A karate grandmaster is now using his skill to help disabled New Yorkers get a kick out of life. NY1's Bobby Cuza introduces our New Yorker of the Week.
Kaicho Nakamura packs a mean punch, kick and chop, but his biggest strength is his generosity.
He started the Seido Juku Benefit Foundation in 1987.
It provides free karate lessons to blind and deaf people, homeless children, battered women and developmentally disabled adults.
"The empowerment is just simply being able to do what everyone else can do they're not different they're not being labeled as different or disabled," says Kaicho's teacher Akira Nakamura.
Kaicho has been practicing and teaching Seido — a traditional method of karate — for more than 40 years.
He says his life changed early in his career, when he was presented with a student who had a disability.
"I didn't realize until it was time to teach that his right arm, right knee is kind of handicap, which make me kind of freeze all the sudden and think what should I do?" says Kaicho.
Kaicho took the extra time and patience needed to teach him.
Today he and the other teachers at the Seiko Juku Foundation do the same, which enables hearing-impaired students like Maleni Chaitoo to learn karate.
"I use my eyes to follow them, to follow the counts and the other hearing students in the karate class," says Chaitoo.
Kaicho says Seido is especially beneficial to people with disabilities because it emphasizes spiritual as well as physical development.
"My teaching is not just only physically how to kick and punch it's also how to develop inner strength," says Kaicho.
Through the exercise and meditation, students learn to defend themselves and also gain confidence.
"It basically helps people with disabilities to realize that they can achieve and I think that's one of the biggest obstacles that they feel in life that they're not good enough," says Bill Brennan of the YAI National Institute for People with Disabilities.
Paul Davis, who has a developmental disability, recently earned his black belt.
"I'm telling all my friends and family how proud I was about it and they're really proud of me owning it and earning it," says Davis.
"It's amazing, I appreciate all the time that he had the foresight to think of teaching karate to blind people," says student Michelle Goodin.
So for using karate to empower people both physically and spiritually and for making the sport available to people with disabilities, Kaicho Nakumura is our New Yorker of the Week.
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