Getting Grounded in the Martial Arts

This Q&A introduces Randy Roach and his Cheticamp Karate Club to the rest of the Ryusei members. Despite his remote location on Cape Breton Island, Randy has pursued his love of martial arts travelling hours at a time by car to get instruction. More than a decade ago, he and Scott Aucoin opened their dojo in Cheticamp, as green belts, so they would have other practice partners and an excuse for training.

Today, as a black belt, Randy still gets his “karate dose” training with students at his community dojo. He recently hosted a clinic run by Mike and Dawn Brown, who operate the Ryusei dojo in Prince Edward Island.

Question: How did you get started in karate?

Answer: As a child, I had no access to martial arts. But when my brother went away to school, he joined a Uechi-ryu club, and when he came back on weekends, he would show me things. When I went to university in Sydney [Nova Scotia], in 1997, I joined the Uechi-ryu club there.

I then moved around a lot and studied a little bit of whatever was available. I finally found myself in Cheticamp [Cape Breton], and again, there were no martial arts available. Then I heard about this guy who had just come back to Cheticamp from university and was a brown belt in Shotokan karate. So we would get together to practice. Later I heard through a work colleague that there was this young guy, Leo Donovan, teaching Chito-ryu karate in Ingonish.

So I called Leo out of the blue, and Scott [Aucoin] and I started driving to the dojo on Saturdays for two hours, training for five hours, eating food, driving back, and practicing what we learned in the meantime.

Q: How did you wind up starting your own dojo?

A: It was one of those necessity things. Scott and I wanted training partners, so we started teaching in Cheticamp, even though we were just green belts. The club has been going for the last 10 years or so. It’s kind of a selfish thing: I need to get my karate dose. If I don’t teach it, I don’t get it.

Q: What else do you like about teaching?

A: While I didn’t ever aspire to be a teacher, I discovered benefits that I never imagined. You learn yourself by having to teach. And I get great joy and satisfaction from kids and adults having fun and improving. I love being able to share my passion for karate.

Q: What do you enjoy in your own personal training?

A: I like the self-defense side. I was never a huge fan of tournament fighting. I also like pursuing the kind of fluidity you find in Ryusei technique. The Chito-ryu we practiced was much more rigid.

Q: In May, your dojo hosted a clinic taught by Mike and Dawn Brown from Prince Edward Island. How was that?

A: It was great. They delivered a fantastic clinic for the students, covering basics, kihon, kata and bo. It was a great opportunity to socialize with other clubs [including students from the Atlantic Karate Club] and to introduce everyone to  Ryusei karate. My students and I look very much forward to seeing the Browns again soon.

Q: Looking down the road, what do you want to achieve in your karate?

A: I recently went to New York City and visited with [tai chi practitioner] Bruce McKenna. His teacher, Alex, had this real solid grounding and weight that I only felt in one other instructor, [Nova Scotia karate sensei] Dave Hunt. Dave describes the feeling like walking up to your neck in concrete. It’s like a heaviness. This is what I’d like to achieve in my technique. So I might start tapping David for some practice — he’s only three-and-a-half hours away by car. [Laughs]