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