Karate club regroups following Chapman’s death

By Jenn Watt and Angelica Blenich

Police have released few details about the shooting that took place on Sunday Aug. 16 except for the name of Michael Chapman who died at a property on Highway 118 east of Haliburton.

As of Monday OPP had not officially released the name of the other man 40 injured that day who is recuperating from a gunshot wound in hospital.

Word of Chapman’s death – and the lack of details about it – has deeply affected many in the community particularly those in the karate world.

Chapman owned Kai Shin North Branch based for the last year at the community centre in Haliburton and before that beside Subway on Highland Street.

Sensei John Black started at the club about seven years ago. He said over that time his respect grew for Chapman and that word of his death troubled those at the club. The black belts have come together to think of ways to keep the club operating Black says.

“We’re in the process of trying to figure out if we can somehow [become] a non-profit and get our dues down so we can get more kids and students joining and try to move forward” Black says.

“We’re all still kind of in shock and thrown into a bad situation.”

The club has a tournament planned for October which they still plan to hold.

“He was a great guy to me” Black says “He was intense. The few things he had in life were martial arts and his daughter.”

After hearing of Chapman’s death many in town wondered about his dog which he was often seen walking along Highland Street.

Black says that Chapman had been recovering from a surgery a while back and walking the powerful dog had become too onerous so he reluctantly decided to give it away to a man in Eagle Lake.

Terri Frew met Chapman in 2009 when she first moved to the community from Montreal. She signed up at the club looking for some physical exercise that fit into her schedule. “Days turned into weeks and pretty soon I was hooked” she wrote in an email to the Echo .

“When all was said and done I trained under Sensei Chapman for five wonderful years achieving a brown belt and leaving only when it came time to have my son.”

Frew described him as a natural instructor with a legendary sense of humour.

“Sensei Chapman was one of the strongest people I’ve ever known surviving things that a lesser man would not have. To hear that he has been taken from us was as much of a blow as his driving front kick to the solar plexus … it took my wind” she writes.

Tanya McCready has two children at the dojo: Logan and Michaela. The whole family has been stung by his death she said.

“Everybody takes everything differently. When we told Michaela she cried off and on all day. She didn’t know Mike as well or as long [as Logan did]. She says it won’t be the same without Sensei Mike and of course she’s right” McCready says.

Logan 15 has been quieter in his grief but has been participating in the talks about where the club should go from here. He was preparing to go for his black belt this coming season.

McCready has high praise for Chapman as an instructor.

“As far as a teacher I can’t imagine a better teacher for the kids. … Discipline control and respect: that’s what he expected of his students – not just in the dojo but in their lives.”

“Mike always found the best in his students he would always build kids up no matter how many challenges they were having he always found a genuine strength/skill/action to compliment them on every night and he would convey that strength to their parents as well” she wrote in a follow-up email.

Via email Logan shared his memory of his sensei: “Sensei Mike was the kind of man who pushed you hard to reach your goals.  He wouldn’t accept less than your best and always knew what you were capable of and believed you could achieve it even if you weren’t so sure.  He was a great teacher a great friend and mentor.  He will be missed.”

One day after the shooting the Monday night class went ahead as usual McCready said. At the end the senior members of the club were told Chapman had died.

On Wednesday a memorial class was held in honour of Chapman with black belts coming from as far away as Ottawa and Toronto.

“I don’t think we realized how iconic and what a legend he was in the Ontario karate world” she says.

The Kai Shin North Branch Facebook page now hosts many memorial messages to Chapman including one by Mitch Maxine which Black says encapsulates what many feel about Chapman.

His posting outlined his ongoing friendship with the man whom he described as complex committed open minded yet passionate in his beliefs. “He lived a life that was as flawed as any of ours but he pushed past. He fought through. He carried on.”

Janet Sheehey has known Chapman since she opened her shop JanKnit’s Studio on Highland Street in 2007.

“When I first opened he came in and would talk to me about things that were going on in the street” she said. “What used to make me laugh … when he would talk he always needed props. It was the funniest thing.”

Sheehey said he was a presence in the community.

“He was happy doing what he did … he knew a lot of people.”

Being newer to town she says it wasn’t always easy meeting new people.

“It’s hard being new in town and there was a handful of people that were really really good to me and he was one of them” Sheehey said.

She hopes the police release more details about what happened to allow the community to get some closure.

“Because he was such a well-known person in the town the people in town deserve an answer of some sort” she says. “It’s some type of closure for people.”