Sunday, 3 June 2012

Martial Arts Families

Masami Tsuruoka (rt) and his son, David


his post is the result of a suggestion made by a student within our martial arts family. If you have any suggestions for future posts, please let me know. I’m always looking for new ideas!

In the past, training as a family in the martial arts was done for one main reason: survival. Family members had to be protected…from outsiders looking for land and food, from bandits roaming the countryside, from soldiers in the pay of war lords.

Often, complete martial traditions were passed through the generations inside the immediate family and on a wider scale, through the clan. Some martial systems carried the family name, and also, as in the case of Chen Tai Chi, the name of the village or the surrounding district.

Lam Jo in his youth


I’m reminded of the recent passing of Lam Jo (Lam Kwoon Kau). His life spread across an entire section of martial arts history, from 1910 to 2012. He was a master of Hung Gar Kung Fu. He was taught by his uncle, Lam Sai Wing who was one of the finest students of the famous Kung Fu hero, Wong Fei Hong. In turn, Lam Jo passed his knowledge on to his children. His son, Lam Chun Fai is one of the leading Hung Gar masters in the world today.

The story of the Lam family is just one example. There are many more. Some families of note in Canadian martial arts history - the Tsuruoka family, with Masami Tsuruoka, the Father of Canadian Karate, passing his knowledge on to his son, David; the Hatashita family in Judo; the Nakamura family in Kendo; etc.

Nowadays, families often join martial arts classes for recreational purposes. And out of an interest for a tradition they suspect might be quite profound.

I often see the kids first. A child, or a pair of siblings will join a kids class. They’ll train for a while, then test for their first belt rank. The parents watch them from the sidelines. They see the effect the training has on their children, the sense of accomplishment and the corresponding growth in self-confidence.

Film star Donnie Yen and his mother, Bow Sim Mark


Then they make the move. Tentatively, they attend their first adult class. By the time the class ends, they feel invigorated. A new door has opened. Something of deep value lies beyond that door – fitness, health, self-protection, personal and spiritual growth…They find camaraderie with other students; they find a support system with new friends. Everyone is training together; everyone is sharing together.

The families have added another dimension to their life. Before they might have been a school/work family, a hockey and gymnastics family, a camping family…and all the other activities they share and that give their family unit character.

Now, they’re also a martial arts family. Often these folks are some of the very best supporters a martial arts club or organization can have. They volunteer to help with demonstrations, tournaments, fund raising and other club events.

For these families, the martial arts experience strengthens their bond and in turn, these very same families strengthen the martial arts. We're  lucky to have them in the arts!


  1. This is so true. Studying martial arts has opened a new door for me and I feel honoured to be part of Madoc's amazing club. Sharing this experience with my son has also strengthened our relationship. Thank you for making this all possible.

  2. Hi Jane,

    Thank you for your kind words. Martial arts teachers can't be successful without good students!


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