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Faculty of Science dean also a dual black belt

By Zarif Alibhai, March 21 2017 —

University of Calgary students will most likely recognize Lesley Rigg as the dean of the Faculty of Science. But what some students probably don’t know is that she is also a dual black belt holder in karate.

Rigg has trained in various forms of martial arts and self-defence since 1996, completing her first black belt in Goju Kenshe in Australia in 1998.


Rigg is trained in several forms of martial arts // Courtesy Lesley Rigg

Rigg said her martial arts background saved her life following a serious injury riding her bicycle in 2010.

“I broke my collar bone, shoulder blade and rib cage,” she said. “My arm wasn’t attached. The surgeon said I would never be able to lift my hand above 90 degrees.”

In the emergency room following the accident, Rigg’s doctor asked her husband what she did to have such good upper body strength.

“He said [I do] karate and he said karate probably saved [my] life,” Rigg said. 

Rigg used the skills she developed from her training to aid her physical therapy. She said her goal following rehabilitation was to get a second black belt, which she received in Ishynru Karate, along with a distinction of Tashi.

Rigg believes that karate is a way of thinking that empowers her both mentally and physically to overcome obstacles. Alongside her two black belts, Rigg has also trained in 36 forms of Tai Chi, mixed martial arts, Aikido, rape aggression defence and self-defence against guns and knives.

“I found it to be extraordinarily empowering. Karate is a way of thinking [and] it is definitely a personal journey, which is a state of being — mental and physical,” she said.

Today, Rigg has seen a complete recovery from the accident in 2010. She said karate  helped her work towards her rehabilitation goals. She is now certified to teach some forms of karate and wants to empower students to achieve their potential through martial arts.

Rigg was appointed as dean of the U of C science faculty in 2015. She has a five-year term with the university.

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