Inclusivity is key component of new Newmarket martial arts studio

“We’re serious about martial arts, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously about martial arts,” said owner Tony Dolmaya

Newmarket resident and business owner Tony Dolmaya never thought he would open a martial arts studio, but then COVID-19 hit.

“The room was there, it didn’t do anything because everything was still. Business went out of business, everything sort of went out of business,” he said of his Gorham Street shop, Impact Martial Arts Dojo.

Dolmaya’s background is electrical engineering. He had run a small business and worked with companies in Toronto and the US. When those projects were completed and COVID-19 struck, he became the main stay-at-home parent to his two children.

He then looked for employment while still being able to be with his family and decided to open his own business. The martial arts idea was born when he met the instructor Ashlyn Trottier through a mutual friend.

Trottier started karate when she was six or seven years old. She said her parents tried to get her into other sports, but she was a shy kid and nothing really clicked. Karate changed that.

“They got me into karate and it took me out of my shell,” she said.

By the time she was 13 or 14, she’d earned her black belt. She then took up Jiu Jitsu but took a break to join the military reserves. Now she teaches karate and kickboxing at Impact.

“We’re serious about martial arts, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously about martial arts. It has to have a fun component and a disciplined component,” Dolmaya said.

There was no clear opening date as each time they prepared to open another lockdown would hold them back. But he said they really ramped up after the last lockdown ended in the winter.

The dojo is designed to include the whole family. Currently there are small desks where parents can work while their children are in class. Dolmaya and his team are also working on converting the second floor into another studio so they can offer adult and children’s classes at the same time to accommodate families.

The dojo aims to be a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community, children with special needs, parents, carers and more.

“We are definitely inclusive. We would like to give everyone the opportunity to participate and we make concessions. There are enough of us that if there is a child who needs more one-on-one care, we can make that possible too,” Dolmaya said.

He said they want to make sure everyone can come there and feel safe.

“We strive to be a safe place and just welcoming to all the different communities out there,” Trottier added. “We want everyone to feel good.”

As part of this, Trottier teaches a self-defense kickboxing class for women. The studio also offers a mini ninja class, muay thai and brazilian jiu jitsu classes taught by Ricardo Mikaelian Filho.

He grew up in Brazil and only came to Canada six years ago.

“I was the type of kid to cause trouble,” he said.

However, he said he has always loved martial arts and would watch movies about it. Then when UFC started it got huge in Brazil and he wanted to get in.

Mikaelian Filho started Jiu Jitsu at the age of seven and says it really helped him stay out of trouble.

“It helps you deal with yourself. You become more confident and don’t want to hurt people anymore,” he said.

One of the kids who train at Impact is Dolmaya’s 13-year-old daughter, Evelyn. Her favorite part is the physical element of martial arts.

“I don’t like team sports, so I did this to do something physical, but then I don’t have to deal with anyone else,” she said.

Evelyn earned her blue belt in karate and is four or five notches down from her black belt. She has also started doing some Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing classes.

They offer a summer camp with one-week day programs lasting a total of seven weeks.

“We do karate with the kids, we do Brazilian jiu-jitsu with the kids, get them active, but we have a nerdy side to us,” Dolmaya said. “We play chess. Our arts and crafts are related to many of my hobbies, namely woodworking. Why don’t you teach kids how to build mini catapults?”

Registration for the camp is possible on the Impact website. You can also register for membership online. Memberships are all-inclusive, so you can take as many classes as you like and try a variety of styles.

“Different people will be drawn to a different art for different reasons. We want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to flow from one to the other,” Dolmaya said.

There’s also a free week-long trial where you can try out as many classes as you can and get a feel for whether you want to try it long-term.

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