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Lights, camera — Squamish Aikido

Locals from Aikidaily International Academy appear on Netflix’s 'Virgin River' episode.
Virgin River
Echo Barden, Brooke Tousignant, Grant Babin, Ethan Tousignant and Shouken Terauchi at the 'Virgin River' set.

Squamish's Grant Babin and five of his students from the Aikidaily International Academy will soon be seen on the popular Netflix series Virgin River. 

Babin got the call from an extras' agent a few weeks ago and was soon hired as a consultant for one of the actors who was playing a Sensei (martial arts teacher).

The youth from the Squamish school were selected to perform in a scene set in a Dojo — Aikido training hall.
"I have a pretty big kids' program here in town, so I had a lot of people I could supply them," Babin recalled. 

The shoot happened on Friday, Aug. 13. 

"For the kids, it was pretty cool because none of them had done something like this before," he said, noting he has been an extra before. 

For the uninitiated, Aikido is a Japanese martial art. 

"It is considered a traditional martial art," Babin explained. "It is non-competitive. The objective is not to hurt the attacker, which is a real challenge. You are trying to control the person without actually hurting them. It is a discipline. It is more about personal development than anything else, really."

Babin, 50, got involved in the sport about 25 years ago. 

He and his spouse, Rie Babin, who also practices, moved to Squamish in 2016 from Tokyo, where he was teaching Aikido at an international school. 

As a consultant on Virgin River, Babin guided the actor playing a Sensei on how instruction should look, he said. 

"It was fun," Babin said.

The set was in a former youth detention centre in Burnaby, across from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). 

There were a lot of COVID protocols in place, he noted. 

And though warned, some of the kids were surprised how much hurry-up-and-wait is involved in the filming process. 

They had to be there at 8 a.m., leaving Squamish early that morning in Babin's van, and then once at the set it took two hours just to get everyone sorted and ready. 

"I told them to bring a book, 'We are going to be sitting around a lot,'" Babin said with a laugh. 

Once the scene started, the kids worked through some basic Aikido moves in front of the actor playing an instructor.

Some of the others in the scene didn't have any Aikido experience, so Babin said he had to quickly come up with something they could pull off and still look realistic. 

"We did some really basic movements," he said. 

Before he got the gig, Babin hadn't seen the drama, which shoots regularly in Squamish at The WaterShed Grill and elsewhere.

He isn't sure when the episode with his students will air, so locals will have to stay tuned to the series as it unfolds.