Archive for September, 2013

Elements Academy of Martial Arts

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Energy in Motion

There is a feeling of energy when you approach Elements Academy of Martial Arts where classes are visible through the large plate glass windows, making a stroll along Dunbar Street feel somewhat interactive.  The one room studio features high ceilings, large mirrors, and punching bags hanging in anticipation.

Elements Academy owner Emma Hamilton opened the business in 2009. When Hamilton was a teenager she began Taekwondo after finding she didn’t connect with team sports. She immediately realized that she had been looking for the physicality found in martial arts, and she also discovered that she had a great respect for the long rooted connection to something deeper than herself.

Hamilton’s philosophy is “I am a student first. If you stop developing you stop growing.” After mastering Taekwondo, she moved on to Hapkido, which she studied in Calgary. She failed her black belt in Hapkido the first time, an experience that she says was a lesson in humility and an opportunity to go back and work harder to understand the techniques. Impressively, Hamilton was the first woman Master Kwon Mo Yun had ever awarded a black belt. After earning her black belt she clearly recalls the Grandmaster’s poignant comment, “Now you are ready to learn martial arts.”

Building on her need to always be learning and mastering disciplines, Hamilton branched into kickboxing, boxing (she is currently training for her first boxing match), Muay Thai kickboxing (she won her first fight in Thailand in 2010), and she is currently working towards her purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Hamilton is the mother of two older teenagers, yet this is difficult to believe based on her youthful appearance.  A true feather in her cap, Hamilton is the first and only female to own and operate an independent martial arts studio in Vancouver.

I had the opportunity to watch Hamilton instruct an adult co-ed kickboxing class.  She attentively conducted the small class, and it is apparent that Hamilton loves to teach. She monitored each student’s movements very closely and provided positive and constructive feedback. The same is true of the other four instructors (Oliver Barre, Mysha Dewar-McClelland, Craven Denison and Todd Smith) who work at Elements Academy.

Elements Academy practices and teaches values of pride, respect, integrity and commitment to improvement. Students are trained to be effective martial artists through the application of practical techniques and by creating a safe environment for taking personal risks and challenges. The instructors model accountability for one’s actions and resulting reactions at all times.  Part of the Academy’s mission is to strengthen the community by fostering respect, considera-tion and honouring each other’s dignity.

Students are taught to handle conflict (such as bullying and other real life situations) through self-defence tech-niques although they may never need to be implemented. For younger children drill game techniques are emphasized, in addition to trust, friendship, camaraderie and empowerment. Teaching techniques are altered for older children, yet regardless of age, Elements Academy’s goal is to make classes a fun and positive experience that loads kids of all ages up with self-confidence.

The children and youth programs share a similar format. The four-week belt curriculum rotation exposes students to Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Self-Defence followed by a week of learning to put everything together in application. In the process they build respect for themselves and others, develop stronger focus and discipline, enjoy physical exercise in a fun learning environment and learn to assert personal boundaries through anti-bullying strategies and self-defence.

Parents of teenage girls will be interested to learn that Elements Academy offers Kickboxing classes. Girls ages 12 to 16 gain leadership and role-modeling experience in a respectful environment, improve skills and receive challenging physical activity, develop discipline and a strong work ethic, and learn control and correct application of skills using situational scenarios.

Last but not least, the adult martial arts programs offer everything from Boxing to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kickboxing, Street Self-Defence, Women’s Kickboxing, Boot Camps and Women’s Self-Defence.

Alternate years Hamilton organizes a ten-day Muay Thai training trip to Thailand. The next journey will be in March 2014 and is open to Elements Academy members and friends.  While some participants are experienced in Muay Thai, beginners with no previous martial arts experience are also welcome on the excursion. If you want to get fit, lose weight and have fun while training Muay Thai, Hamilton says this is the place to come. She also points out that you will experience Thailand in a unique way on this journey of self-discovery while connecting as a group.

Hamilton feels a strong appreciation for the Dunbar community.  She is grateful to the supportive and caring Elements Academy students, their parents and to her Dunbar business neighbours. As for her impressive chameleon-like attributes, it appears there is no stopping Hamilton; she is constantly working at self-growth as she pushes herself to the limit.

Elements Academy of Martial Arts
4465 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 2G4
Telephone 604-568-3441


Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Is there any month as wistful and promising, as melancholy and fresh as September? We mourn the end of summer and yet are enticed by the new beginnings that September brings, by starting fresh.

There is such a sadness to summer slipping away, with its barefoot unrushed moments, days spent by water, relaxed pace and simple joys. Time spent recalibrating can bring about surprising new goals or plans for adults given time to think about what could be. More lasting and meaningful resolutions are set during early morning discussions on a dock in August than in the days surrounding New Year’s. The lingering warm days turn to cooler evenings. Flip-flops are traded for squeaky new school shoes…and the return of routine looms.

And yet within that looming is the promise of something new. We have the feeling of starting fresh in September. Families with children certainly feel it: the passage of time marked by the freshness of beginning a new school year.

Every September kindergarteners with sweet open faces and backpacks as big as their bodies begin school and their parents know that the long era of school years has begun, no going back. Sometimes there are tears on the first day and sometimes the child cries too. Kids in intermediate grades meet in their school yard, one kicks a ball and suddenly they all pick up where they left off, on to a new grade, stage, and dynamic. Elementary school years seem to stretch on forever with gradual progression and subtle changes, often in spurts, such that parents are shocked as their child leaves grade seven that childhood passed so “suddenly”by. Still sweet but complicated new highschoolers, with lock combination numbers written in pen on their forearms, enter a whole new high school world of much commotion, change, intensity. Remaining high school years whip by quickly, tumultuous and demanding for all parties involved.

Septembers are layered with memories of our own school years past and all that was then, of shortcuts to school, of hometown
friends, of teachers who made a difference, of growing up.

And some September comes the ultimate collision of past and present when taking that former ‘new highschooler’, now finished grade twelve, off to university. No adult who ever had the privilege of attending university in Canada can walk across a leafy campus in September without a visceral rush of memories of that time in their own life so distinct, so new. Move-in day at university student residences now resembles orientation day at a most cheerful oversized camp. A huge number of disarmingly helpful young people are assembled to welcome and assist new residents. Parents help out, with wonderfully ordinary looking, worn out dads carrying boxes overflowing with haphazard contents and mother-daughter lookalikes sharing the exact same look of quiet trepidation. As those parents leave their excited young adult, who looks a lot like a kindergartener they once knew, the whole thing seems implausible, a kaleidoscope of past memories swirling with present joy and an ache of loss, and September is the setting.

At home in the crispness of September we try to snap to it: new agendas, new lunch bags and a couple new ideas of what to put in them, plans for a new exercise routine. September is a great time to say to your spouse, or your family, or a friend, “I have an idea.” As things gear up we reevaluate routines and see clearly what we would like to change or to start. A better time to practice piano. Walking with a co-worker at lunch. Insisting on protected, mandatory Sunday night dinner together. Starting a carpool or maybe abandoning one.

New school year, new plans, new routines.

Stop and feel September: the beauty of the city, the exact expressions and height of your child, the coolness of the air and the long shadows on a sunny day, the ideas you have for your year. Let September mark time for you; it is such a beautiful marker.

Golden Rug

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Vancouver’s Leading Importer of Fine Rugs

Little did I know after visiting Golden Rug Company that I would end up spending time daydreaming and researching parts of the world that I have yet to see.

Ali Amini is the owner of Golden Rug, located on the corner of West 16th Avenue and Dunbar Street. If you have not visited this shop it is a visual delight with stacks (there are approximately 3,000 in the shop’s collection) of colourful handmade carpets which open a portal into the Middle Eastern countries they originate from. The atmosphere stimulates the senses with the smell of wool and the feel of the assorted woven textures.

Traditional Persian carpets are well represented, while others come from Afghanistan, India, Iran and Pakistan, in addition to some antique pieces from Russia and Turkey. Golden Rug also stocks a small selection of pillow covers, handbags, tablecloths and bed covers. Additionally, the business offers cleaning and repair services.

Amini was born in Tehran into a family with a history in carpet making (Amini’s father is a collector). It seems this business was his destiny. As a teenager he travelled with his father to nomadic villages in western Iran where he learnt about colours, patterns, and the history of carpets. Amini is deeply appreciative of those journeys as he felt a connection to the rich culture and language.

In 1980 Amini started his career as a fashion designer in Iran. After running a successful clothing company, which sold his designer fashions, he was drawn back to handmade rugs. As a hobby he began to make, repair and design hand knotted and hand woven rugs for his customers.

In 1992 he and his family relocated to Canada. Amini continued to repair carpets and worked as a wholesaler. In 1996 he opened his first business on Robson Street. Eleven years later he closed the Robson location and in 2007 opened the Dunbar store.

Amini chuckles when he shares the story behind the company’s name. A well-known designer requested a tribal carpet the colour of a golden sunset. Saffron was used to achieve the desired shade, and before long Amini had earned the nickname “golden boy,” which inspired the name Golden Rug.

Amini has earned a reputa-tion as a respected name in the Persian rug business. He works with many reputed interior designers, and his client base comes from across North America. Both charming and amicable, Amini is eager to share his extensive background and assist clients by verbally painting a history of the carpets.

His passion for carpets is contagious. Amini enthusiastically describes their origin, and the vast difference between chemical and vegetable dyes. Vegetable dyes are rarely used these days, which is a shame as the rich colours they produce are exquisite. Amini likes to present chemical and vegetable dyed carpets side by side so his clients can see the difference.

Golden Rug has a very extensive website which provides an overview of the vast selection, although Amini discourages buying carpet online. He says you need to see and touch a carpet to truly appreciate it and feels that “a carpet is like a human, it has a soul.”

Amini recounts fascinating stories of the craftsmanship behind Iranian carpets. He explains that weaving was previously a family business and looms were found in many homes. Carpet weaving is becoming a dying art. Mothers would pass the tradition to their children, however Amini says young people are moving into other areas of employment that are not as labour intensive as carpet making.

Outside of his business, Amini keeps active which he says contributes to his happiness (happiness is a positive word that he likes to weave into conversation). Amini puts many 20 years old to shame with his level of fitness. He enjoys kiteboarding, snowboarding, skiing, power walking (two hours a day) and cycling (25-30 km a day).

Amini is the proud father of a son and daughter. He is attempting to teach his children that life is about happiness and to not get caught up in the acquisition of material goods.

He reflects on the nomads that he visited in Iranian villages, and believes that in the western world we are “running very fast.” There are valuable life lessons to be learned from the joy they derive from the good health of their animals and the possession of basic provisions.

On the subject of selling beautiful carpets to adorn Vancouver households, Amini says, “By adding the right carpet to your home you will bring colour and happiness to the floor and the room.” And who doesn’t want more colour and happiness in their life?

Golden Rug Company
3211 Dunbar Street
Vancouver BC V6S 2B8
Telephone: 604-224-3222

Journey to Learning

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Dunbar’s Comprehensive Learning Centre for Children

Leave it to an entrepreneurial mother to create a business when the service she sought did not exist. Nicole Wong Koroluk is the go-getter (founder/administrative director) behind Journey to Learning, an educational resource and tutoring centre for school age children in pre-kindergarten through to grade 9. Journey to Learning provides a multi-disciplinary, multi-sensory approach to learning, and is celebrating its first year anniversary on Dunbar Street.

Wong Koroluk is the mother of three elementary school aged children. She was formerly a makeup artist, turned stay-at-home mother. When her daughter was three years old it became apparent that she had language based learning differences. Wong Koroluk saw a gap in our system for academic learning support and was inspired to open her own centre.

She recognized that there were many other children who needed assistance in the areas of language arts and mathematics that were not getting their needs met through the public education system. Early in her daughter’s journey to learning, Wong Koroluk found some excellent resources available for children with learning differences but they often did not have coordinated services in one location.  The merging of these learning resources and services is the motivating force behind Journey to Learning.

The first thing you notice when you enter the lobby is the bright and sunny space with a beadboard paneled reception desk, benches accented with cheerful apple green and turquoise pillows, and a path of small green rugs that lead down the hallway, conjuring up an image of lily pads to hop along. Wong Koroluk’s husband cleverly renovated the space (formerly the home of Nightwatch Video) to create six private rooms in addition to a charming mini classroom for group learning.

Wong Koroluk has assembled a team of positive and encouraging tutors who are either certified teachers or have a degree in relevant areas of education. The goal is to match a tutor with a child’s learning needs. Children’s confidence and self-esteem are built upon in this journey to learning.

The centre’s team feels that the most important approach to learning assistance involves finding out how a child learns and using this information to develop a strategic framework for his or her learning plan.

Children learn in different ways, while one child may be a visual learner another may be auditory, kinetic or tactile. A child’s learning style is discovered through a preliminary assessment, which Wong Koroluk says, “puts it into context so they can use it and fire away.” Understanding a child’s learning profile allows instructors to incorporate new skills and strategies to customize one-to-one tutoring sessions.

The centre offers two programs, the One-to-One Program and the Pre-Kindergarten Program.

All new students to the Journey to  Learning One-to-One Program participate in an initial assessment screening with educational specialist Michelle Gilman. She has an extensive background in administering educational assessments, collaborating with school-based resource teams and liaising with parents, teachers, professionals and students. Her main focus is to ensure that student’s customized learning plans are based on academic priorities and are in line with B.C. curriculum goals.

Journey to Learning’s Pre-Kindergarten program is taught and designed by Susie Beers, a B.C. certified kindergarten teacher. The enriched program is an introduction to kinder-garten in a warm, fun and relaxed environment. With a small class size (ten students maximum) there is often individual learning time. Activities include early literacy and emerging math concepts, calendar activities, music and sharing,
pre-reading, writing activities and games,
poetry and story time, arts and crafts, and snack time. Doesn’t this make you wish you were 4 – 5 years old again?

When asked why Wong Koroluk chose to situate her business on Dunbar she explains she saw a need for this resource in Dunbar village. She adores the location; it is convenient for parents to run errands while their children are being instructed. She lives close by; in fact she is a true Dunbarite, having called the community home since she was a child. She is delighted to be able to walk to work, and as a devoted and busy mother, she is grateful to be nearby her children’s school.

Wong Koroluk is actively involved in the community. She loves the fact that she feels part of a village. She is thrilled that there are so many schooling options and team sports for children. As a child Wong Koroluk played for Dunbar Little League (see the article she wrote in the April/May issue of Dunbar Life).

Journey to Learning’s fall registration has commenced. Summer holidays are now a fond memory, and with children back in the classroom, it is well worth exploring the services that Journey to Learning offers to enrich your child’s learning style and make the 2013/2014 school year a great success.

Journey to Learning
4428 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC V6S 2G5
Telephone 604-734-7374