East Van creative culture thrives in a new way

Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly teaches swordplay and other modern armed and unarmed martial arts in East Vancouver. While their focus is more practical than theatrical, Valkyrie WMAA shares a love of innovation, inclusion, and community engagement with The Cultch, and the two organizations also have a shared history.

Jordan Both, who has been a regular technician at the Cultch for over a decade, was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Valkyrie. Back in 2012, Jordan was looking for a way to expand his martial arts training. He reached out to David Packer, a swordplay expert and martial artist with over 35 years of experience, who he had met the year before. David had been teaching for decades, and had run a few schools, but at the time didn’t have any ongoing practice. Jordan talked him into a weekly private session that they held outdoors —  in their backyards, in parks, and under bridges.

Their partners, Kaja Sadowski and Courtney Rice, quickly jumped into the sessions as well. Then a few more friends joined in, and soon they had a regular group of people waving swords around in parks. When fall hit, David and Courtney decided to formalize things and find a rental space to move the practice indoors, and Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly was born.

Kaja joined Valkyrie’s teaching staff in December 2013 and created a beginner program to shepherd new students into the regular curriculum. By the end of 2014, Valkyrie was running four classes a week out of two rented locations and a park, and was running out of places to put new people. It was time to get serious. Courtney and Kaja started building the business infrastructure to make a permanent location viable, and the teaching team recruited three new coaches from the school’s senior students, including Jordan.

The permanent Valkyrie WMAA space opened in October 2015. The school is bright, colourful, and friendly — an intentional rejection of the typical macho environment of most martial arts spaces, from their serious, black-dominated colour schemes, to their heavy emphasis on competition or climbing ranks as the goal of martial practice. Much like the Cultch, Valkyrie instead aims to be a creative space that cultivates an adventurous approach to the arts by an engaged clientele.

“For me it’s about exploration and experimentation. Exploring what my body can do, how it can move through the world, and how it can affect my opponent. From there, we take what we discover and experiment with/on each other to see what works. What works for me, might not work for my opponent and that’s also interesting. We’re collaborating to build/discover better humans through the affectionate medium of stabbing, slashing, squeezing, throwing, punching, kicking, and generally bludgeoning each other. What’s not to love?”

Philip Persad

Jordan loves his students’ reactions to Valkyrie’s approach. People who had never considered themselves capable of any violence delight in a well thrown punch, or discover a love of wrestling. People with experience in more traditional, rigid martial arts suddenly find their own style.

“Valkyrie’s approach brings in aspects of a wide array of martial arts, not only drawing on the best techniques and approaches from a variety of disciplines, but encouraging students to be creative. It’s okay to be new or novel in your approach, and wanting to find out if something works is a good enough reason to try it (safely).”

-Sarah Campbell

Jordan’s search for personal improvement has opened the door for many other people to discover their own potential in ways they didn’t think was possible. What began in a cold Vancouver backyard now has a warm home to thrive in, and a community of dedicated students. If you are interested in seeing what Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly might do for your own creativity and physical expression, check out their programs at valkyriemartialarts.com, and save 15% with the discount code I<3thecultch.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned from both my own experience, and from that of the people I’ve seen at Valkyrie, is that anything’s possible. That sense of possibility is one of the coolest parts of training there.”

            –Zach Doyle

Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly`s special offer to The Cultch subscribers

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Jordan Both has been a regular technician at The Cultch for nearly a decade, and got his start in theatre through our youth program. He’s recently embarked on an exciting new business venture that brings a new twist on fitness to East Vancouver. Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly held its grand opening in October 2015, and has been keeping busy establishing itself as an important community space for martial arts and fitness in the Collingwood neighbourhood.

Valkyrie WMAA1                                                 “A rare pause in boxing class.” (Photo Credit: Courtney Rice)

Valkyrie WMAA is co-owned by Kaja Sadowski and Courtney Rice, and is the first female-owned and operated Western Martial Arts school in Canada. Jordan and his fellow instructors teach swordplay, boxing, and wrestling six days per week, and offer a unique training program that combines historical knowledge with modern sport science to turn even the most dedicated couch potato into a fit and happy fighter. Their classes range from 2-hour evening martial arts sessions, to day-long workshops, and quick and cheap 1-hour drop-in fitness classes. There’s something for everybody, regardless of their interests and schedule.

Valkyrie WMAA2                                              “Student Kat Yoshida spars with a rapier.” (Photo Credit: Courtney Rice)

The school was recently named a Top 5 Finalist in the “Best Emerging Entrepreneur” category of the Small Business BC Awards, which 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”. The Valkyrie WMAA team sees fitness and martial arts training as 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.

Valkyrie WMAA3                                               “Focusing on swordplay drills.” (Photo Credit: Courtney Rice)

Like The Cultch, Valkyrie WMAA is committed to supporting diversity and community engagement within its field. In martial arts, that means maintaining a safe space for students of all backgrounds, offering excellent training for every body type, and educating the general public through free online tutorials and low-cost community lectures and workshops.

Valkyrie WMAA4                                            “The Valkyrie WMAA founders at the school grand opening. Left to Right: Courtney Rice, David Packer,

Jordan Both, Kaja Sadowski.” (Photo credit: Carol Both)

They’ve also got a special offer for supporters of The Cultch who want to get in on the swordfighting fun. From now until March 4th, all of our subscribers will receive a free Valkyrie Base 4-class introductory program ($120 value) with the purchase of any credit package. Credits are redeemable for group classes, private lessons, and workshops, can be transferred or shared between multiple students, and never expire. We wish Jordan and his co-workers success with their new business, and look forward to trying out a class for ourselves!