Our Heroes

Cassie - Intermediate Black Belt, 2nd kyu, Seishidosha candidate

My name is Cassie Chan, I am fifteen years old, and I have been practising Aikido at BigRock Aikikai since 2012. As an enthusiastic five year old white belt, I remember the senior brown belt and black belt girls being my heroes. I would do absolutely anything to be as awesome as them, and if that meant years upon years of dedicated training, persevering through drills, working through injuries, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, then bring it on! Fast forward ten years into the future and I’m now not only a member of the decade club, but am also a senior teacher in the Instructor Training Program and the most senior student currently participating in the under eighteen program. My younger self would have been so proud. As I continue to spend around twelve hours at the dojo each week, teaching, training, and sweating hard, all I can hope is that I can live up to the legacy of black belt girls at BigRock Aikikai, so that I can inspire and empower the many young girls at our dojo too :)

Natalie - Junior Black Belt, 2nd kyu, Seishidosha candidate

My name is Natalie Vakulin. I started practicing Aikido in 2015 when I was nine years old. Since then, I have fallen in love with Aikido as a martial art, but also everything else that BigRock has to offer. Along the way, I have met friends, found a love for teaching younger kids, and dedicated thousands of hours on and off the mat. When I received my black belt, I remembered how fascinated and inspired I was by the hakama-wearing teachers I had when I was young. Of course, at the time all I was thinking about was how pretty the black skirt looked when they rolled. I hope that for the younger kids that I teach, I can become as inspirational as my teachers were. Especially for the young girls who may not yet realize they practice a generally male-dominated sport. 

Alex - Junior Black Belt, 3rd Kyu, Seishidosha candidate

My name is Alex Tsvik. I'm 18 years old and a student at the University of Calgary currently. Aikido has been my primary martial art for 13 years, seven of which I spent taking further classes on the use of weapons. I hold a rank of Nana Dan Kai (7th level) in the weapons class, a junior black belt in BigRock Aikikai's U18 program as well as 3rd kyu through the CAF. My appreciation for aikido has grown significantly, especially as my knowledge and comprehension have expanded. I took my test in August of 2020 but due to covid, I didn't get my hakama until 8 months later. One could never forget that emotion, especially in light of the circumstances, when I was finally able to return to the dojo and get my hakama. I've met so many people via my Aikido practice, and it provides me with a secure haven from the physical and mental pressures of everyday life. I'll never forget all of the "older girls" who came before me, and how I looked up to them as seniors and role models, wanting to one day achieve their level. My goal is to inspire the generation that follows mine to discover their enjoyment of aikido to be as revered as I was. It's crucial to venture outside of your comfort zone because doing so will help you avoid failure.