International Women's Day 2023 - The Valkyries

To celebrate International Women’s Day, the BCAF wishes to applaud the Valkyries: an intergenerational and LGBTQ-friendly group working to support the retention of women in aikido, to encourage new female members of all ages, to provide ongoing development and mentorship for female instructors and yudansha, and to use aikido as a tool for empowerment.
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Valkyries iMovie    (1:02 minutes)

International Women's Day 2022 - Liz McKinlay, 5th dan

In recognition of International Women’s Day, 2022, we are pleased to honour Liz McKinlay, 5th dan, of Vancouver West Aikikai.

'O-Sensei said that “true budo is a work of love”.

What I love about Aikido is the sense of family I find in the Aikido community. You can get to know people very well in a non-verbal way.

You may not know your partner’s name, but you learn a lot about them by how they throw you and how they respond to your throws. You see their reactions to pain and discomfort, how they deal with correction or advice, their sensitivity (or lack of), their capacity to change and adapt, how they overcome discouragements, and their general level of commitment and perseverance.

No one has the time, or energy, to be phony, shy or silly. This type of non-verbal communication and involvement cuts through a lot of the male-female game-playing that is typical in mixed gender groups.

I wish that more women would stick with practice long enough to reap the benefits that Aikido has to offer on so many levels. To me Aikido is a great builder of camaraderie between people.

O-Sensei said that “aiki is … a way to reconcile the world and make human beings one family”.

I am so happy to be part of the Aikido family. '

                             -Liz McKinlay, 5th dan


Long-time friend and fellow aikidoist Bruce Riddick has written this tribute to Liz.

'On behalf of the BCAF, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate Liz McKinlay Sensei, 5-dan, for her 40 years of contribution and dedication to the Aikido community in British Columbia and Canada.

Liz began as one of Ishiyama Sensei’s students in 1979 after 6 years of judo.  When she moved to Terrace as a 1st kyu, she opened a dojo there.  One of her students there went on to become 5th dan himself and cherishes his experience with Liz as his first instructor. 

Later, Liz returned to Vancouver to rejoin Point Grey Aikikai, which morphed into Vancouver West Aikikai, where she rose to 5th dan and Deputy Dojo Cho. 

To highlight a few of her specific contributions:  running the VWA children’s programme, promoting friendship and community building with her friendly and caring style, hosting numerous social events, presenting as master of ceremonies at major events, providing wise counsel to all members of Vancouver West Aikikai, and mentoring junior instructors and new students.  Aikido practitioners from across Canada have enjoyed staying at Liz and Walter’s when they visit Vancouver for seminars. 

As an exemplary Aikido practitioner and instructor, she leads on the mats, using her managerial abilities for the benefit of Vancouver West Aikikai, as a former director of the BC Aikido Federation and key summer camp organizer.'

- Bruce Riddick, 5-dan, Shidoin

International Women's Day 2021 - Pat Olson, 5th dan

To celebrate International Women’s Day, the BCAF would like to honour Pat Olson, 5th Dan, and Chief Instructor at Okanagan Aikikai.  Pat Sensei has served for several years as the chairperson of the Camp/Seminar committee of the Canadian Aikido Federation and is a Past President of the BCAF.  She has dedicated herself to both camp organization and to preserving the legacy of Kawahara Sensei, former Technical Director of the CAF/BCAF.

Below is a description of Pat Sensei by one of Okanagan Aikikai’s senior students, Kelly Purdue. 

The first time I got on the mat in Kelowna (some 31 years ago!), Pat was there. The last time I got on the mat in Kelowna, Pat was there. Pat drives 45 minutes one way on a mountain highway to get to the dojo. And since COVID has scuttled regular classes, she makes it to the park to lead weapons classes.  "It wasn't that cold" is often included in her reports to us.   

Dedication is one word that applies to Pat. Dedication to the students who pass through the door; to the organizational work that no one wants to do; to the ideals of our Art.  Above all, Pat is dedicated to the memory of Kawahara Sensei.  

Pat is our Aikido Mom. Cooking for us (potstickers and cinnamon buns rise to the top in my mind), opening her house for “come one, come all” seminar weekends, or a quiet bull session on what Aikido can be in your life:  Pat is there.   

Pat doesn’t just practice Aikido. She lives her Aikido and as such inspires all around her to better themselves through association with her.  

Isn’t that the definition of a great, Pat?
-- Kelly Purdue  

Pat writes about her life in Aikido so far ...  

  “I started Aikido training in July 1981 with Makoto Ohtsu Sensei in Saskatoon.  Ohtsu  Sensei invited Kawahara Shihan each year for a seminar and expected all of us to  take our grading during that time. Thus, I met Kawahara Sensei in 1982.  

The DaiSempai of Saskatoon Aikikai was Hiroaki Izumi.  From my very first Aikido  class, Ohtsu Sensei asked Izumi-san to shepherd and mentor me.  Izumi-san left our dojo in 1985 and appointed Don Ragush and me to be Saskatoon Aikikai co-directors and to arrange for the yearly seminar with Kawahara Shihan.  Since that time, Kawahara Sensei developed a close relationship with Don and me.    

I moved to Kelowna in 1986 and found that Kawahara Sensei had established a dojo here and appointed Jobe Groot Sensei to teach.  Groot Sensei left us after a year and then Kawahara Sensei took over teaching duties personally, coming to the Okanagan 5 times a year.  The BCAF always had a strong relationship with Kawahara Sensei, and in the 1990s, I was nominated to be president after Paul Martin retired from the position.  

The best part of moving to BC was the convenience of attending Sensei's summer camps.  I was  able to attend at Camp Elphinstone from 1991 to 1994, and from 1995 to 2009 at Victoria.  Finally, Sensei moved the Camp to Kelowna in 2010 and it was a mad dash to learn from Hilary Dawson Sensei and her crew how to organize Camps.   I recall that during my first camp in 2010, I kept adding announcements to my announcement list, which prompted a remark that: as an organizer, you are not very organized.’” 

--Pat Olson  

International Women's Day 2020 - Hilary Dawson, 6th dan

Hilary Dawson, 6th dan

Hilary Dawson, 6th dan

“As we celebrate International Women’s Day I am reminded how lucky I am to have had Aikido in my life for over forty years. As a practice that is not predicated on physical strength it is a wonderful martial art for women.

Some of the most powerful women it has been my privilege to train with, our own Yumi Nakamura Shihan being one, are neither big nor particularly strong physically. Their power, which energizes the whole dojo, comes from within, from that centre we all seek in our training.  We succeed best when the improvement in our own practice elevates the practice of those around us.

These lessons on the mats are equally valuable in our everyday lives. Alone in a crowd we may feel very small, but when we reach out and support each other’s efforts and share our gifts and challenges the possibilities are endless.”  – Hilary Dawson, Chief Instructor at the University of Victoria Aikikai.

Hilary Dawson, 6th Dan, is a long-time practitioner of Aikido.  Hilary started with Judo in university and switched to Aikido in 1977 in Halifax. After moving to Victoria, she continued her training under the guidance of Kawahara Shihan and was a direct student of Ishiyama Shihan for 7 years. She has taught childrens, beginners and womens programmes. Since 1987 she has been the chief instructor at the University of Victoria.

"Aiki is not a technique to fight with or defeat the enemy. It is the way to reconcile the world and make human beings one family."

- O’Sensei