BY: Joe van Troost – IOGKF Canada

Shudokan Dojo, headquarters for IOGKF Canada, recently played home to Demark visitor Julie Friis Christensen. As it seems she had quite an effect on her fellow Karate-ka and is already missed at the dojo…

Back in September 2009, Sensei Nakamura's Shudokan dojo  welcomed Julie Friis Christensen as a temporary member. Julie is from Denmark, and is only 17 years old. This remarkable young woman - a junior black belt - decided to come here to expand her training with Sensei Nakamura and take what she learned here back home.  Julie made an immediate impression on the dojo . Within no time at all, her kind and genial nature had made her friends with just about everyone - the adults, the other juniors and the children. When doing kata in a group, all eyes were on Julie - her skill, focus and a very low shiko dachi  won the admiration (and envy) of everyone on the floor. 

She could not, and indeed did not, have done this alone.  She attended Central High School in Burlington and lived with a host family, who took in a total stranger for five months.  To help her safely get to and from class in our cold Canadian winter months, several dojo members offered her transportation.  And of course, her family back in Denmark had to fund her excursion over here - and leave the care of their daughter in the hands of, as I said before, total strangers.

On her final class with Sensei Nakamura, Julie and Sensei each performed a kata for the other (Sepai and Suparinpei , respectively), then we all threw a few hundred punches in shiko dachi in her honour (I don't think she won very many friends after that little exercise, though!), some nice things were said about her and then we took a group picture.  It was a memorable class.  It was a perfect reminder for all of us, and we hope for Julie, that she left here having improved in karate and making many friends from inside and outside the dojo .  Her presence was most welcome, and always will be; most of us already miss her!

As I only started at Shudokan and the IOGKF in September, shortly before Julie arrived, I perhaps have a different perspective of this whole story than long-time members do.  For one, this story really brings out the "I" in IOGKF; not one of the other dojo I have attended in my 13 years of karate training had anything similar to this happen to them.  This also shows the strength of the federation and the real power of Karate in several ways.  One, despite Karate being a martial system, it really brings people together, not apart. Two, it develops and fosters the strength of character needed to do something like this, i.e. pick up and go somewhere foreign, especially when one's first language isn't English. I can also attest to this, having trained in England and Finland in different styles. Three, it broadens the scope for learning - the fact that members not only are able, but are also encouraged, to go to another dojo to train with a different instructor shows an openness and acceptance of a wealth of teaching styles. Finally, it engenders trust and goodwill in a world where reports of bad things happening to good people seem so common.
Julie, if you are reading this, we want to say "Thank you" for training with us, and we look forward to seeing you again! Sayonara , and best wishes on your life's journey.

Your friends at Shudokan dojo, Canada