Article Contributed by
When John Lipari was twenty years old, he got jumped while working security at his family-owned racetrack in California. A few days after, still bruised from the mugging, Lipari went to catch a movie at the cinema. The only film showing that day was Karate Kid. Little did Lipari know as he bought his ticket, the movie he was about to see would be a catalyst for the course of his life.
“As I sat in the crowd at the theater, feeling my eye that was all swollen up, I thought, you know what? I’m going to take karate. I’m going to learn how to defend myself,” Lipari said.
Over three decades later, Lipari has transformed into something of a Mr. Miyagi himself. Shihan (“Master Instrutor”) Lipari has trained extensively in judo, jujitsu, and karate, in which he holds an eighth degree black belt in the Budo-Ikkon system. For years, he passed along his knowledge as the owner and Shihan of a successful martial arts school in his hometown of Corona, CA. Then, in 2015, he moved clear across the country and opened a sister institute in Ashville, NY: the All American Karate School.
“I’ve had to adjust to living in a small town,” Lipari said. “I went from a school in California with 350 plus students, to a school with 35 students… but we’ve been so well-received here. The attitude of people here is great; people are so friendly. And the lifestyle is more laidback. We enjoy that.”
Lipari and his family decided to move several years ago, after a trip to Bemus Point to celebrate his grandmother’s 100th birthday. While in town, he says his wife fell in love with the seasons, the pace of life, and the people. By the end of the year, Lipari had transitioned ownership of his school in Corona to his daughter, bought a house in Chautauqua County, and switched coasts with plans to retire.
“That lasted about four months,” Lipari said of his retirement aspirations. “I realized I’m the kind of guy who needs to be doing something.”
Lipari decided to return to what he had always known: karate. He bought the empty building across from the Ashville General Store and began constructing a school for all ages and ability levels. Today, his school offers a comprehensive 10 belt system with classes for tots, children, and adults. Students spar on a padded floor under a motto painted on the wall: “Be better than you were before.” This motto captures the spirit of Lipari’s school: self-improvement at your own pace, on your own time.
“This nice thing about our system is we’re flexible, so even if you can only make it once a week, you’re still improving yourself,” Lipari said. “I also try to make everything affordable, to encourage the whole family to do karate. It gives you something in common, something to talk about over the dinner table.”
For Lipari, karate has been the thread that weaved his life together. Not only did it give him a sense of purpose and a career, but it also introduced him to his wife and family. And according to Lipari, he is not the exception. Karate, he says, has a way of transforming all those who practice it.
“Karate is everything,” he said. “It changes the whole way you live. Martial arts, at its basis, is self-defense. We teach people how to defend themselves, not to fight; there’s a huge difference. But it’s so much more. Karate teaches you discipline and commitment. It gives you confidence.”
For more information on the All American Karate School and its classes, spring and summer camp programs, and pricing, visit their Facebook page, their website at allamericankarateschool.com, or give Shihan Lipari a call at 763-0055. He encourages everyone to give karate a chance, no matter what their age or background.
“I’ve never met someone who doesn’t want to be a black belt,” Lipari said. “I tell people: come in, try it. Even if you don’t like it, you can keep the uniform. And if nothing else, you have a great Star Wars costume for next Halloween.”
To read more articles featuring local businesses around the area, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com.