Something that started as just an idea in a West Kootenay Tae Kwon Do instructor’s mind, has now turned into a growing organization that is having a global impact.
In 2014 Master Dean Siminoff of Kootenay Christian Martial Arts decided that he wanted to motivate his students and other martial arts schools to take the part of his school’s student oath that says, “We will be champions of freedom and justice,” and move it from words to actions.
Thus, Martial Arts for Justice (MAJ) was born. The organization is designed to be an association of martial artists and school owners that choose to actively pursue justice, locally and globally. In many countries around the world, justice issues can often be the underlying problem that keeps people in poverty or bondage, including an estimated 36 million people who live in slavery.
MAJ’s signature fundraising event is called Breaking Boards Breaking Chains. Participants raise pledges that correspond to the number of boards they will break during the event. In 2014, with seven schools participating, the campaign raised $16,000, in 2015 $26,000 was raised. Those numbers are expected to multiply in 2016 as more and more schools join. “We use it to educate other martial arts schools about the problem and to ask them to join us in the campaign,” said Siminoff.
MAJ in turn, then supports International Justice Mission (IJM), a global organization with field offices around the world in areas that are high risk for justice problems. “When I first heard about IJM and the work they are doing and the problem they are fighting, then it was kind of a no-brainer for me as a martial artist to get involved,” said Siminoff. “Really, it is to be a champion for those who can not stick up for themselves.”
IJM works toward long term sustainable gains. Their four main tenants are to: rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors to safety and strength and strengthen the legal system. IJM works with locals and within the existing legal system. “To strengthen the justice system, we train local police forces, train court judges with in the legal system to ensure they do the long term work of protecting the vulnerable,” said IJM BC director of development and mobilization Phil Reilly.
“What motivates us is that we believe all humanity is created in the image of God and therefore deserving of the freedom and liberty that you and I experience here,” added Reilly.
Reilly and Siminoff will be speaking at the Selkirk College MIR Centre for Peace, Peace Cafe Thursday, November 26 at 7 p.m. They will each be sharing the passion of their organizations as well as talking about the trip they made earlier this year to Uganda and Rwanda and the work IJM is doing in those countries.