Fearing her dojo would close forever, Batta San, a forth dan (degree) renshi (polished teacher), unexpectedly stepped in and opened it under its new name, Kokoro Dojo, meaning heart, mind, spirit, in the Midland Beach area of Staten Island.
“It kind of happened abruptly,” Batta San, using her martial arts title, said. “I never thought I open a dojo, but I didn’t want to lose the dojo; it’s beautiful. I wanted to give the remaining students a chance to train and grow.”
Though under new ownership, Batta San said that the style they teach, Okinawan Go-Ju Ryu (hard-soft style), is still, and will always be, deep-rooted in Japanese tradition.
Batta San will eventually open up classes to juniors, women self-defense, and possibly peewees (ages 5-7), along with private one-on-one instruction.
But she said time-honored customs will remain intact, and students will learn properly and be truly tested.
“It’s a traditional martial arts school,” Batta San explained. “It’s hard, but it’s not a dance school. When you earn a rank from my school, you know you’ve earned it.”
The lineage started over a hundred years ago, and all the instructors strictly adhere to what they have learned throughout their training.
Batta said the martial arts bloodline, with various branches diverging out, began with Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Go-Ju Ryu. Eiichi Miyazato was a senior student of Miyagi. He held the rank of 10th Dan in Karate and seventh Dan in judo. Upon his death, he received eight Dan in judo. Masaji Taira Sensei, a ninth Dan, was a student of Miyazato.
Kyoshi Glenn Cunningham, an eight Dan and Batta’s Sensei, learned directly from Miyazato, who passed in 1999. Thereafter, he became a student of Masaji Taira Sensei, with whom he currently trains. Now, Batta San trains a new crop of martial artists for the next generation.
Kokoro Dojo is affiliated with Kouketsu Dojo, Cunningham’s dojo, and is a ‘Shibu’ dojo – branch dojo of Okinawa, per Batta San.
Batta San said she took up the ancient discipline in order to better herself as a young woman. Now practicing martial arts for over 25 years, she said she still faces challenges and preconceived feminine notions.
“Many guys are a little hesitate to train under a woman,” the Susan Wagner High School graduate said. “Being a woman, you have to train twice as hard to get get half the respect. But they see how much I’m qualified to teach martial arts after a while.”
If you are thinking of taking up any form of martial arts, Batta San said that the Go-Ju Ryu style is a great way to develop and discipline the human spirit while getting a fair amount of healthy exercise.
Futhermore, you will learn blocks, strikes, kicks, stances, and katas–forms performed to a detailed choreographed pattern of martial arts movements made to be practiced alone. But she said do not expect to be crowned a champion at the expense of another student. On the other hand, new students will receive the utmost assistance from other, more established participants.
“There’s no competition in my school,” she said. “You only compete with yourself.” Plus, “the students are very helpful and welcoming to new students.”
Kokoro Dojo–open for adult classes (14 and up) on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and in September on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.–is located at 278 Midland Avenue on the second floor in Staten Island, N.Y.
Batta San said that she is open to renting out the 850-sqaure foot dojo for other martial arts, Pilates, dance, and yoga classes.
For more information on Kokoro Dojo, contact: 917-226-0441 or KokoroDojo1@gmail.com. Or go to the dojo’s Facebook Page.
To watch Batta San perform katas, click the YouTube links below.
— Jerry Del Priore
(Photos: Batta San).