Our Heroes

Cassie - Intermediate Black Belt, 3rd kyu, Seishidosha candidate

My name is Cassie Chan, I am fifteen years old, and I have been practising Aikido at BigRock Aikikai since 2012. As an enthusiastic five year old white belt, I remember the senior brown belt and black belt girls being my heroes. I would do absolutely anything to be as awesome as them, and if that meant years upon years of dedicated training, persevering through drills, working through injuries, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, then bring it on! Fast forward ten years into the future and I’m now not only a member of the decade club, but am also a senior teacher in the Instructor Training Program and the most senior student currently participating in the under eighteen program. My younger self would have been so proud. As I continue to spend around twelve hours at the dojo each week, teaching, training, and sweating hard, all I can hope is that I can live up to the legacy of black belt girls at BigRock Aikikai, so that I can inspire and empower the many young girls at our dojo too :)


My name is Natalie Vakulin. I started practicing Aikido in 2015 when I was nine years old. Since then, I have fallen in love with Aikido as a martial art, but also everything else that BigRock has to offer. Along the way, I have met friends, found a love for teaching younger kids, and dedicated thousands of hours on and off the mat. When I received my black belt, I remembered how fascinated and inspired I was by the hakama-wearing teachers I had when I was young. Of course, at the time all I was thinking about was how pretty the black skirt looked when they rolled. I hope that for the younger kids that I teach, I can become as inspirational as my teachers were. Especially for the young girls who may not yet realize they practice a generally male-dominated sport.