HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- Motivated martial artists filled the Kenshikai Karate studio in Hastings on a frigid Saturday morning in January for a rousing workout that could be "felt" along quiet Main Street.
Kenshikai's Sensei Clai Henry, a New York City attorney who opened the studio in June 2013, gathered students from 7 to 40-something in a combined class meant to encourage his younger students.
"Karate training uniquely develops in people what in Japanese is called "Kokoro", which means spirit or heart or a sort of inner strength," Henry said. "The goal for each new student is that for each class, if they train their hardest, they are a little better than when they started class."
Henry, who started training martial arts when he was 5-years-old and began Japanese karate when he was 8, says he started in an after-school activity and continued to train because karate has given me a sense of balance and a way to relieve the stresses of everyday life.
Jesse Spiro of Hastings, his wife Peilin Kuo, and their 6-year-old son Jet, are all members of the Kenshikai family. Spiro practiced Tae Kwon Do (Korean form of MA) in his teens.
"I've often thought about getting back into it and I guess this was just the right opportunity," Spiro said. "Although each of us go to separate classes, being involved as a family makes the dojo feel like an extension of home. I like that our son knows we are learning alongside him. I think it allows him to feel grown up."
Maria de la Cruz is a blue belt who has been training for about six months. Her and two sons, Jayden, 8, and Thomas, 6, also train in the children's classes.
"I was inspired to start practicing Kenshikai after witnessing one of the workouts," de la Cruz said. "I was hesitant to try something that looked so intimidating, so I enrolled my two very energetic boys first. After taking my boys to a few classes, I couldn't contain myself anymore and so I took the plunge. I'm glad I did."
De la Cruz said she finds the martial arts it to be a great stress reliever and a motivator.
""Being a wife, a mother of two boys, and a nursing student who also works (is stressful," she said. " When I step into the dojo none of that matters. I close out the world and focus on learning the art."
Anne Mulcahy, a New York City lawyer, has also been training with Kenshikai since it opened. She said the individual effort she puts into the art has been very satisfying.
"I've been training for about seven months, but I think the discipline and self-control has already translated into helping me overcome daily challenges in my career and personal life," Mulcahy said. "Sensei (Henry) is a motivating teacher and you can see his students pushing harder each class."