Castlegar will soon expand its martial arts offerings as a new taekwondo school sets up shop.
Kootenay Christian Martial Arts, which runs popular programs in Nelson and South Slocan, will begin offering classes here this month through a partnership with New Life Assembly.
“We’ve been thinking about it for years,” says Master Dean Siminoff. “People are always asking me to start a school in Castlegar. We know there’s a demand.”
Siminoff’s daughter Ashlee Heddle, a second-degree black belt and Castlegar resident, will be the primary instructor. She began learning taekwondo in her mid-teens, started teaching it a year later, and now has over 15 years of martial arts experience.
“I’ve studied social work at university, so being able to help bring families together and work with people is something I’ve always wanted to do anyway,” Heddle says.
She has taught at the school’s other locations — a handful of Castlegar students now go to South Slocan — but is excited to bring classes closer to home
Heddle says they plan to start with Monday and Wednesday evening sessions, but hope to grow and perhaps add afterschool programs.
They’re teaming up with James McFaddin, who has worked with local youth at risk, and his also youth pastor for New Life Assembly, which is providing space for the school.
Their goal is broader than teaching athletics, Heddle adds.
“A lot of students need help and guidance with whatever they’re struggling with in life. When they have something to latch onto, something to go with, and set goals, you see their grades change, their attitudes improve. A little bit of self-discipline is so healthy.”
Taekwondo is all in Heddle’s family: not only is she following in her father’s foosteps as an instructor, but her husband Nate is also involved and her grandmother Charlotte Bond is a second degree black belt.
Joining her in teaching classes will be Bain Jordan, a first-degree black belt, who Siminoff describes as a “really keen, high energy instructor.”
The program is for all ages and skill levels.
“What we do is not more open and accessible for the sake of more numbers, but for the sake of helping more people,” Siminoff says. “It isn’t diluting the quality of what we do either.”
He says given the youth problems in Castlegar he is aware of, “there’s a huge need for something positive like taekwondo … We know what works. We’re pretty excited.”