A Day in the Life of a Martial Arts Mom


Tina Takahashi

Master Instructor Tina Takahashi is a professional martial arts teacher in Ottawa, Canada. Tina teaches children, teens, and adults alike, life skills, character development, and martial arts.

You may have seen Tina on T.V. or heard her on C.B.C radio, CTV “Morning Live,” CJOH “The New You,” Rogers T.V. “Japan Today,” or in magazines “Chatelaine,” “Canadian Living,” “Homemakers,” The Ottawa Citizen’s Newspaper’s “List of Top 100 Sports Icons of the 20th Century” or spotted her in books, “Who’s Who in Canadian Sport” or “150 Extraordinary Canadians”. You may have seen her giving performances at the National Museum of Civilization, Ottawa Lansdowne Park Major Sporting Events, Major Hill’s Park on Canada Day or starring in Bell TV1 Documentary “VS Women in Combat Sports Episode 3” or mentoring young women as a presenter at speaking engagements and elementary schools for FAME “Female Athletes Motivating Excellence” program.

A Co-Author of “Mastering Judo,” Canada’s first Olympic Women’s Team Judo Coach, Canada’s First World Sambo Champion, World Gold medal Judo Champion, Canada’s First Woman Chairperson for Judo Canada’s National Grading Board, Canada’s first woman to achieve a 6th-degree judo black belt, an inductee into the Judo Canada Hall of Fame, The Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame, and the Nepean Wall of Fame, she has been leading “Women in Sport” and Fitness Leadership programs in Canada and coached the women’s national judo team in the late 1980 to mid ’90s.

Tina Takahashi, Sport Hall of Fame Inductee

Tina is the mother of three boys whose daily activity has certainly shifted from the international competitive judo circuit she once lived to a life that involves a myriad of tasks and duties required to help keep up with family and business needs. Her children are now at different stages of their lives as well as martial arts careers that continue at the highest levels through a continuum of dedication, hard work, humility, strength, perseverance, and strong and respectful appreciation for family tradition. Tina’s Japanese ancestors had a deep sense of their martial arts history of prowess. This continuum culminates in the running of her family’s martial arts school with her husband, Sean MacFadyen, and her sons, Liam, Torin, and Adam.


“Teaching children is an ongoing joy particularly. However, seeing a young adult blossom into a fine confident person that has a new sense of self-worth and burgeoning leadership skills is extremely rewarding.”

When Tina attained a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education (Hon) and Bachelor of Education/Teacher’s Certificate from the University of Ottawa, she started as an occasional teacher but quickly realized that she could benefit young children even more by teaching them martial arts. Spending time through the day preparing lesson plans for children in the areas of character development is over and above the martial arts lessons. Training requirements demand an ever-growing list of increased needs like teaching a child how to set a table or good cleaning practices is also very practical and wanted by parents that face a greater loss of course material that we took for granted when we were in school.

A typical day with Tina begins with email correspondence around 10 am and assorted paperwork such as lesson plans, mat chat preparation, progress reports, curriculum, and company finances, mixed in with attending any appointments, picking garden vegetables that her husband voraciously planted for a late dinner, checking up on her elderly mother who just turned 90. Her middle son, Torin, moved in with his Grandma recently to help her out. Tina and her husband, Sean, arrive at the school early afternoon and hold a staff meeting to prepare for prospective students, meetings with parents, event planning, and the day’s classes for young children, older children, and adult classes beginning at 5 pm and ending around 9 pm. A Staff meeting is held after to discuss the day’s events and outcomes, and arrival home is usually 10-10:30 pm to start dinner.

“Everyday holds new surprises. I love doing judo and karate and I love teaching. I love working with people, especially children, so I am happy to go to the dojo and especially be on the mats. It keeps me exercising and keeps me happy. I want to impart my knowledge to others. I wish I knew what I know now when I was competing, and I wish I could do the things I know now! Since I was in elementary school, I have wanted to be a teacher. Teaching in a dojo is so much more fun, there’s so much more freedom to choose what you think is the best for the students. It’s the ultimate career for me. I’ve been teaching for over 40 years.”

In martial arts, like most things, we never stop learning. By working hard and setting goals, Tina has passed these attributes to her children along with her husband, Sean MacFadyen, former president of Sambo Canada and current National Team coach for Sport and Combat Sambo. They both have traveled all over the world. Tina was an Olympic Coach in Korea in 1988, and Sean coached their sons at the World Championships in Seoul, Korea, in 2019 and the Worlds in Narita, Japan, in 2014. Tina,too, coached in Japan for the National women’s team three times.

       Tina Takahashi shoulder wheel throw

“One of the main loves along with competing at the highest level internationally as a competitor and coach in judo and sambo is traveling and making new lifelong friends. Travel planning, booking and scheduling does take up a great deal of time but the outcome keeps a family close adding unforgettable memories to life’s experiences. Everyone stays closer through the passage of time.”

“My father said that once you reach your first-degree Black Belt, that is when the learning really begins.” Her boys were very fortunate to have such a knowledgeable, wise, respected, and distinguished powerhouse as a grandfather. The children started martial arts before they could walk. While Tina was teaching at the dojo, her children were babysat by their proud grandfather. Unfortunately, he passed away while his grandsons Torin and Liam MacFadyen were ranked 5th and 3rd in the Combat Sambo World Rankings, and the oldest son, Adam MacFadyen, had won the Canadian Olympic Greco Roman Wrestling Trials 2020.

“This was a very dark time as the boys also lost their uncle Phil Takahashi, a multi time Olympian and World Bronze Judo Medalist just four months earlier. Sadly, while most countries’ elite athletes were training for the top events, Canada was still in lockdown. Something we will never forget.”

Tina’s martial arts journey started when her father, Masao Takahashi, moved to Germany with the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) and started a judo club, and started teaching his wife and four children on the base. He was also a NATO forces combat instructor. Four years later, back in Canada, he opened Ottawa’s first judo school, the Uplands Judo Club, on the air force base. Master Takahashi was an 8th-degree Kodokan Judo Black Belt; he won the first Eastern Canadian Championships and trained in Japan with Doug Rogers, the Canadian heavyweight who won the first Olympic Judo silver medal in Tokyo 1964.

Tina’s father was a very special man; there was no one like him. He suffered so much due to the Japanese internment camps he was put in as a boy, along with Tina’s mother, grandparents, and relatives. Having been thrown into cattle and livestock barns, having their family’s orchards, houses, and fishing boats stolen from them in British Columbia by the Canadian Government was a heartless crime. Not being allowed to return home until two years after the Second World War to the province where they were born is something that really bothered Tina’s father.

“Despite all the unfairness and toil, struggle and loss, my parents never criticized or complained about these wrong-doings hoisted upon them. We were never taught to hate our country or feel repressed or cheated. They dealt with adversity and moved on without complaint or feelings of being hard done by. In this day of entitlement and wrongs or perceived wrongs done to one, the qualities of dignity, strength, and happiness can be cherished. The capacity to protect us as children from these unjust happenings of history prevented us from having a chip on our shoulder or reeling from any epigenetic aftermath that may have been felt. As humans, my father said we must transcend and have wider hopes and dreams while having two feet secure on the ground.

Like Tina’s parents, she and her husband had three strong, extremely active boys who were once carted around, sometimes two in diapers, to her parent’s dojo.

“I remember it often took two hours of preparation just to get everyone out the door! Looking back now, it seems exhausting, and it still is. You always keep working for your children no matter how old they are. As parents, we cherish those times when the children are small, but it’s nice to move onto new chapters in their development. Fast forward a few years, a huge amount of time was spent doing laundry. Dirty or sweaty football, rugby, judo, jujutsu, sambo and wrestling uniforms, it would have been so much easier if they had picked just one sport. So many sports, so many uniforms to wash. Even when you think your child has moved out of the house, you still seem to find their laundry sneaking back into the home. As a parent there is an enriched sense of self-esteem, a very fulfilling feeling of accomplishment and pride to see your family excel, and the children succeed. A lot of people can get a college degree or a black belt, but not many will ever win a World Cup, a Grand Prix, a Pan American Championship, or qualify for an Olympic team. Seeing the world and meeting strong and generous people is something they all share in and continue to foster as the tradition that her father built continues, helping people learn and grow in ways one could never have known before.”

Written by Tina Takahashi and Sean MacFadyen