earn black belt status and start teaching shogun dojo in Terrace.
She took over the program in 2013 and it has been growing ever since, she said.
“I have a passion for teenagers that may have their lost way into substance abuse like myself,” Pipe said. “I try and offer them a free place to train with the promise that they will try and clean up their life and give me a year to take them to tournaments and see if it’s worth the sacrifice.”
Co-sensei Sangha got into shogun dojo at age 11 and has excelled.
Now 23, Sangha is a black belt and three time bronze medalist at the World Karate and Kickboxing Championship, and has been helping teach the sport since 17.
“The thing I like the most is that everybody who trains now, we’re all friends… we’re kind of just one great big family,” he said.
Along with the fun of travelling and hanging out, Sangha says teaching has rewards too. “Watching them succeed is a huge thing for me,” he said.
“When somebody comes in and they can barely throw a punch the first day, and then six months later you see them at a tournament and whether they are winning or not, they are doing what you’ve told them, they are doing good things, and they’ve learned, that’s a pretty good feeling.”
The two sensei run several programs in Terrace, including kids karate for Suwilaawks students, adult kickboxing, a morning fitness program and their advanced, competitive shogun dojo team.
Rather than emphasize winning, they focus on gradually developing and strengthening fighters – both in the sport and in life.
They inspire the team by travelling to tournaments and have done very well in the past several years. The team is training and saving for the Irish Open martial arts tournament in Dublin next March, which raises money to support the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC)