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Looking Upwards to Wisdom and Strength

I have had the privilege of experiencing many exciting martial art practices during my years of reporting for Chopsticks NY magazine, but very few gave me the thrill and adrenaline of the Kyokushin Karate training.

The New York IKO Kyokushin Dojo, led by Shihan (master instructor) Katsuhito Gorai and his wife Elizabeth, has been the pioneer of Kyokushin karate in New York for the past 20 years. Trained by the original founder, Mas Oyama in Japan, they were appointed to lead the practice in the U.S. and develop this particular martial art crafted after World War II.

Following the spirit of Budo, Master Oyama wanted to create a Japanese martial art more in touch with the reality of his contemporary war-struck world. He got his inspiration not only from traditional Asian martial arts but also from Western fighting sports like boxing. He believed in training his mind and body for self-improvement, strength and discipline, to be ready when the need presents itself. Kyokushin was created as a full-contact martial art, geared towards defending or retaliating in real-life. Today, Kyokushin has more than 12 million practitioners and branches in over 120 countries.

My only training in martial art dates back from my teenage years when I played the Street Fighter video game on an old Super-Nintendo console. But here I was, 20 years later, in “Ryu” mode lined up in the dojo waiting for Shihan Gorai’s class to begin! My fellow students are focused and disciplined.

A loud salutation “Osu” punctuates every interaction with the teacher. This rallying cry gives a tremendous sense of belonging to the group, the energy to overcome the challenges ahead and will prepare you mentally and physically to become a better person. The hour-long training starts with a short meditation session and a simple, yet effective warm-up. The class is mostly led in Japanese but Shihan Gorai is attentive to students unfamiliar with the forms’ names and directs his students in English when necessary. I start to understand the meaning of “surpassing oneself” by practice and dedication. We diligently repeat the katas (forms) in unison, alternating offensive and defensive techniques. This is one of the best workouts of my life and there is not even one opportunity to slack off! As the Dojo Oath commands, there are no excuses when “pursuing the true meaning of the Martial Way”.

—– Reported by Ruth Berdah-Canet


Kyokushin Karate
265 Madison Ave., 5th Fl. (at 39th St.), New York, NY 10016
TEL: 212-947-3334  |


Stretching and flexibility are essential to avoid injuries and improve combat techniques in Kyokushin karate.

A kata is a sequence of blocks, kicks and punches, involving movement forward, backward and to the sides.

Shihan Gorai guides me to focus on building core strength and project the energy towards the opponent.

Thanks Mike Mascarina for withstanding my power kick and making me forget about my stiff calves!