Norman Welch, Shihan of Canada Shotokan Karate
Norman Welch has been the president of Canada Shotokan since its inception in 1972. It is largely through his hard work and dedication that the group has grown to be what it is today. Norman began practicing in 1964 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with Mr. Tsuruoka. He moved to St. Catherines, Ontario, in 1969, the same year that he married Sharon. It was in 1969 that Norman had an experience that would change his understanding of karate practice forever — he met Mr. Yasunori Ono, one of Ohshima Sensei’s juniors from Waseda University in Tokyo. Through meeting Ono, Norman eventually was able to meet Ohshima Sensei, whom Norman only knew as a legendary karate figure living in Los Angeles.
Norman and Sharon moved to Vancouver in 1970 with their son, Seizo. Norman and Sharon also have a daughter, Miki, who became a shodan in 1996. After Mr. Ono’s visit to Vancouver in 1971, Norman was convinced that he should visit Ohshima Sensei. Norman believed that he was merely going to “talk” to Sensei, but instead he found himself experiencing the most difficult karate practice he could remember — special training at Ojai, California. Only his earlier time with Ono had prepared him for such an experience. Mr. Ohshima invited Norman to join Shotokan Karate of America after completing special training. That fall Norman resigned from Mr. Tsuruoka’s group and joined Shotokan Karate of America. The other members of the U.B.C. dojo decided to follow Norman, and thus, at the end of 1971, the UBC Karate Club became part of Shotokan Karate of Amercia. In 1972, they formed Canada Shotokan with Gene Malec and George Quessy of Canada East.
In 1972 Norman visited Japan and trained with the Waseda Karate Club and he returned again in 1974 to practice a second time.
As the first godan in Canada, Norman has maintained a strong connection with Ohshima Sensei visiting Waseda with him on several occasions and regularly traveling to Los Angeles to practice. Norman has been instrumental to the growth of the Canada West group, both through starting several dojos, and through inspiring many juniors to progress through the ranks. At the opening of Ohshima Shotokan Dojo in August, two of Norman’s juniors, Donald Gee and Robert Powers, were awarded the rank of Godan.
Each Friday, Norman leads a senior practice for brown belt and black belt members in Vancouver.
Jocelyn Bourdeau started training in karate at the age of 12. At the age of 16, he led his own dojo and was the youngest instructor in Quebec. At 17, after attending many clinics of different styles, he became a shodan. At the age of 18, he met a wonderful man who changed his and his juniors’ life. His name: Ohshima Sensei. Mr. Ohshima recognized Jocelyn as a nidan at the age of 22, sandan at 25 and yodan at 35.
Jocelyn was selected member of the year in 1986 and 1996 for Eastern Canada. Jocelyn also founded two dojos: La Prairie in 1972, and Joliette in 1980.
In 1993, Daniel Chemla asked Jocelyn to lead the black belt practices in different dojos in Eastern Canada. Since 1992, Jocelyn has organized and led the winter special trainings for Eastern Canada.
In 1997, Ohshima Sensei asked Jocelyn to organize and lead the first summer special training in Eastern Canada. It will be held at Bishop University in 1998.
Jocelyn was either a competitor or trainer for the Canadian team at the following international events: France 1974, France 1984, Japan 1986, Harmony ’90 in Santa Barbara, and Israel 1995. Jocelyn was also a referee in Master Ohshima’s tournament in La-Prairie, 1997.
Outside of karate, Jocelyn works as a specialized educator for readaptation. He is certified in “Reality Therapy” from the Institute of Los Angeles. He is co-founder of “Femme-Action” (program for battered women), and co-founder of TIAB (Therapeutic Interventions when dealing with Aggressive Behaviours).
In September 2002, Jocelyn was promoted to godan at the Spain Fraternidad celebration in Malaga.
Roland Duval took his first karate lesson on May 3rd, 1963 in Eastview, Ontario at a legion hall. The instructor was Mr. Art Anastasiadis, a nidan with the Japan Karate Association.
During the period 1963 to 1969, Roland traveled to Montreal where he met and practiced with Gene Malec (senior SKA member). He also traveled to Toronto and met and practiced with Norman Welch (godan, president of Canada Shotokan). While in Toronto, Roland also met and practiced with Mr. K. Ogawa (sandan from Waseda University) and Mr. Ono (godan from Waseda University).
In 1969, Mr. Kinoshita of Nagasake, Japan led the Ottawa Shoto-kai dojo for two years. Mr. Kinoshita was a student of Senior Egami. Before Mr. Kinoshita returned to Japan, he awarded black belt rank to senior dojo members, including Roland Duval.
In 1981, the Ottawa Shoto-Kai dojo became “Upper Canada Shotokan”. In 1993, Roland is awarded the rank of yodan at the Amherst summer special training by Ohshima Sensei. In 2006 at Unity: SKA’s 50th Anniversary, Roland became a godan. Presently, Roland is the dojo leader for Upper Canada Shotokan. Roland also serves as regional director for Canada Shotokan (East).
Roland Duval’s career between karate classes is film/e.n.g. editor for a major television station in the nation’s capital: Ottawa. He is also a certified “Helper Level II” in the sport of Schutzhund, protection dog training. Roland was also a ballroom dancer who danced competitively for 10 years.
Combining work and play, Roland spearheaded the production of “Harmony ’90”, the video and also the re-edited version for “Presentation Only” requested by Mr. Ohshima.
Don Gee was one of the black belts who was practicing at the University of B.C. dojo when Norman Welch arrived in 1970. The next year, Don would have to decide whether to follow Norman in his decision to join SKA, or to continue practicing with Mr. Tsuruoka’s group as he had been doing since 1968. Don could see that Norman had learned something important about practice from Mr. Ono and Mr. Ohshima, so he decided to follow. As a result, Don has become a very important senior in Canada Shotokan.
Throughout the 1970s, Don led the University of B.C. dojo with Don Jurchuk, and they were famous for leading some really tough practices which often began with long runs and intense calisthenics. In those days the dojo was very big; sometimes as many as 200 beginners would start each year. Don Gee has always believed in leading by example, and largely due to his dedication, the University of B.C. dojo has produced many black belts over the years.
Don Gee credits his karate practice with saving his life in 1982, when he was in a plane crash on the water. He remembered Mr. Ohshima saying that timing is all relative, and somehow when the plane crashed, Don was able to slow the timing down, to control his breathing, and thus he was able to save himself and his fellow passenger as the plane sunk. Don is known for leading tough practices in the dojo.
Don joined several other members of Canada Shotokan and SKA for a trip to Japan in 1986 where he fought on the team, and he also traveled to Idaho for their 20th anniversary in 1987, and to Harmony in 1990, where he tested for yodan. Since that time, Don has been in charge of special trainings, and he also leads senior practice in Vancouver.
In August 2000, Don was promoted to godan at the Grand Opening of the Ohshima dojo in Santa Barbara.
Just after Al Goessman began practicing in 1979, Mr. Ohshima traveled to the Kamloops dojo to lead practice. Al was impressed. The respect and the dedication shown by all the members led him to realize that this karate group was something special. And so, in 1980, Al attended his first special training at Camp Elphinstone, and was part of a small but intense group consisting of only 40 people, many of whom were high level seniors from California as well as Canada. Since that time, Al has had the opportunity to practice with many of these seniors, through his willingness to travel not just to Vancouver, but to the Seattle area and to California.
Al has been an important leader in Canada West for many years. In addition to assisting Rob Powers with leadership of the dojo and the senior practice in Kamloops, Al has been co-leading Special Trainings since 1996. In 1997 at the Canada Shotokan 25th Anniversary, Al became a yodan. In 2006 at Unity: SKA’s 50th Anniversary, Al became a godan.
Another important part of Al’s practice is his son Kurt, who began practicing at the age of 11, and is now a nidan. The opportunity to train with his son in such a close knit community has been a very important influence not just upon Al’s karate practice, but upon his life.
Alan Kazuta stood outside of the University of B.C. dojo in September of 1971, waiting for two friends to join him for their first practice. If Alan had waited for those friends, he never would have entered. However, he did go in by himself, and started on a lifetime’s worth of practice. The first thing he learned was backstance, and legend has it that he was the only true 8th kyu that the club ever saw. Yet dedication to practice, and willing help from his seniors Don Gee, Don Jurchuk, and Norman Welch led Alan quickly through the ranks and into an increasing role of leadership. Alan was quickly appointed to be the secretary of the club at the University of B.C., so he felt that he had to attend class regularly, to show his dedication and to take responsibility.
Alan remembers attending the first special training at the University of B.C. dojo, where they ran on frozen pavement, and years of trips to Cate school special training, where his feet became raw on Hamburger Hill. However, the discipline involved in the runs and the regular jogging he did with Norman had a big influence on his practice. At one time, Alan could claim that he was the only one who had attended every special training in Western Canada, and to this day, he was missed very few. He also co-led special trainings from 1990-1995 at Camp Casey and Camp Elphinstone.
Alan continued to practice at the University of B.C. dojo for many years, no matter where he moved or how far the drive was. In 1983, he opened the North Delta dojo, which grew into a sizable group with a children’s class as well, which he still leads with the help of some other black belts. In 1991, Alan was promoted to yodan.
For many years, Alan has been the Western Canada Regional Director. He handles the administrative matters of Canada Shotokan, and the communications with SKA. Largely due to his efforts, Canada has instituted an east-west exchange programme, which many people have had the chance to experience over the years. Alan’s dedication to the karate group has been shown for many years through his hard practice and through his willingness to help with the administrative duties that go along with the organization.
In October 2001, Alan was among the ones from Canada Shotokan to attend the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the karate club at Waseda University.
In July 2004, Alan was promoted to godan at the 40th anniversary celebration of France Shotokan in Mulhouse, France.
Once, when Rob Powers was on a kayaking trip, his kayak overturned in extremely cold water, and he almost drowned. What kept him struggling was the thought that Mr. Ohshima would be really angry with him if he gave up. It is this perseverance that Rob has brought to practice ever since he started. Rob’s karate career began in 1968, when he practiced for a year at the University of Lethbridge with a Shotokan group. He joined Canada Shotokan in 1972, when he moved to Vancouver to go to law school at the University of B.C. Rob then moved to Kamloops and took over the dojo just as Norman Welch was leaving. Rob has led the Kamloops dojo since that time.
Rob has done quite a bit of traveling to different events — he has attended special trainings on the east coast, Nisei week, France’s 20th anniversary in 1984, Idaho’s 20th anniversary in 1987, and he joined a group from Canada West for a trip to Japan in 1995. Rob tested for yodan at Harmony in 1990. Since then, he has co-led special trainings for Canada West. In August 2000, Rob was promoted to godan at the Grand Opening of the Ohshima dojo in Santa Barbara.
From the beginning of Rob’s association with Canada Shotokan, he has been impressed by the seriousness and dedication of his seniors, displayed through hard practice and the constant struggle to push not just their juniors, but themselves, really hard. It is with this in mind that Rob has continued to be an influential leader in B.C.
Gurmail Gill was introduced to karate in September 1977 during his student years at the University of British Columbia.
Practices were very challenging, both physically and mentally. Then came the experience of his first special training, in January of 1978, which really opened his eyes to the idea of human potential and it cemented his commitment to a lifetime of practice. He continued practicing at the university dojo and assisting in club administration, and in 1980 was awarded the rank of Shodan.
In the years following, Gurmail practiced at the North Delta dojo, was the lead instructor at the Burnaby dojo and eventually returned to the North Delta dojo where he currently assists in leading classes from time to time. He has had numerous opportunities to practice under the direct tutelage and inspiration of Ohshima Sensei.
Over the years Gurmail has participated in numerous special trainings as well as a number of International Shotokan gatherings and practices, including in Santa Barbara, Tokyo, Jerusalem and Paris.
Gurmail was awarded the rank of Godan by Ohshima Sensei following an examination at the 40th anniversary celebration of Canada Shotokan, held in August 2012 in Vancouver. He is grateful to his direct seniors for their lessons and their example.
Daniel Trudeau had the privilege to learn karate with Jocelyn Bourdeau. Jocelyn transmitted to Daniel his love and passion for karate. After 24 years, the passion for karate is still strong. Daniel graduated to shodan in 1978 under Master Ohshima. In 1995 at Israel’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, Daniel Trudeau became a yodan.
Daniel has participated in the following international events: Harmony ’90 in Santa Barbara, Suisse Symposium ’93, 30th Anniversary France Shotokan ’94, 25th Anniversary Israel Shotokan ’95 and 25th Anniversary Canada Shotokan ’97.
Being an accountant, Daniel appreciates how karate helps him to maintain balance between physical and intellectual fitness. It helps him control stress which is the key to good health. Through the years, there is a tendency to switch from physical to intellectual activities. We must be aware that we will always need some physical training. Daniel is convinced that karate is one of the solutions. That is why he puts great pride in Canada Shotokan.
In 2010 at Israel’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, Daniel Trudeau became a godan.
Russell Girard started practicing karate in September 1973 in Sept-Iles with Mr. George Quessy. He found karate practice to be very interesting. In December 1975, Russell was promoted to shodan in Montreal under Mr. Honda.
In December 1976, Russell quit his job and travelled to California where he stayed for three and a half months in Long Beach. In California, he trained with Mr. Henry Wilkerson. Russell made some friends and enjoyed the training. There was a practice with Mr. Ohshima once a week.
Russell returned to Quebec in the spring of 1977. Since then, Russell has continued to train hard, knowing that karate practice is good for him and for everyone who practices it.
In September 2000, Russell was promoted to yodan by Ohshima Sensei.
Russell was promoted to rank of Godan at France Shotokan’s 50th Anniversary in Saint-Lô, Normandy in July 2014.