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The transformative powers of martial arts - for all ages

Dojo encourages families to learn and train together

While there’s certainly no shortage of fun activities for kids to participate in after school, how many can you name where parents can join in?

The more likely scenario is mom or dad driving their child to an evening lesson or practice, then sitting on the sidelines for the duration of the class. But what if you could actually participate together?

Lisa Cornfield took martial arts for several years. After having a son, she had stopped for a while. By the time he was six she thought it would be great if they could do something together, so she went online hoping to find a family-oriented dojo.

Her search brought her to Eastwind Martial Arts in Ottawa. She took one of their classes and loved it immediately. Owners Mike and Laura Sywyk have four kids of their own and they’re all members; Lisa knew instantly she had come to the right place.

She loved training with her son, Grant. “It was something that we could do together and it’s physical,” she says. “I find, for myself anyway, a large part of my physical and mental health is managed by physical activity. He’s the same way. He needs to run around daily, not just play video games.”

Lisa loves the discipline, coordination, focus and strength that martial arts require. It forces you to pay attention and makes you stronger over time, she says. The dojo itself is a welcoming and supportive environment. They encourage everyone to improve themselves and meet their potential. She has seen students from as young as four to a senior in her 70s.

“I have two degrees,” says Lisa. “I’m a mechanical engineer by trade and I have a degree in biology with a minor in psychology. For me, getting my black belt was actually harder than doing both of those things.”

Grant, now 14, is a junior blackbelt. Together the pair have studied Karate, Kung Fu and Kobudo. After taking classes together for years, Lisa and Grant are now instructors.

The Sywyks, who own Eastwind, met as teenagers through martial arts. Laura’s father owns a dojo in Napanee. The couple’s four children all train in martial arts, as well as other sports. It’s clearly a passion and a way of life for their family.

Martial arts is not an aggressive sport, they say. They’re about focus, confidence, mental strength, problem-solving and strategy.

The sport is an especially great tool in this day and age. It can benefit your kids socially: it can help prevent bullying and protect your kids from peer pressure; it can even help them avoid falling in with the wrong group of friends. It teaches children a wide set of skills they can use for the rest of their lives.

You are never too old to start your practice. Many seniors are turning to martial arts as a hobby and a way to meet new people. Self-defense is a valuable skill to have at any age.

While there can definitely be a competitive side to the sport, for the most part, success is individual. Getting promoted to new ranks within the graduated system is based on individual merit. Students have a chance to shine, to really hone and develop their skills, which can result in a great sense of accomplishment.

Registrations increase in January and September. Many see the start of a new year as the perfect time to take on a new challenge. Parents are always looking for an activity their children can take up, one that will keep them active and engaged, especially as they get older and are ready to participate in organized sports.

Many families are also looking for an activity that they can do with their children, but family sports are rare. The Sywyks offer classes where parents and children both participate, learning and training together. Of course, adults are welcome to take classes on their own, if they prefer, as are kids.

This family-first mindset is a unique advantage the dojo offers over not only other martial arts schools but different activities entirely. Hockey, dance, gymnastics - they all have numerous benefits, but they’re not activities parents and kids can do together.

“People are looking for inclusion and a tribe to socialize with, finding others with like-minded goals and personalities,” says the couple. What attracts them most to this business is the people: their goal is to make a difference in every member’s life.

“The dojo is very welcoming,” Lisa confirms. “It’s like having two families: I have my dojo family and my relation family. It’s a very positive experience for everyone across the spectrum, all ages, even if you’ve got physical challenges. The most important thing is to try to live up to your potential.”

The Sywkys also run subsidized programs for underprivileged kids and families out of Heron Road and Greenboro Community Centres. Eastwind Martial Arts is the perfect place to give this amazing sport a try. All ages and abilities welcome.


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