Looking for something for the kids to do after school? How about “Ninja” classes?

With scores of films, TV and video games over the past few decades centred on the elusive Ninja – even those of the turtle variety – the label is almost inevitable.

Sensei Vitold Jordan, a 6th Dan black belt who operates the Yukon Academy of Martial Arts (YAMA) acknowledges the reference.

“Ninja was the art of the assassin,” Jordan explains. “They were like a secret society, practising only to kill.”

YAMA does not prove training in nin-jutsu killing techniques, although it does offer samurai sword (iai-jutsu) practice, and even training with the deadly shuriken (throwing star”), but only for adult students.

“With the kids we call it ‘Ninja classes’ just for fun,” Jordan says.

Jordan’s academy recently opened at a new location on Lewes Boulevard, in the space previously occupied by the Chill Zone.

While most martial arts clubs in Whitehorse rent space from other organizations such as schools, YAMA provides a permanent d?j? (training centre – literally “place of the way”) setting, complete with weapons racks and Japanese tatami floor mats.

Crests and murals of samurai warriors adorn the walls.

The classes at YAMA are rooted in the fighting styles of the samurai, the Japanese warriors traditionally associated with the middle and upper classes.

“Samurai followed a moral code, learning fighting and the arts, including calligraphy, painting, and poetry,” Jordan explains.

Jordan’s program combines the core of bu-jutsu (samurai martial arts) training with practical self-defence skills in Aikido, Aiki-jujutsu and other disciplines.

Jordan’s pedigree as a sensei (teacher) is impressive. He started his first school in 1981 in western Poland, and has trained and studied with various masters in Europe and the USA, including 8th Dan Japanese masters.

He has made his home in the Yukon since 2005 because, he says, “I can be at peace and harmony here.”

That awareness is reflected in YAMA’s motto: The Way of the Warrior is to stop trouble before it begins.

It is also reflected in Jordan’s approach to the role of sensei.

“Sensei here is much more like a coach, not a guru, and he shows not only a technique but also a proper example of conduct.”

With about 15 adult students and 12 children who come on various days, the classes at YAMA do not stand on ceremony. There is somewhat of a social atmosphere, at least before and after class.

Once the lesson starts, however, the deshi (student) becomes quiet, focused and obedient. Jordan doesn’t need to adopt an authoritarian attitude or impose discipline. After watching him for a few minutes, students want to learn from him.

Jordan makes it clear that his classes are not about being competitive.

“Martial arts are helping people to find their own identity and courage,” he says.

“Competitiveness does not bring anything good. When you’re competitive, you’re bringing someone else down to attain victory, to feel better about yourself; but it’s not a true victory”

The point, Jordan says, is to learn how to conquer one’s own fears and ego.

Students are encouraged to think of each other as partners, not opponents or enemies.

And, he stresses, the techniques are all self defence moves which incapacitate without necessarily causing bodily harm.

Well, except perhaps the sword moves.

At the moment, the academy’s instructional staff consists of Jordan and his wife, Bogna, but they are open to the idea of other instructors offering classes in the d?j?.

“We could bring someone in to do Taekwon-do, Karate.”

The biggest hit at the d?j? has right now is the kids classes, with 12 students under the age of 12 attending regular Monday and Wednesday classes. Parents are welcome to a cup of Japanese tea while watching the children laugh and learn.

For those who want to learn more, the academy will hold an open house with refreshments and demonstrations on Tuesday, April 5, beginning at 6 pm.

Information is also available at www.yama.ca or www.yeshua.do.com