Paulette Landry Sensei was my first karate instructor. She began her karate journey in the early 1970 at the Atlantic Karate Club in Halifax. She was attending university at the time, studying for a teaching degree. I remember her telling me that those were different times. Karate was a new phenomenon and there were not many women who took part. In fact, many of her male classmates and instructors did not take kindly to women being in the class and made their training extra difficult in hopes they would leave. Paulette Landry Sensei persevered, however, and in 1975 she achieved Sho-dan under Higashi sensei. While she was in Halifax, she had the opportunity to meet OSensei Tsuyoshi Chitose. Halifax was one of his stops on his North American tour in 1973. After graduation she moved back home to Amiraults Hill where she landed a job as French language instructor. Shortly thereafter, in the fall of 1977 she opened a dojo in the Amiraults Hill elementary school and offered karate lessons to the kids in grades 6 – 8.
I remember the excitement of all the kids dreaming they might be the next Bruce Lee. The first night was standing room only in the small school gym. We hung on every word as Paulette Landry Sensei tried to explain to us what it was all about. None of us had any idea what we were getting into. She put us right to work with push ups, sit ups, leg raises, and stretching followed by countless repetitions of blocks, punches, and kicks. Landry Sensei was in great shape and none of us could keep up to her as she led us through all the exercises.
It was not long before she had thinned out the class to 20-25 serious students. We trained hard and we loved it. Once a year Landry Sensei would bring in an instructor from Halifax to assist her with gradings. John Smith and Michael Delaney, among others. One-year Landry Sensei took a group of us to Halifax for a tournament, what a thrill. Three of us came home with medals but much more than that; without us even knowing, she had planted a seed….
Years later, when Landry Sensei left, it was hard to keep going. When Landry Sensei was there, we did not have to worry about anything, she looked after it; making sure we were prepared for gradings, making sure we had a place to train and a key to get in, contacting the parents, etc.. She never charged anyone any dues. I only realized years later but she paid all our association dues, out of her own pocket. And before she left, she set us up with Michael Delaney Sensei who would mentor us for years to come.
As a teacher, I do not know if you ever really know the impact that you might have on any given student. What Landry Sensei did for me, left an indelible mark, and has played a major role in shaping my entire life! I have travelled the globe and have many good friends all over the world because of karate. None of it would ever have happened if not for Landry Sensei introducing me to Chito-ryu karate. I owe her everything. I have no idea where I might have ended up if not for karate. I can not imagine my life without karate in it.
Paulette Landry Sensei truly is a remarkable individual and she will always have a special place in my heart. Landry Sensei`s photo hangs proudly in my dojo to remind me to never forget where I came from.