Denise Cullen (Left), Jennifer Anderson, Camille Boileau, Heidi Boileau and Katie Cullen represent three generations of karate, each one with a black belt in the sport. (Photo submitted) Denise Cullen, Jennifer Anderson, Camille Boileau, Heidi Boileau and Katie Cullen represent three generations of karate, each one with a black belt in the sport. (Photo submitted)

Three generations of Salmon Arm family connect on the karate mat

Black belt grandmother also keeps busy with dance, volunteering

Denise Cullen shares a strong connection with her daughter and grandchildren – on the karate mat.

Cullen, her daughter Jennifer Anderson and granddaughters Camille and Heidi Boileau are all Provincial Martial Art black belts and train with Salmon Arm’s Provincial Martial Association Arts.

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“I’ve been in martial arts for 25 years and that’s so rare for a family to have three generations,” said PMA karate instructor Holly Raczynski.

For Cullen, the path into the karate world started when a sensei invited her to join her daughters class. When her daughter went to university, Cullen stayed with the sport.

“I felt that karate gave you something. The outcome was that I knew how to defend myself, I was physically fitter – it takes a lot of brainwork as well as athleticism,” said Cullen.

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After deeming herself not busy enough, Cullen also started dancing and found the two activities influenced each other.

“With dancing it’s about movement, especially when you’re dancing in a class where you have to follow an instructor. It gives you rhythm and timing that helps with sparring in karate,” Cullen said.

Like Cullen, the biggest driver for her daughter and grandchildren learning karate was the self defence aspect. In 2018, Cullen competed in Las Vegas in the Ozawa Cup and placed third in forms. Her family has mainly competed in tournaments around Salmon Arm.

When Cullen isn’t in karate classes herself, she volunteers to teach classes when Raczynski is away. Cullen is also an instructor at Shuswap Total Fitness as well as the Shuswap Dance Centre.

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The busy lifestyle Cullen leads is a result of her attitude to working within the community.

“It never hurts to try – all you can do is give it your best effort, especially in volunteering,” said Cullen. “The expectation isn’t perfection, it’s just somebody to help get things done.”


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