DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. - Established in 1978 by a young school teacher and martial artist from upstate New York, the Ryu-Renshi-Dan Hombu Dojo martial arts studio is alive and kicking in its 35th year.
Planted by New York City educator Jose Guzman, Dobbs Ferry Karate is now operated by the founder's stepson Chris Tortu, who grew up at the feet of his teacher.
"My mother thought I needed some self-confidence because I was a little shy and timid as a kid," Tortu said. "I started taking classes here (Hombu) and that's how my father met my mother. I've been here since."
Tortu's early entry into the martial arts and close relationship with Guzman established what would become his lifestyle.
"This is my life," Tortu said. "All of what I have learned through martial arts - the disciplines, training, dedication and confidence -- are all part of who I am. We are dedicated to teaching those same principals, especially with our young people."
Tortu, who also owns and operates Double Barrel Roasters, a coffee producer in Yonkers where he roasts the coffees himself and distributes throughout the New York City and Westchester area, said Hombu's long-term success is due to his family's devotion to the community.
Guzman said he began the dojo in response to a request from several co-workers.
"I came to Dobbs Ferry in 1977 to work at Children's Village as a social worker. Some of my colleagues asked me to teach them karate," Guzman said. "We began training at the South Presbyterian Church, we moved twice and then moved to our present location (at 96 Main St.)"
"We've been here in Irvington and Dobbs Ferry all these years, getting to know the people, training children whose parents trained here," Tortu said. "We are building the (dojo) now by adding classes for women, developing new programs and keeping that family atmosphere."
Julian Raderman, a 14-year-old Dobbs Ferry High school student, is in his fifth year at Hombu and headed for his first black belt.
"I've learned so much about being a leader, having self-confidence, understanding other people and how to learn and teach others," Raderman said. "I love the people here (Tortu and the instructors). It's like a family. We all work together to become better (in the arts) as people."
For Tortu, Guzman's vision for a martial arts dojo in his adopted Dobbs Ferry, lives on and grows.
"My father, who has had a career in teaching all these years, told me I should not depend on (Hombu) completely as a business and to have another interest," Tortu said. "I love my new coffee business, which I never expected to happen. But being able to build Hombu is really satisfying."
Guzman said his legacy is based on family and community.
"We always have taken pride in offering a traditional martial art with its application to modern times and needs," Guzman said. "We have always emphasized to all of our students that they are learning a martial art and how not to fight. In teaching children we always want to be a supplement to the family values that are being taught at home."
For more information on classes, membership, schedules and other events, log on to the Dobbs Ferry Ryu Renshi-Dan Karate website.