Bain Jordahl may never have had the dojang of his dreams it if weren’t for a broken back and a bus.
The Nelson native was riding his motorcycle on a memorial trip for a friend in June 2017 when a tree branch caught his arm. The throttle on the bike pinned and Jordahl was sent flying across the road where he pinballed between cedar trees.
He was hospitalized for just one day, but was also forced to spend the next two months confined to a chair with two broken vertebrae and three broken ribs.
That left him with plenty of time to think.
Jordahl had opened Yom Chi Martial Arts on Baker Street the year prior, but was still working a day job as a sales manager and the dojang was struggling to find students.
His partner, Natasha Stevenson, pushed him to go all in on taekwondo. So in September, Jordahl quit his job and put on his belt full time.
“It just went kaboom,” said Jordahl. “We had 20 students sign up that first week.”
Only the strong tend to survive in Nelson’s sports community. Many organizations struggle for membership in a city with plenty of athletic options, but Jordahl and Stevenson came up with a unique solution — they bought a bus.
The Yom Chi bus, which advertises “ninjas wanted” on its back doors, picks up students from school for its after-school program. It’s a simple idea, but also a game changer for a dojang that was desperate to get young ninjas in the door.
“That allowed me to quit my other job,” said Jordahl. “Just having the pick-up portion is huge.”
Six kids used the bus service when it first started. That number will be 16 when school resumes next month, with pick ups at Hume School, South Nelson Elementary and Wildflower School.
While Jordahl was injured, his daughter Hannah took over the dojang and would teach perhaps five students during a class. Now, in the bus era, they get about 12 students per class and have over 80 students total with plans to buy another bus.
“How has someone not figured it out?” mused Stevenson.
Jordahl, a third Dan black belt, runs Yom Chi, but the teaching is a family affair.
Hannah, 20, and Rylie, 15, both have black belts and instruct classes. Stevenson has a blue belt and helps out part time while juggling a job as a dental hygienist, and Hayden, 17, also has a black belt but is taking a break from the sport.
All of which is to say dinner talk is mostly about taekwondo.
“Having that impact on people that we can all do it together, we can all go home and talk about it, like, ‘Look what we did with this kid today, it’s amazing, this adult has finally got over this step,’” said Hannah. “It’s pretty good.”
Jordahl toyed with taekwondo as a teenager but it wasn’t until his children took up the sport that he became obsessed.
“Within three years I was testing for my black belt in Florida,” he said. “I couldn’t get enough of it. I doing it seven days a week. If I had an instructor who would work with me in the dojang I was there.”
Hannah remembers her father doing dishes by holding a sponge with his foot. “Everything was taekwondo. It was crazy.”
In their classes, the family likes to take individual weaknesses and make them a collective strength. So if one student is struggling with a movement, the entire class practises until everyone gets it. The approach might take longer than other dojangs, but it also ensures no students are left behind.
“My honest opinion is taekwondo can make you better at everything,” said Jordahl. “Focus at work, focus at school, balance, any sport that you play. If you’re in martial arts it’s going to bring your focus to a better centre so you can really perform better in anything you’re doing.”