Prince George Judo Club (Hoku Dojo) – 1954 to Present (2014)
The Prince George Judo Club was started in 1954 by five young men from Germany who brought their love of judo with them to Canada: Uwe Aaroe, Heinz Lamparter, Louie Berger, John Rainer and Bill Misch. Uwe Aaroe, who held the rank of ikkyu, was the club’s first instructor. The group was active in training around the province, travelling all over the central interior.
By 1964, commitments outside the club were making it harder for the remaining original members, Uwe Aaroe and Heinz Lamparter, to make all the practices. John Huntley, who was newly transferred to Prince George for work, stepped in as a 23 year old ikkyu to become the next Head Instructor of Prince George Judo Club.
At the end of the 1964 season, it was decided to leave the mats in place in the basement of the old Civic Center instead of stacking them for storage over the summer, as the doors were newly secured with locks. Unfortunately, the locks were of little good against Mother Nature. Two days of heavy rain in June overwhelmed the storm sewers and flooded the basement. When it was discovered, the best efforts of club members could do little to stop the mats from turning into an unusable fungus farm.
Lacking the funds to purchase more tatami, an alternative would be needed. The membership rallied and created an ingenious workout area of carefully dried saw dust sandwiched between layers of building paper, surrounded by a wood frame with canvas stretched over the top. Despite the unanticipated wax coating on the canvas, practice continued on this workout area for several years before new tatami could be purchased in 1967.
In 1965 Takeshi Aoyama, shodan, and his wife Shizuko moved to Prince George. Together with John and Geri Huntley, they helped run the club. With the help from a guest instructor from Japan, John Huntley and Heinz Lamparter earned their black belts in the spring of 1967. Around this time it was decided the dojo needed a proper Japanese name. Shizuko suggested Hoku Dojo, or the northern dojo, since the Prince George dojo was the farthest north in BC at the time.
The club continued to grow, and by 1970, was too big for the space it occupied. More space in the Civic Center was opened up for the club and it was transformed to a proper dojo, with an office, showers, and a ‘floating floor’.
During the next 30 years, the club grew even more. Mr. Huntley was transferred to Kamloops in 1986, and the role of Head Instructor was passed to Kelly Doucette with Aline Strasdin as the assistant head instructor. The club moved two more times, in 1993 to the Prince George Martial Arts Center as the aging Civic Center was slated for demolition. The last move was in 2006 when the club moved to its present location on Fourth Avenue to accommodate more mats and more members.
Kelly Doucette directed the club until 2007 when he moved to Kamloops. At this time, Aline Strasdin became the new Head Instructor and continues to run the PGJC at present. PGJC/Hoku Dojo continues the tradition of bringing up successful Judoka.
Members of PGJC have earned many national medals and gone on to compete at several international events. In 1979 Aline (Bourassa) Strasdin competed at the Pacific Rim Championships in Hawaii; in 1998 Bruce Kamstra won gold at the senior nationals; Stefan Zwiers won gold in the U21 nationals in 2008 and went on to represent Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2008 in Thailand; Kristen Yawney won gold at the U15 nationals in 2010. Stefan and Kristen are both graduates of the PGJC Tykes program, starting their judo careers at 5 and 6 years old!
Bruce Kamstra started his own dojo, the Hart Judo Academy, in 1998. Russ Ko, Hank Boas and Christian Hausot are also former members of PGJC that went on to open their own dojos.
In the 60 years PGJC has been active it has seen many changes, and many judoka have come through our doors. There have been national and international competitors, referees, coaches and several international exchange students. 2012 saw the club promote its 51st member to shodan. There are no signs of the club slowing down either. Two more ikkyu are heading for their shodan testing this year, the Tykes program is still very active, we have several athletes training for the nationals, new up and coming referees and coaches, black belts on provincial committees for Judo BC and PGJC hosts an annual shiai every spring.
In 2015 Prince George Judo Club will host the Canada Winter Games. Hope to see you there!