By Susan Baldassi and Janet Fuchek
Ottawa’s Tanya Lemaire and her husband Shane Hale fight fiercely and get rewarded for it.
After all, they’re award-winning Isshinryu karate experts, both recent recipients of International American Okinawan Karate Association distinctions. Lemaire, a Shodan, earned the “Outstanding Black Belt – Female” plaque, while Hale, a Nidan, took the honour for the males.
While their fighting spirit is evident in the karate dojo, the Canadian couple gets along quite well behind the scenes.
“We always work things out,” says Lemaire.
The jubilant duo credits the karate club where the two train as instrumental in their karate development. For the past 10 years, they have been members of Ottawa’s Toshikai dojo, under the direction of Sensei Tim Leonard.
“I guess my first reaction (was) I was just completely surprised and honoured and overwhelmed that my dojo had done that for me,” says Lemaire, whose club nominated the pair for the prestigious award. “It validated all the hard work I put into my karate career and all the work I put into my dojo to make it a success.”
Her husband was also taken off guard by the accolade.
“It’s obviously very impressive,” he says. “It came as a bit of a surprise, of course. It was obviously an honour. All the people that go before you (for this award), I don’t know if we are that calibre, but we try our best.”
The fact that it was a husband-wife duo who won the distinction makes it all the more unique.
“That’s amazing that it happened to be two of us who got it – and from the same dojo,” says Lemaire.
Their instructor Leonard praises the couple for loyalty and dedication.
“In the club, Shane is my most senior black belt, and I rely on him to be there, to run classes when I am not able and to set the example for the others,” says the proud teacher. “Shane has done this willingly and consistently. This past year, he took the next step in his martial arts path and opened his own dojo. It has been a great success. Shane has been vital to Isshinryu in Ottawa. He is committed to the principles of (Master Tatsuo) Shimabuku’s teachings, and when you meet him, it is evident Isshinryu rests in his soul.”
He also has positive things to say about Lemaire.
“Tanya typifies everything that an instructor would want in a student and as one of their assistant instructors,” says Leonard. “She is a true leader in the dojo. Tanya will now be offering Isshinryu kids’ classes on a weekly basis, which is a first for our dojo since its inception in 1997.”
The Canadian couple is grateful for the support of their club.
“It’s a joy to see everyone progressing through the ranks and growing as people on their individual martial arts journeys,” concur Lemaire and Hale. “These awards are a token of the passion we feel for our dojo and our karate.”