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Karate On Merrick

Punching, And Then Some

The American Black Belt Academy is a thriving 20-year-old institution born out of one man’s love of the martial arts sits nestled between restaurants, doctor’s offices, and clothing stores in the middle of Massapequa Park.

Tom LoVarco, Senior Instructor and owner of the American Black Belt Academy, said that he didn’t discover his true passion and fighting style of choice - Kempo Karate - until he was an adult.                                                                                                                                          

“I didn’t study martial arts as a kid, because there weren’t really any Karate schools back then,” he said. “There were some Judo schools, but Karate wasn’t really popular yet.”

According to LoVarco, martial arts can be taken up at any age. He added that the oldest current student at the Academy is 65 years old.

Having only started his training at age 35, LoVarco, 58, is close to achieving his eighth-degree black belt.

“I first started training just to get into better shape, but then the whole self-defense aspect came into it,” he said. “I became completely addicted. It consumed me and took over my whole life. I think what attracted me was the mystery behind it. I was really interested in the science and the mechanics of it.”

Kempo Karate, said LoVarco, isn’t a traditional combat style; it is an Americanized art which is a more fluid and complex than most other styles. Recently, The American Black Belt Academy has expanded its curriculum to include other disciplines.

“We’ve added a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu program, a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) program, weapons training, kickboxing and a women’s fitness program,” said LoVarco. “We still teach traditional Kempo, but we’ve added a lot of different programs to the mix as well.”

After mastering the art of Kempo, LoVarco said that the next step for him was to start sharing that knowledge with others.

“There was a Karate school on this block in the early 90’s,” said LoVarco. “I took over that spot where they were, including the students. There weren’t many, but there were enough to get a business started.”

Not only did his fledgling dojo succeed, but it continued to grow as well.

In the nearly 20 years of the American Black Belt Academy’s history, the business has occupied four different locations, all of them located on Merrick Road.

Each move represented the Academy’s continued growth, and the current location is the biggest and best yet, said LoVarco.

“In the beginning, we almost couldn’t handle all the built up very quickly,” said LoVarco. “Enrollment kept growing, and we needed more and more space.”

The American Black Belt Academy is a completely family-run business. LoVarco and his son Chris handle teaching students. His daughter Danielle runs a women’s fitness program, and his wife Loraine manages the office duties.

A popular addition to the American Black Belt Academy is an after-school program, in which LoVarco said kids do their homework, learn self-defense, and get exercise. The students also participate in specialized programs such as anti-bullying classes where verbal techniques are used to defuse potentially hostile situations.

“I call it verbal Judo,” said LoVarco. “We teach the kids certain responses to different situations. These responses are used to de-escalate a physical confrontation, and we’ve had a lot of success with that.”

This is not just a punching and kicking program, said LoVarco.

“It’s a whole character-building program as well,” he said. “Here, you not only get into shape and learn to defend yourself, but you become a better person at the same time.”


Massapequa Public Library’s Bar Harbour branch was hopping with excitement (not to mention an overload of cuteness) recently when they held their Bunnies, Bunnies, Bunnies event; a chance for kids of all ages to meet and learn all about — what else? — baby bunnies.

Judy Wilson, a Miller Place resident, is an independent contractor for Nassau and Suffolk County Library system; she normally heads many different arts and crafts programs throughout the year, but in late March every year she takes on a special responsibility that is sure to always pack the youngsters in.

These days, when local residents are more used to storefronts locking their doors for good as opposed to opening them for the first time, there’s nothing like seeing a home-grown business prosper and even grow despite a stifling economy.  

That’s just what the owners of community stalwart Bestever Bakery have accomplished thus far, as they recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their second location, at 1030 Park Blvd. in Massapequa Park, which first opened toward the end of January of this year.


Massapequa athletes recently received honors from their coaches at Kellenberg Memorial High School.

Each season, the coaches of all of the Kellenberg teams choose one member of their team who stands out as an athlete that has worked hard to improve themselves in their chosen sport.

The Farmingdale State women’s lacrosse team won the first game of their Spring Break trip to North Carolina with a victory over Greensboro College. In wet and muddy conditions, the Rams (8-1) held an 8-5 lead at the half and took the eventual 13-10 win.

In the first half and tied 2-2, the Pride (7-5) pulled ahead 4-2 with two unassisted goals by junior attack Nadya Fedun. Farmingdale State answered with four straight scores for a 6-4 advantage, on goals by juniors Alyssa Handel, Nicole Marzocca and Massapequan Jackie Kennedy.

Sophomore attack Ashlynn Parks put Greensboro within a goal at the 7:03 mark, but the Rams scored two more to lead 8-5 at the halftime break.


Free Wine Tasting

Friday, April 18

Boating Course

Saturday, April 26

Massapequa Memories

Tuesday, April 29


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