Daylin Munro practises Tuesday at the new Shima Karate dojo. The karate school moved into its new home at the old library location this week. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Old library becomes new dojo

Nanaimo’s Shima Karate moved into its new dojo in the former Wellington Library branch on Tuesday

Bookshelves have made way for black belts.

Nanaimo’s Shima Karate moved into its new dojo in the former Wellington Library branch on Barons Road on Tuesday.

“It’s a different sort of learning, but it’s still a place of learning,” said Kurt Nordli, Shima sensei. “It’s a place of instruction and it’s a place of knowledge that we’re handing down.”

A new dojo has been a lifelong dream for Nordli, who started Shima Karate in Nanaimo 29 years ago. For the past couple of years, a new Shima dojo was slated to be built on a property on Norwell Drive, but due to various reasons, the project went “way over budget,” the sensei said, and became unrealistic.

And then Shima found serendipity, just around the corner. Nordli saw a ‘for lease’ sign on the library and ended up buying the building, instead.

“The other building not working out, it’s the best thing that happened to us,” Nordli said. “Because that would have been good, but this is amazing.”

The 5,000-square-foot building is perfectly shaped, he said. The zoning is right and the parking is ample.

Shima’s new dojo officially opened Tuesday as Nordli personally drilled in the sign outside and the first youth classes were held.

Everything at the new dojo is bigger than it was at the previous location on Departure Bay Road. The karate floor space is now 2,500 square feet, up from 1,000. The office and foyer are more spacious and there’s a kitchen and homework room so that teens can come straight from school to spend time before their karate classes.

“There’s a lot of stuff we want to do to make it beautiful, but it’s definitely fully functional,” Nordli said.

Renovations were a bigger job than anticipated, the sensei said, because the space is larger than it looked when it was a library.

“As soon as we got rid of the shelves and got rid of all the desks and all that, it became apparent that this is going to be a huge dojo,” said Scott Zmaeff, assistant instructor at Shima.

It means there is room to grow. There were waiting lists for some classes at the previous location, simply because there wasn’t the physical space to accommodate the students, but now there are no waiting lists, Nordli said. He believes the new Shima could double its current numbers of between 200 and 300 students. The sensei envisions another 10 years of teaching before he retires, and said he’s got lots of time and energy to put into Shima between now and then.

He’s tabbed Zmaeff to take over one day. The assistant instructor got into teaching 13 years ago at a karate practice, when he accidentally broke a mirror with a medicine ball. His mother immediately stopped by with her chequebook, but it was decided that Zmaeff would instead repay the debt by helping teach. It became a passion and a career path.

So Shima has a new home, and it’s settling in.

“This will be the forever dojo,” Zmaeff said.

Shima Karate has classes for anyone aged four and up. Classes are weekdays in the afternoons and evenings. For information, please visit

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