Alice and Israel Segarra, a husband and wife team, have travelled the North Shore of Northern Ontario for decades, teaching people in isolated areas who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to train.
We’re talking about martial arts.
Recently, Alice and Israel hosted their Summer Martial Arts Camp in Whitefish Falls. This past summer, 30 attended; in some years, 70 people have attended from all over the world.
“Students arrived Friday night to attend the training for Saturday and Sunday,” Alice told me. “We host a dinner Saturday evening, followed by a musical jam session in the backyard. People bring guitars, drums, tambourines, gourds, and voices. It’s such fun.”
The Segarras bring top notch instructors to share from their own training systems. Students stay locally at the lodge and motels, and all levels of students are welcomed.
“Some of these students, over the years, have traveled with us, to martial arts tournaments throughout Canada and the U.S., giving them the opportunity to showcase their learning with us, and they were able to meet many students from other cultures and schools, some becoming lifelong friends, over distances.
“In the beginning of our work in Northern Ontario, we traveled through storms, and difficult road condition during each winter,” Alice said. “So, in 1994, we made a discussion to open up our full-time martial arts and fitness academy in Espanola. We incorporated other arts, such a as dance, yoga, rhythmic dance, modeling, aerobics, and built a full-weight room and a cardio room.”
“That’s when I met you, Alice, 25 years ago, in your large studio on the second floor in Espanola. I had heard you were from New York City and we had to meet,” I said.
“Didn’t we have a wonderful lunch, the two of us, having pizza and nonstop talking. We were two gals from New York City in Espanola and on Manitoulin, and we understood each other instantly.”
Alice and Israel have hosted International Martial Arts Tournaments for 20 years, bringing business to Whitefish Falls, Espanola and Manitoulin. Competitors travel from New York, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania to name four, to attend the tournaments we hosted in Espanola. The Segarras, each, have been inducted into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame twice, as well as receiving recognition from world-renowned organizations, and honoured with degrees. They are highly ranked in this domain of the world.
“Remind me, Alice, how you met, and this amazing life began?”
“A pleasure to remember, Bonnie. The beauty of this is that Israel, born in Puerto Rico, and I, born in Manhattan, lived in the same neighborhoods as we were growing up. We had never met. Israel began his martial arts training in New York City.
“At a training camp in Maine one summer, he met the founding father, Bob Dalgleish, Sensai, of Canadian Go Ju at a collective martial arts camp. Israel was then invited to train and teach in Northern Ontario. Israel was a carpenter by trade. In Sudbury, he was able to join the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 2486.”
Israel sits with us, remembering.
“There was little work in Sudbury, so I transferred back to New York City, back in my neighbourhood. When I was invited for dinner at my brother’s home, I was lucky to meet Alice.”
Alice went on.
“I’ve been a student of Yoga since I was 14. It turned out that Israel and I had both attended the local ashram at different times. Yes, at dinner we started talking and have not stopped yet. When we learned we had much in common, I was already a teacher and together, we began to train with other professionals. Lo and behold, I was invited to come to Northern Ontario to continue my training. I come North, and married Israel a few years later.”
Israel added, “Alice was the first person to immigrate to Canada on a student visa to study martial arts to become a teacher.”
“Yup, I moved from Broadway, USA, and drove in my brand new car to Whitefish Falls. Israel and I soon built our home together. And we built a Home Dojo, where we taught in all seasons. This became known as a welcoming Home Dojo to people from other schools other systems, and other cities.” Alice said. “Now, this is all part of our retirement home, and we treasure it. We love Whitefish Falls.
“The seeds we’ve been able to plant, over 40 busy years, based in this region, in so many places with so many students, have bloomed. So many have become teachers on their own merit. We are proud of them, happy they are teaching in the communities we once taught.”
Alice and Israel’s policy, over the years?
“Our belief is that all arts and lessons should be available to anyone that wants to study this. We have never turned away anyone who could not afford to pay for classes. All have been welcomed,” Israel said.
“Over the years, Alice and Israel have taught classes for mentally and physically challenged, women’s self-defense, cardio, karate for children and adults, beginning at 3 to seniors.”
“So Bonnie, my friend, that’s how we started,” Alice said. “Not bad for two kids from the Bronx,”
To learn more, go to Facebook, look up Alice Rodley-Segarra, or Yogi Israel Segarra, for information about their Weekend Aug. 10 and 11, 2019. Or, for now.
“Everyone is welcomed, at all levels of training,” Alice said and laughed. “Even you, Bonnie. You have time to shape up.”
— Our Bonnie has had the delight in knowing Alice and Israel for many years, finally allowing her to write about them.
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