BY COURTENAY RICE
Late January 2016, Small Business BC announced the top 5 finalists for all categories of their 13th annual awards. Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly, a school of boxing, wrestling and swordplay in East Vancouver’s Collingwood neighbourhood, was chosen in the Best Emerging Entrepreneur category. This award recognizes a new business that “contributes to the social, cultural and economic well-being of their communities [and] has demonstrated community leadership and entrepreneurial initiative.”
As co-owner Kaja Sadowski puts it, “Martial arts and fitness training offers an important path to personal transformation, self-esteem, self-reliance and lifelong health. Unfortunately, this path is closed to many women, older or unfit people, and members of the LGBT community due to hostile environments and poor training models that cater predominantly to fit, straight, men.”
In the macho, competitive world of mixed martial arts training and high-end fitness, Valkyrie WMAA’s colourful, welcoming space, strict anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, and wealth of strong female role models stand out.
With over 50 years of combined martial arts experience, the school’s teaching team offers top-tier technical training and fitness support for a diverse student body that includes everyone from competitive athletes to self-described couch potatoes. They’ve also gained the attention and respect of the international martial arts community.
Maija Soderholm is an instructor of Yizong Chinese internal martial arts and Visayan Style Eskrima, a Filipino sword art. She has taught martial arts for over 15 years, including seminars in the United States and Europe.
In her view, “What has been missing for far too long is a space where all people will feel comfortable participating regardless of gender or ability. A school offering top class training on par with the best there is, a place for women, the LGBT community, and for older folks who still wish to enjoy movement and play, alongside the more traditional demographics. Finally we have a place like this. A women-owned martial arts space committed to full inclusivity, and to becoming a vibrant part of the community of which it is part.”
The winners of the Small Business BC Awards will be announced at their award gala on February 25, in front of an anticipated audience of 450 members of B.C.’s entrepreneurial community. To take the top prize, the Valkyrie WMAA team is preparing a Dragon’s Den-style pitch for a six-person judges panel of business, development and marketing professionals.
Says Sadowski, “I’m really excited for it, actually—it’s not every day that we get to introduce this kind of audience to the arts we love, and to really share the big dreams that drive our school.”
Courtney Rice has been studying swordplay for more than 10 years. She is the vice president and co-founder of Valkyrie Martial Arts.
UPDATE: Valkyrie WMAA didn’t win the Top Entrepreneur prize, but it is still achievement to be nominated. Congratulations!
Copyright (c) 2016 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News