One on One with Dr. Chan

By Trina Moran

r. Chan appears to be your average dentist. He is 5’5’’, dons the blue dentist uniform, and is ready to accommodate all of your dental needs. However, beyond the blue scrubs and the dentist’s drill (that most of us fear), is Alex the Aikido practitioner.


One year ago Alex began taking Aikido classes at the Kerrisdale Community Centre. Now, after much hard work and perseverance, Alex is now a practitioner of Aikido at KCC. Alex was inspired to take up Aikido because of his interest in mixed martial arts, UFC, to meet new people, and for stress release. After one year, Alex is proud of all that he has accomplished in Aikido and recommends it for people looking to take up a sport either for fun, fitness, or self-defense.


Aikido is a martial art that originates from Japan and was developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his personal martial arts studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is commonly translated as ‘the way of unifying with life energy’ or as ‘the way of the harmonious spirit’. Ueshiba’s goal with Aikido was to create an art that people could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury. Overall, Aikido places emphasize on defense, not offense. Aikido is performed by blending with the motion of the attacked and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on. Therefore, little physical strength is used. In a fight, an aikido practitioner would ‘lead’ the attack’s momentum using entering and turning movements finishing with a throw or joint lock. Today, Aikido is found world-wide in a myriad of styles with broad ranges of interpretation and emphasis. However, all share techniques originating from Ueshiba.


Alex is a UBC alumni graduating in ’96 as a Doctor of Dental Surgery and has been practicing family dentistry in B.C. for fifteen years. His interest in becoming a dentist is derived from being a ‘hands-on’ kind of guy, being good with his hands, and his family advising him to become a doctor. Today he is Dr. A. Chan and has a family dentistry practice set up near West 41st Avenue and Collingwood Street.


Alex details that the dentistry faculty at UBC emphasized a lot of ethical values within the profession. He recalls that a sense of ‘every ounce you serve you get back in return’ was influenced over himself and other dentistry students to stimulate students to gain a sense of pride and joy in their work. This sense of ethics, or karma if you will, is carried on in Alex’s work as an Aikido practitioner. He feels that the more he puts into teaching and accommodating his students, the more the student flourishes.


Serving the community is another area of importance for Alex. Another value stressed while he was at UBC, Alex feels the importance of giving back to one’s community. Through his dental practice Dr. Chan understands the role he plays in the community: he can relieve pain, improve smiles, and overall share wellness. He feels that his role as an Aikido instructor brings wellness into the lives of others as he teaches the members of the community self-defense, helps to keep others fit and healthy, and inspires others to be involved in their community.


However, there are some challenges. As an Aikido practitioner to intergenerational classes, Alex notes the difference of tone in each member of the class and caters to each student. He notes that the male adults tend to be more aggressive and ‘full board’. The younger students (ages 16-25) tend to not be as involved or feel that ‘they can’t do it’ whereas other students in the same age range ‘just do it’, as Alex puts it. He also notes that some of the elder members of the class who have a military background are even more eager in the class with a ‘just do it’ attitude. Alex has learned that the overall end result of everyone’s Aikido classes is the same: the emphasis on the aggressive vs. non aggressive and that each student’s approach to Aikido is different and the practitioner must cater to each student’s approach.


Overall, Alex has found his work in both fields to be extremely rewarding. The most rewarding comment he receives as a dentist is when patients thank him for relieving them pain. He recalls a patient who called to personally thank him for relieving him of a toothache: ‘It’s fine. I can sleep now. Thanks, Dr. Chan’. Dr. Chan also recalls a time when he was working in Chilliwack and a patient came in whose face was very red and thought maybe it was from a tooth infection. Dr. Chan explains that he did a routine check-up on the patient and could not find anything wrong. Puzzled, he checked the patient’s pulse and detected an irregular heartbeat and advised the patient to go to the hospital. Later, Dr. Chan found out that the patient was on the verge of having a heart attack and that he was lucky that he got to the hospital when he did. Dr. Chan stresses that it was a fluke, but to this day remembers this patient and how grateful he was to have gone to see Dr. Chan that day. As an Aikido instructor, Alex finds reward in knowing that he is teaching members of his community to defend themselves in the event of an attack and by promoting physical fitness and wellness within the Kerrisdale community.


           Alex also encourages his patients to attend the Aikido classes at the Kerrisdale Community Centre. He finds that although the classes are fully registered, many people do not attend regularly and some younger adults appear ‘forced to be there’. Alex wishes that people would look to Aikido for further health benefits rather than strictly for self-defense. He details that Aikido is a great way to stay fit, a good cardio workout, and relieves stress. Aikido would be a great way for senior’s to stay active as many of the exercises and movements are slow-paced, similar to tai chi or yoga, and can be catered to any injuries or limitations. As well, many elements of Aikido are equal to a good cardio workout. Overall, Aikido can be thought of as an exercise routine for people of all ages and interests, not solely as a mixed martial art.


Overall, whether he is Dr. Chan the dentist, or Alex the Aikido practitioner, Dr. Alex Chan reminds us of the layers each person has. That there’s more to person behind their uniform and that community service comes from all corners. Whether he is filling a cavity for a kindergartner or teaching your grandmother how to throw an attacker over her shoulder, Dr. Alex Chan reminds us of how important it is to step up and serve one’s community, its impact, and to look beyond the business card. You never know what you may uncover.[[]]