The New Glasgow Karate Club
Over 40 years of history with no end in sight
The New Glasgow Karate Club had its beginnings in 1974 under the leadership of Dave Taylor, a brown belt in Shotokan. Its approximately 20 members practiced on North Provost Street in a building beside the legion. Among the original members were Roch Lefebvre, Edward Sweet, Jim McIvor, Fred MacDonald and Dave Taylor’s wife, who was a green belt.
During the next 4 years, members came and went and the club changed locations and leaders. From North Provost Street to Pictou, to Thorburn above the rink (where they froze!) and back to New Glasgow at the firehall. In the spring of 1978 the dojo was moved to the second level floor of a building on “back street” (Archimedes Street) which is beside the Roseland Theatre. The floor was great to train on because it was an old tile floor over wood and the amount of space was perfect as students could train on 2 floors. But in winter the ice that formed on the floor by the upstairs door and crept far into the room made training painful for some as it counteracted the effects of even the best warm ups and ensured that people kept moving at a fast pace the whole 2 hours without ever breaking a sweat.
During the early time in this location, Dave Taylor left for a while and Jim McIvor, Ed Sweet and Roch Lefebvre took over the duties of teaching and running the club. When Dave Taylor returned, he was a black belt and stayed long enough to train Roch, Ed Sweet and Susan Smith to blue belt level. When Dave Taylor left for the final time, the members met and decided to try to keep the club going. They had already built a strong sense of themselves as a karate club and decided to try to keep the club going without a black belt, to keep training with the other clubs that were building in the area, and to compete ferociously in the local tournaments. (Some of these tournaments lasted a full day. The NS Tae Kwan Do Championships in April of 1975 started at 9 am and Roch fought in the championship match at midnight of the same day!)
The training they imposed on themselves was sometimes harsh and always challenging. The blue belts kept teaching what they had learned and extended it by making up the bunkai (applications) to the kata. Sparring was a big part of their training and physical contact was not ‘limited’. Enthusiastic participation was whole heartily encouraged. Both Roch and Ed said they hated to spar with Susan because her fists were so small and punches so fast that the impact ‘hurt like the dickens’. Roch told how ‘crazy’ they were: training by taking 10 mile runs with bricks placed in their nap sacks, plenty of knuckle push ups and jumping jack and having to remain in shiko dachi for 20 minutes. If the legs of anyone shook, that person was hit by a shinai (bamboo split stick).
After training with a Kung Fu instructor from Dartmouth to further their learning, they changed to Chito Ryu once they met Sensei Michael Delaney, the Technical Director in Nova Scotia for Chito Ryu, who accepted Roch, Ed and Susan and Jim as blue belts under the condition that they trained for 2 years under Michael Delaney as blue belts, teaching their club members as they learned. There we no written manuals at that time, so these enthusiastic people wrote their own instructions manual, a copy of which the dojo still proudly possesses.
Through “Peace, Perseverance and Hard Work” the New Glasgow Karate Club had members from all over Pictou County, a large kids class, and produced 10 Black Belts, including Roch who became the first Chito Ryu Sensei of the club. Their names are:
Roch Lefebvre 1982
Susan Smith 1982
Edward Sweet 1983
During this time the Club often had more members than it could comfortably hold on the one floor, forcing people to train upstairs by the dressing room on the rough wooden floor in an unheated space. They held many tournaments, trained hard with Sensei Delaney and Sensei Higashi (the National Technical Director of Chito Ryu), worked with members of other clubs in the area (Shotokan and Tae Kwan Do- which still operate and furthered the name of Chito Ryu Karate in this county by holding numerous demonstrations. When Roch moved and left the club in 1987, he gave the leadership to Michael Stephen (who created one Black Belt – Jason Feit). During this time, three other Black Belts from the original started their own clubs in the area: Paul Donovan with Central Nova (which is still hosting classes), Gary McDonald who traveled to Sherbrooke twice a week and Rhonda Smith who was situated in the Salt Springs area.
In December of 1993 the leadership of the club was passed to a Brown Belt, Cherry Whitaker, who became a black belt in June of 1994 with much help from Sensei Michael Delaney and Sensei Christian Golz. In 1998, after 20 years in the one location, the club moved to the building across the parking lot, upstairs again. The space is beautiful with its own kitchen, one larger training area and a smaller one at the entrance – and the heat in the winter is enjoyed by all. This continues to be the home location of the dojo which has hosted many Chito Ryu Clinics for the province, many tournaments, and clinics with recognized National Karateka – the head coach in Canada, and Sensei Shane Higashi, the head of Chito Ryu in Canada.
Sensei Whitaker continues to lead with the assistance of 2 other Sensei Whitakers- Rick and Ben, and another family of black belts; Roxanne and Scott Miner. We are very proud of our members who continue to be a competitive force at tournaments, officiate and co-ordinate Provincial tournaments, serve on the Board for the Nova Scotia Karate Association and the Nova Scotia Chito Ryu Association, and teach the National Coaching Certification Program for Karateka. People from this club attend all the training clinics offered by the current Technical Director in NS, Sensei Christian Golz, all the clinics offered twice a year by the Head of Canada, Sensei Shane Higashi and also train with our SOKE when he comes from Japan every couple of years. We are trying to maintain the standards previously set by our dojo leaders and members – for competitive spirit, technical expertise, community support and and involvement, and standards of openness and integrity.