Cassie - Advanced Black Belt, 1st kyu, Seishidosha
My name is Cassie Chan, I am sixteen 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 - Intermediate Black Belt, 1st kyu, Seishidosha
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, 2nd Kyu, Seishidosha
My name is Alex Tsvik. I'm 19 years old and a student at the University of Calgary currently. Aikido has been my primary martial art for 14 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 2rd 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.
Lauryn - Intermediate Black Belt, 1st Kyu, Seishidosha
My name is Lauryn, I am 16 years old and I have been practicing Aikido since 2014. I remember telling myself when I first started that one day I would reach black belt and I would not stop training until I got there. Eight years later, not only have I been awarded my Intermediate Black Belt but I am also working towards my Shodan which I hope to achieve before I turn 18. I started practicing at BigRock Aikikai's satellite dojo in the Cardel Rec Centre where there were not very many high ranking ITP, especially not girls. I became an ITP after two years of practicing and fell in love with it instantly. I decided to try out camps for ITP that were held at the main dojo and felt like I became a part of the dojo family almost as soon as I stepped through the door. Once I fully moved to the main dojo in 2019, I was surprised by the differences in how the classes were run and adapting was a little tricky. Although this is true, I now had so many high ranking students that I could look up to and I would try and follow in their tracks. I hope that I can become a role model for the kids I teach today, especially the young girls, just like how my teachers were for me and help them all feel like they have a place they belong.
Josie - Junior Black Belt, 2nd Kyu, Seishidosha candidate
My name is Josie Webber and I began practising aikido when I was 5 years old in 2011. I began aikido because my older sister and brother had joined a few years before and by watching class with my mom while we waited for my siblings, I became more curious and excited to join. Initially, the inspiration grew from the possibility of learning how to roll and do bear crawl, but as I joined more classes and learned from various teachers, I really saw the possibility of becoming a black belt. Through years of injury, hardship, laughter, and perseverance, I finally started to actually understand the movements of aikido as more than just a copy-paste of how my instructors showed techniques. I am now a senior instructor and a proud member of both the decade and 1000 hour club. The more I practise, the more I have realised that achieving my black belt was only the beginning of my journey. Aikido started as an activity to do once a week, and has turned into a life-long passion. My siblings, Grace and Max Webber, are both high ranking instructors and students and I have always been so grateful that we get to share our aikido connection, and are able to safely brawl with each other. I find it very hard to imagine that aikido will ever not be a top priority for me. I sincerely hope that I am already someone the young girls in our dojo can look to for advice, support, and companionship, and that I can help them achieve all that they have set their aikido minds to. I have learned so much about compassion, friendship, creativity, leadership, hard work, gratitude, and many other values: I certainly would not be the individual I am today without aikido.
Elizabeth - Junior Black Belt, 1st Kyu, Seishidosha
My name is Elizabeth Lauber and I will be 20 in November of 2023. I have been doing Aikido with BigRock for 14 years, and I started out in the homeschool program at the local rec centre. My mom signed me up for it when I was six, and I never really stopped. I have the rank of junior black belt in the U18 program, seishidosha in the teaching program, and 1st kyu in the international belt system. I remember being young and looking up to the brown and black belt girls who taught at the homeschool classes. I wanted to have a hakama. When I was 11, my family moved to the Middle East for two years, which put a pause on me achieving that goal. I worked hard once I came back, and was close to doing a test when the pandemic started. Thankfully, I received the hakama by the end of the pandemic. I have been helping teach the teen class for the past two years, and also help with teaching at Cardel Rec with Natalie.
Maya - Purple Belt, 4th Kyu, Joshu
My name is Maya Hanevy, I am nineteen years old and a student at the Training Division Fire Academy. I started aikido at eight years old through the Cardel homeschool program. I hold the rank of 4 kyu in the CAF program and am a purple belt in BigRock Aikikai’s youth program. I strive to apply aikido principles to my daily life as much as possible, for example, perseverance is a principle I continually integrate into my studies. As a child, I practiced Aikido regularly for 6 years before taking a break for a couple of years. Although I tried other sports during this time, none of them impacted me like aikido and I found myself wanting to go back. In the spring of 2022, I came back to aikido and have been practicing since then. The support I have received from my peers and my teachers has been tremendous. As a young child, I looked up to the older girls I’d see practicing and they were always incredibly supportive of me, I hope to pass this support on to new generations of aikido students.