Life was clicking for Rob Potter when he moved to Kitchener in 2019 and decided to open a 13,000 square foot fitness center in a former industrial building.
Her day job, moving from a large retailer to a local startup, was going well and her family was adjusting to the area.
The idea for the gym was influenced by his aikido dojo – the largest of its kind in Canada in his former hometown of Georgetown – who wanted it to open a new location in the Waterloo region.
“When I was looking to move, I told my teachers about it and they said, ‘Well, there is no yoshinkan dojo in Kitchener, so guess what, you are going to open one.’ They forwarded the recommendations to the central organization in Japan, but it was something I wanted to do.
The vision grew bigger when longtime friend Jen Horsepool joined forces in her search for a yoga studio.
Both required high ceilings for things like weapons and jugglers, and Potter had other plans for ninja and obstacle course training.
A sign he saw on his daily commute led them to a large industrial space inside the former Natural Stone City factory in 136 Ottawa Street South, Building 2. They signed the lease and had the documents for building permits in the city in February 2020, just before the world closed.
The only thing that kept them afloat – various gyms and martial arts organizations have closed their doors for good in recent months – is that they expected to lose money at first, like most of the news. companies.
However, lockdowns and pandemic policies that restrict close contact have been devastating for classes, many of which depend on partners for training purposes.
Horsepool said she was heartbroken because her new location represents a decade of work.
“I took possession of my space on March 1 (2020), had an event and closed for four months. From there it was an emotionally devastating roller coaster, ”she said.
Potter said he and his wife Emily, who will be focusing on personal fitness in a front section of the building with trainer David Ramirez, have lost around $ 100,000 since their inception.
There were drop-in programs this summer, and the kids signed up for youth ninja programs this fall.
The yoshinkan aikido dojo – the original impetus that teaches a “pre-war” style of aikido, which Potter says is similar to jiu-jitsu – has not received as much response, but Potter, one of three instructors with a dan rank, hopefully things will pick up soon.
Aikido, commonly seen as a martial art focused on self-defense, is primarily about energy redirection and joint locks, the owner and dojocho explained.
“Like ninja training and obstacle training, a lot of it is about problem-solving and shifting your center of gravity to get the momentum you need, because you can’t always get muscle,” a- he declared.
“It’s about understanding the physical humanetics of the body and how the joints work, how they lock up and where you can move so that a person attacking you, potentially much stronger than you, is strong. only in certain directions. “
Horsepool refers to KW Aikido Inc. as a “movement collective”.
In addition to yoga, ninja, and obstacle course, there is a separate unit home to Kindred Spirits Pole and Fitness, which owner / operator Ellie Gravitas describes as a great way to build strength, cardio endurance, and flexibility.
“Downtown, especially since the closure of Market Square GoodLife, there isn’t a lot of fitness located in the heart of Kitchener, so having everything conveniently located in one building is fantastic,” said Gravitas, who endorsed it. a three-year sublet.
“It’s hard to persuade some people to pole, but maybe if their partner does pole, they can move on to another space.”
You will find more information about KW Aikido and its partners here.