Fighting for fun and fitness

Kickboxing instructor, Sonya Dowker, demonstrates how to do a kick on Myrna Harrod-Taniguti while Jen Belle and Amber Benoit observe during a Mom’s Fight Club session at Clearwater Secondary School on Feb. 24. Photo by Jaime Polmateer
Jen Belle and Jamie Fischer practice throwing punches at a recent Mom’s Fight Club session at Clearwater Secondary School on Feb. 24. Photo by Jaime Polmateer
Aikido instructor, Myrna Harrod-Taniguiti, holds the pads while Amber Benoit throws a few punches at a recent Mom’s Fight Club session at Clearwater Secondary School on Feb. 24. Photo by Jaime Polmateer

When chief instructor of Clearwater Aikikai, Myrna Harrod-Taniguti, and kickboxing instructor, Sonya Dowker, needed something to do during their childrens’ hockey practices they got the idea, why not teach moms to fight?

This prompted the creation of the Clearwater Healthy Living Program’s Mom’s Fight Club, which has grown to include any teenage and adult women interested in getting active, giving them the opportunity to dabble in martial arts without having to sign up for a full course.

“We were looking for something to do during (hockey) practice and we thought, let’s just get together and do some training and invite other people — whoever is interested can show up and give it a try,” said Harrod-Taniguti, who has been teaching Aikido in Clearwater for three years.

“It’s on a drop-in basis and we just wanted to keep things casual and hopefully attract a few new people who are curious, but don’t really want to commit to a full course. It’s kind of like getting your toes wet to see if you like it.”

The focus of the group is to teach techniques in punching, kicking and falling safely, while exercising one’s mind as well as their body.

Harrod-Taniguti said the focus and concentration required in practicing martial arts offers a good break for the mind and is like hitting the reset button on one’s day.

“I was never the type of person who enjoyed a lot of sports; it wasn’t my thing and even going to fitness classes I’d find myself zoning out (sometimes),” she said.

“For me, the martial arts was a really great fit because you have to be really focused in class, we’re not on our cell phones. The time you spend within the dojo, you’re just doing that. You’re not having to think about things like, what am I supposed to pick up at the grocery store on the way home?”

Amy Dulaba, who has taken part in the program, said, “When I finish the class, I feel great. My mind is clear and my spirit feels lifted. I have a newfound confidence and I’ve learned that although I lack muscle and athletic ability, there is power and strength with movement and technique.”

One of the biggest hurdles students face is getting over the trepidation of potentially hurting someone and Harrod-Taniguti said those starting out are often more concerned about hurting their sparring partners than themselves.

She said the kickboxing element was good at helping get over this fear because the partner is holding pads, so they’re not being hit directly.

As part of the Aikido training weapons like wooden staffs are also often used, and this helps as well, because of the distance it provides between training partners.

Then as participants practice for a while, they get more comfortable and less apprehensive about doing some of the techniques where one actually has to grab onto the other person and throw them.

“If you want to get active, but don’t really want to go to the gym, don’t really want to do a team sport, then this might work for you. And It’s also an opportunity for socialization,” she said.

“We spend a lot of time laughing, mostly at ourselves, and most of the time people leave with a smile on their faces, so I think that’s really good.”

Harrod-Taniguti has been practicing Aikido for 20 years, beginning when she was in university before going to Japan where she trained at the world headquarters for Aikido in Tokyo.

Mom’s Fight Club takes place Tuesdays from Jan. 14 to March 10 at 6:45 p.m. at Clearwater Secondary School.

The cost is $5 per drop-in.

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