Since its opening in 1968, the club — founded by former RCMP security specialist Mike Litwinzcuk — has turned several YMCA studios into makeshift dojos.
Members past and present attended an anniversary event to celebrate the milestone, which saw karate demonstrations and an informal ceremony.
Litwinzcuk had no idea his club would ever achieve such a legacy in Montreal.
“When I started the club in 1968, I really had no notion that 50 years later I would be standing here,” Litwinzuck said.
Greeting new and old faces in the gymnasium, Litwinzuck was overcome with emotion, he said.
The longevity of the karate club is because of its unchanging goal, Litwinzuck said.
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“Not only to benefit off the sport but also understand the philosophy of the martial art,” Litwinzuck said. “Also, give back to the community and build good character.”
But the legacy of the club has lived on after Litwinzuck left.
Former students, now teachers, have picked up the mantel and responsibility of coaching karate.
“It speaks to the quality of the teachers and as well as the relationship we have developed with the ‘Y’ that we are able to keep this Dojo up and running for in the community,” said Robert Kalinowicz, who holds the rank of Shihan 4th Dan.
Louise Provencher, a Renshi 6th Dan black belt, and Kalinowicz were a part of club in its early days almost 40 years ago.
Both Provencher and Kalinowicz still teach the Yoshukan classes.
Over the years, both say they have seen many students become successful karate competitors,
“Hundreds of black belts over the years and thousands of students passed through the doors,” Kalinowicz said.
The students’ success brings joy to Provencher, who says it’s the thing that she’s most proud of.
“Seeing those youngsters who started off with us when they were six or eight years old and are now second, third-degree black belts and they’re still around,” Provencher said.
Although a learning ground for the martial art, Provencher says students learn more than just self-defense techniques.
“Its about learning courage, putting in the effort, and being honest and thriving to be the best that you can be,” Provencher said.
As for the future of one of the oldest Karate clubs in Montreal, Kalinowicz says he believes the lessons will continue to be carried on the same way they have for 50 years.
“I think this will continue to flourish and grow and get stronger and rooted in the community,” Kalinowicz said.