By Vicki de Vries
With an eye to a new summer activity, how about karate lessons? Shades of The Karate Kid and other martial arts movies aside, karate, which means “empty hand” in Japanese, is actually a safe martial art. After all, an empty hand carries no weapon and also is able to help others. “Sounds nice, but do I have to schlep to Manhattan?” No need to, since World Seido Karate, owned and operated by Grand Master Kaicho Nakamura, opened in Elmsford this past February.
Celebrating its 35th year in October, World Seido Karate still has its headquarters (Honbu) in Manhattan, but the attractively renovated building in Westchester is considered the “spiritual center.” Anyone who wants to learn karate and improve one’s self is welcomed.
What differentiates traditional Japanese Seido karate from the dozens of other karate styles? Its focus on meditation as part of the training. The effect is a balance of mind, body, and spirit. Said Nidaime A. Nakamura, Kaicho’s son, who studied architecture before joining the family-owned school, of which he is the designated “successor:”
“We teach our students to develop self-discipline and to focus on the moment, which is called kejime (kay-gee-may) in Japanese. This is especially important for kids–who can start as young as age four at Seido–to learn. I tell kids that when they’re doing stretching exercises, they should focus on that; when they’re studying, they should study. And when it’s time to play, they should play!”
Kids also need boundaries and a safe place, both of which World Seido provides. Said Nidaime: “We don’t judge people here. You work at your own pace. Everyone is treated the same and wears a white uniform.” Students remove their jewelry for safety reasons and also as a way of reducing distinctions. “In karate, cultivating a healthy ego is an important thing.”
Last but not least are the appreciable physical health benefits. Said Meg Nakamura, Kaicho’s daughter and General Manager: “This is for anyone who wants to get more in shape at his or her own pace and in a positive and encouraging environment. Whether you’re looking to lose five pounds, 15, 50 or more, Seido can help you. The lessons teach you techniques that require you to constantly use your balance muscles.”
“How soon could I achieve black-belt status?” Anywhere from four to ten years of continual practice, but basically, “there’s no guarantee of how long it will take,“ said Nidaime. “It’s up to the individual’s physical and psychological readiness.” Kaicho and Nidaime determine that readiness and oversee the promotions through the various ranks–white, blue, yellow, green, brown, and black.
Before leaving World Seido Karate, you will put on the shoes you entered with, but you don’t leave the same. Besides the sense that time has stood still, you know that in the same breath, your body and mind have had an exhilarating work-out.
Vicki de Vries is a writer/editor and educator who has a new appreciation for karate, but is not quite ready to trade in her exercise bike.