Copyright © Canadian Black Belt Hall of Fame, 2006
Ari Anastasiadis was the first person to teach karate in Canada, having opened his dojo in 1956 or 1957. He was a graduate of the famous Japanese Karate Association school in Tokyo, Japan, where he trained with all the legends of Japanese Shotokan karate and was the one of the few foreigners to attain a black belt in those early years of Japanese karate.
His students included names like Fern Cleroux and Andre Langelier, who would drive from Ottawa-Hull to Montreal just to train with someone who really knew karate.
Anastasiadis was also responsible for introducing the author of one of the most famous books on karate ever, C.W. Nicol,to karate. Anastasiadis told Nicol when he first came to Ari's dojo in downtown Montreal, that if he really wanted to learn karate he had to go to Japan where the masters of all the styles were teaching. Nicol did so and afterward wrote the most amazing story of his training calling the book “Moving Zen”.
Ari Anastasiadis' whereabouts are presently unknown. We have tried to find him but to no avail. Let it be known, Ari, you are not forgotten and we all thank you very much for bringing karate to Canada in those early days.
Champion of Champions
Jean Frenette is one of Canada's most celebrated form (or kata) Champions... not just in traditional karate but also in open tournament events across all styles.
He was the first person to really do musical kata that was timed to each beat of the music and his amazing stretch and kicking ability made him one of the most desired seminar instructors in the world during the 1980s and 1990s.
A Goju Ryu stylist, Jean has also studied Shito Ryu and Sankukai styles of karate but he has found his home in Traditional Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate under Okinawa's Jundokan organization. Frenette was a personal student of Ei'ichi Miyazato, an original student of Chojun Miyagi.
Still teaching karate at his Boucherville school on the outskirts of Montreal, Jean Frenette is now knee-deep in the film industry where he is one of the most sought after stunt coordinators in the business.
He has truly brought the world of classical martial arts to the silver screen in a way that enhances and helps propogate his first passion: the martial arts.
Martial Arts Business
Since 1969, the first manufacturers of martial art equipment in North America, Tibérius Chambrun and Vic Tremblay are true legends in Canadian martial arts. If there ever was an odd couple, it is these two. One is a martial artist and the other is a dynamic powerhouse salesman and businessman extraordinaire. One is quiet, the other a real extrovert.
Vic Tremblay, is a Black belt, 3rd dan in judo, and often referred to as 'the Canadian logger' by the French because of the substantial power with which he throw his opponent. Vic earned his living both by teaching judo and as a tailor. One day when he wanted to renovate his house, Vic was called upon a by renovation team headed by Tiberius Chambrun. They became fast friends and the rest is history.
Vic, the young Judo instructor, had already started a small company that manufactured uniforms and, with Ty and his incredible flair for business, transformed this small company into a true giant - Genesport Industries.
Ty takes care of the customers, secretary Louise Ménard tries to keep them both in line with her extreme kindness now for 25 years, and Vic sees to the correct operation of the "shop". They are indeed, quite a team.
The legend of two men who had a dream: to promote martial arts in Canada by manufacturing products that would allow thousands of people to safely practice their preferred art. Putting it simply, if you haven't put on a Genesport Gi or kicked a Genesport heavy bag you just haven't stepped on a dojo floor in Canada.
Coach and Pioneer
Grand Master Chong Lee, 9th Dan, was the first man to introduce the Korean art of Tae Kwon Do to Canada in 1964. Since then, he has taught over 300,000 students and produced nearly 200 Gold Medals in Canadian National Tae Kwon Do Championships. He has been the National coach now for over 40 years.
Chong Lee's patent grey uniforms have been somewhat of a trademark and badge of honour for his many Black Belts over the years.
His students are not only recognized for their exceptional technical abilities but also for their manners and politeness that set them apart from so many other martial arts practitioners. This is a testament to his attention to not just the development of the students physically, but also mentally and spiritually.
His schools all across Quebec are synonymous with quality and dedication to the Korean Art of Tae Kwon Do.
Heart of a Lion
One of Canada's finest martial art's competitors, Daniel Richer was one of the best ever to compete in Canada - not just in Tae Kwon Do tournaments but karate and full contact matches as well.
His legs were the fastest of the fast. He could use round kicks, hook kicks, side kicks, in any combination and he became known as the guy in the grey gi from Montreal that was faster then Bill Wallace.
He had several memorable matches, including Wally Slocki in Sudbury and Jimmy Santiago in Hamilton, that gained him acclaim and respect from all that watched. This slender Tae Kown Do stylist has the heart of a Lion – he never gave up. Someone forgot to tell him he was a middle weight because he fought like a heavy weight. Never did Richer complain about excessive contact... he just gave it right back where it came from.
A police officer by profession in his home town of Thetford Mines, PQ, Richer was a champion's of champion. Richer is one of the nicest guys to ever put on a martial arts uniform.
Dr. Olaf Simon
Grand Master Simon is nothing short of a living legend in Canadian Martial Arts. Born in Steinort, Germany, in 1929, he escaped from a Russian Death Camp in 1945. After the war, he studied Medicine and then switched to Literature and eventually attained a Ph.D from the University of Jena - one of the oldest and most prestigious Universities in the world.
In 1963, he opened the first martial arts school in western Canada, where Canadian newspapers labeled him as the “Fastest Foot in The West”. His amazing skill, mixed with speed and a flair for the dramatic, earned him international recognition by names like America's Ed Parker, Okinawa's Zenpo Shimabuku, and Tae Kwon Do's Jhoon Rhee. His demonstrations and reputation as a fair referee had Simon in demand all over North America.
His book, “The Law of The Fist”, was first copyrighted in 1969, making it the first book ever written on the subject by a Canadian. He subsequently wrote two more books on the martial arts.
Perhaps the one thing he did that set the martial arts world up for success was his unique and original business ideas that set him apart from so many in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At the time, these ideas were frowned upon but now are considered the norm. Selling annual memberships and running a school as a business not just a club in a back alley were unique and different. He was most certainly a man ahead of his time and he set the standard for today's schools all over the world, which, in turn, helped make martial arts a household name.
Trailblazer and Teacher
John Therien's journey in Martial Arts began in his hometown Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in 1964 training under George Sylvain. Professor Sylvain was instrumental in instilling the qualities of dedication, drive and commitment to his career.
In the early 1980s, Soke Richard Morris from London, England, became his budo mentor.
John Therien is a highly respected teacher in the Martial Arts world and is in constant demand to teach seminars in North America and Europe. He is the founder of the Therien Jiu-Jitsu & Kickboxing schools, established in 1968, one of Canada's largest Martial Arts schools from which more than 1,000 black belts have graduated.
Therien is the president and co-founder of the World Kobudo Federation (WKF). His management expertise and professionalism has made WKF one of the most respected multi-style Martial Arts Federation in the world.
Among his many other accomplishments, Therien was the manager of 23-time world Kickboxing champion, Jean-Yves Theriault.
After over 45 years in Martial Arts, he can still be found on the tatamis, teaching classes weekly at the Vanier school, where it all began.