Written by Chris Boyle, Editorial@antonnews.com Friday, 03 May 2013 00:00
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 business...it 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.”
Saturday, 08 March 2014 00:00
With kids today obsessed with all the latest electronic gaming gadgets — the Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo 3DS, and the like — you’d think that the comparatively antiquated concept of pushing a piece of plastic along a sheet of cardboard would be eschewed by your average teenager; however, judging by the crowd of kids at the Massapequa Public Library’s Board Game Café, this actually may not be the case.
Young Adult Services librarian Peter Cirona, who created the Board Game Café at the library’s Central Avenue branch (in addition to a whole host of other young adult programs), said that it’s a great way for kids to socialize and play some classic board games in a fun and friendly environment.
Friday, 07 March 2014 00:00
On Feb. 27, parents in the Levittown, East Meadow, Massapequa and Farmingdale school districts came together for an informal pannel discussion on the New York State Education Department and the implementation of the state Common Core Learning Standards. Panelists included New York State Assemblyman Thomas McKevitt, Jeanette Deutermann of the Long Island Opt Out Facebook page, and former public school teacher David Greene, who came to the Farmingdale Public Library to talk with local parents about key concerns and questions with the curriculum.
Outspoken parent and founder of the Long Island Opt Out movement, Deutermann, delved into some of the factors behind what led to the state’s adoption of the Common Core, and how the state education department cites High School graduation rates as its reasoning behind the curriculum.
Thursday, 06 March 2014 09:47
One of Major League Soccer’s top front office executives has many fond memories of growing up in the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL). Bill Manning, the President of Western Conference champion Real Salt Lake and the club’s field, Rio Tinto Stadium, played for the LIJSL Select Team from 1979 to ‘83 as well as the Massapequa Soccer Club from 1972 to ‘83.
Manning’s Massapequa teams had virtually the same players from Under-10 to Under-19, but kept changing their name depending on who their coach was. He played for the Massapequa Flying Dutchmen (coached by Kurt Knoblauch), the Massapequa Bugs (Dick Roche), the Massapequa Cosmos (Jerry Lyons) and the Massapequa Bulls (coached by his father, also named Bill Manning). The Bulls might have lost in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) State Open Cup finals to B/W Gottschee in overtime in 1983, but his teams won the LIJSL division championship in 1974, ‘76 and ‘79 plus the Long Island Cup in 1980 and ‘83.
Thursday, 27 February 2014 10:58
If the games were played on paper, Massapequa would’ve had no shot. The Chiefs faced a tall order last week playing Elmont, which boasted a 12-3 record and four premier scorers. They gave a tremendous effort, but ultimately had their season cut short, 69-62, despite Alex Cosenza leading the scoring with 29 points.
“I can’t ask for anything else from these guys,” said Head Coach Matt Voigt. “I am so proud of them. I applaud their efforts,”