Chikara has a very long history in the Outaouais region. It is first through judo and in Gatineau that its history begins. Here is the chronology of the events listed by the late Ronald DESORMEAUX, a judo pioneer in the Outaouais region and a preeminent member of Chikara:
1947. Bernard Henri Gauthier was the first to give judo lessons in Gatineau known then under the umbrella term “Ju-Jutsu.” Mr. Gauthier studied self-defence arts with several instructors who visited either the University of Ottawa or the Japanese Embassy (such as Masters Shimizu and Kamino). He opened the Hull Judo Club under the name Kano Judo Club. He gave demonstrations throughout the region and taught at the Gatineau Sports Pavilion and Recreation Association (on Greber Boulevard at the time), at the University of Ottawa and at the Athletic Association of the University of Ottawa. He taught judo and self-defence techniques to various police forces in the region.
In 1948-49, while attending university courses in Toronto, he came back with a second dan diploma signed by Master Sasaki, one of the great pioneers of Canadian judo. He then left the teaching of judo to his closest collaborators, which included Pierre Renaud, André Dubé, Roger Gauthier, Raymond Roch, Jeff Ethier, Roger Huneault, Pierre Taberly and Bernard Blais. Judo then started to spread across the region in both Ontario and Québec. Collaborators taught in various venues, schools and community centres.
1951. Pierre Taberly and Bernard Blais managed the first school in Gatineau through the first private dojo near the Canadian International Paper (or C.I.P., now Resolute), graciously offered by Mr. Parker. This was effectively the start of what would be known later as the Chikara judo club. The basement was converted into a training room where twenty students learned judo (through the Kawaishi method, which Bernard Gauthier was the standard-bearer in the region).
1960. Roger Gauthier negotiated with elected officials of the city of Gatineau and established a first community dojo in the RA recreation hall of Gatineau. The dojo consisted of a dedicated training room in the basement of the St-Jean-Viennay church and later at the St-René-Goupil church. Ronald Desormeaux became the dojo’s technical director in 1962.
1969. With Gatineau’s new recreation structure, the dojo was moved to the Lavictoire school gymnasium where some 40 students learned judo by practising on rubber and gymnastics mats. The first straw mats (or “tatamis” in Japanese) were installed in 1970 and the number of students grew to sixty.
1972. A new temporary space was found at the St-René-Goupil school and took on the official name of Judo Club of Gatineau. Ronald Desormeaux was both its technical director and manager.
1975. The Judo Club of Gatineau was then “permanently” relocated to the Lavictoire park pavilion with its tatamis and continued to serve the population of the greater Gatineau area.
1977. Due to pressures from winter sports, the dojo moved to the Draveurs School on Maple Street.
1979-1983. Yet again, the dojo awaited a permanent location following a series of moves from elementary schools, high schools, public rooms, warehouses, etc. In these difficult time, Christian Lacroix joined the management team and became Ronald Desormeaux’s right-hand man.
1995. Judo Club of Gatineau renewed an agreement with the city of Gatineau. The city’s recreation department was interested in the Club’s community-oriented sports mission. In addition, the members of the executive committee under the direction of Simon Bolduc voted a new name: Chikara Judo Club of Gatineau, or “Chikara” in its abbreviated form. A new educational mission was launched under the motto “The flexible way by force of character”. The Club was “permanently” installed by the city of Gatineau on St-Louis Street.
1996. Ronald Desormeaux passed the responsibility of the Club to Christian Lacroix and his management team. Mr. Desormeaux remained as technical adviser to Chikara.
[Note: The next chronological entries are new and reflect the recent history of Chikara]
2009. Following structural damage at the St-Louis Street dojo, Chikara was required to move yet again.
2008-2018. The long slump… After several unsuccessful requests to be relocated, the City of Gatineau, in compliance with its new sports and recreation policy, informed Chikara that the merger with other clubs was the only viable option. Chikara’s Management rejected the City’s proposed solution due both cultural and historical reasons. Chikara judokas were therefore condemned to “club hoping” in addition to renting-out premises over the years to continue the practice of their sport as a group. Chikara judokas, however, never lost sight of each other.
2015. Death of Ronald DESORMEAUX.
2018. Chikara relocated permanently to Chelsea. Christian LACROIX remained technical director of judo. Chikara expands its service offering to taekwon-do and Japanese jiu-jitsu and the story continues.