Stuy Martial Arts Begins Practicing at Dojo Near Stuyvesant

Stuy Martial Arts finds a local dojo, the Krav Maga institute, where they began to train in early November.

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When the final bell rings at the end of the school day, students clamor to classrooms across the school building, eager for an exciting and productive afternoon of extracurricular activities. Yet, since early November, every Thursday members of Stuy Martial Arts have trekked ten minutes outside to practice at a local dojo: the Krav Maga institute.

Stuy Martial Arts was founded in the 2022/23 school year by current juniors Eungman Joo, Ethan Sharma, and Haocheng Huang. Each member of the trio possesses extensive experience in Martial Art disciplines, such as Taekwondo and Karate, and they began Stuy Martial Arts to lead practices and teach others their skills. “The club was created to teach students and was our way of protecting students by teaching them techniques or helping them to protect themselves, as well as providing a safe space for people who are already practitioners [in Martial Arts] and want to practice in their own time,” Joo said. 

Initially, the club held meetings inside classrooms in the Stuyvesant building, but was prevented from leading full practices due to school regulations on physical contact. “We found practicing in classrooms to be pretty unfulfilling,” Huang said. “We thought it wasn’t worth it to be in classrooms if we’re just going to be teaching material and not practicing, so we figured we’d reach out to organizations to find a big space to practice.” 

After a year of classroom meetings, the club began searching for spaces in the fall of 2023. However, finding a dojo was easier said than done. The club struggled with finding a dojo that was willing to work with high schoolers—or even respond to their e-mails. “We contacted a multitude of dojos, both for the space and for funding,” Huang said. “We did get ignored by most of them, and some that actually responded did say that they weren’t able to help us out.”

Nevertheless, the team stayed hopeful and continued to scour the internet for potential locations. One major factor they considered was the dojo’s distance to Stuyvesant. “Vicinity was a major [concern] because most people aren’t going to go to meetings that are far away, especially if you have to take a train,” Sharma said. “We looked at places that were close by and also looked at the pictures they had of their space because we needed a sizable space we could practice in.”

Above all else, safety was of the utmost priority. Because the team had been entrusted with practicing outside of school, they had to ensure that the dojo was as secure as possible. “We wanted somewhere we could practice that was well-supervised,” Joo said. “There were adults at the place that can oversee everyone. [...] There are [experts] patrolling around the area, so it was definitely very safe and secure.”

However, the biggest hoop the team had to jump through was funding, as few dojos were willing to provide the space for free. Because the club was practicing separate from the school, they couldn’t procure this money from organizations like the Student Union (SU), and so they had to find alternative venues. The club found success in reaching out to the Alumni Association. “We did find funding in the Alumni Association,” Sharma said. “[They] were trusting that we were skilled enough and we were able to control our members [so] that we would be safe and not let [accidents] happen.”

When the members visited the dojo, the new environment was already different from that of the school. “The new dojo looks a little dark at first, but once you get into the interior [...] you’ll get to the heart of the dojo, where you get previous dojoing members and you also get punching bags, which are pretty cool,” freshman Efrat Hossain said. “I like that you get to kick stuff, like the punching bags because usually in school, you wouldn’t be allowed to do something like that.”

Since beginning to practice in the new dojo, the team has experienced myriad benefits. “There’s definitely a lot of pros that come with it. We’re just able to be more independent of the school and have a lot more space, as well as a little bit more time,” Joo said. “We’re able to use this as a real standing point. Rather than just taking a [class]room, this is a real location [to practice] that is consistent, safe, and secure.”

In the future, the club hopes to expand their practice and compete in tournaments. “We want to keep consistently practicing, but something I’ve thought about is [getting] people in our club to compete in tournaments, but that would depend on the growth of our club in the coming months,” Sharma said. “The more interest we have, the more likely we are to do it [...] I take pride in [the fact] that we’ve succeeded. We’re just going to keep doing it for as long as we can.”