Purple-belt DAD takes his black-belt SONS, 7 and 8, to Karate
Kids rule in this dojo
By Anthony Malakian
The Journal News
(Original publication: January 11, 2007)
RVINGTON - When Jon Brennen walks into the New York Goju Karate dojo on Warburton Avenue in Hastings, his world virtually flips upside down.
Jon, 48, is with two of his sons, Jon Thomas, 8, and Nicholas, 7, but strata in the dojo changes once the gui is put on. You see, the eldest Brennen, who along with his family lives in Irvington, is a purple belt, but his two sons already have achieved black-belt status.
What that means is even though Jon has a good 40 years on his sons, he has to call them "sir" or "sensei".
"When (Jon Thomas and Nicholas) first told me that, I thought they were joking," Jon said. "Then I asked the shihan and he said that I did. I said 'OK, as long as they know who the shihan is when we get home.' "
But that doesn't mean the kids aren't going to revel in the role reversal while they can.
"It's revenge for us," Jon Thomas said.
In fact, the only one of his kids whom Jon still has sway over in the dojo is his youngest son Michael, 4, who is a yellow belt. But if the youngest Brennen advances as fast as his older brothers have, Jon could lose his standing over Michael, too.
"They are all overachievers," Jon said. "Whatever it is that they do, they pick it up very fast and they are very focused."
This family affair started four years ago while Jon Thomas and Nicholas were still in pre-kindergarten. But getting the kids into karate wasn't necessarily a premeditated thing.
Jon Thomas and Nicholas' mother, Dana, decided to allow her sons to tag along with one of her friend's kids to the school. The parents weren't nervous about sending their kids to karate classes at all, especially since Jon had done it back in his college days.
For Jon Thomas and Nicholas, though, they were a little bit more nervous about the new experience than were their parents.
"At first I was scared," Nicholas said, "but then I faced my fears, like they teach you in class."
Because of those life lessons that karate teaches, Jon and Dana got behind their kids' new love.
"They teach them discipline, self worth and respect for one another and their family," Dana said.
"Also, the last thing they are taught to do is fight," Jon said.
At the dojo they are taught by shihan James Chillemi, who is also the owner, his brother Robert, as well as senseis Eric Rodoman, Eric Chung, Steve Caprara, Anthony Palombo and Anne Woods.
Because the boys have taken so well to the discipline, they have achieved a large amount of success in a relatively short amount of time.
Nicholas is New York Goju Karate's youngest student ever to get to the black-belt level. He and Jon Thomas completed the grueling test to get their black belts together.
It is five hours long where the katas, or forms, have to be done in perfect unison in front of shihan Chellemi. The test also incorporates different weapons.
After the test was completed successfully, the two brothers had vastly differing perspectives of what they had just accomplished.
"When Jon (Thomas) came out, he said it was the hardest five hours of his life," Jon said. "Nick came out and said that it was too easy and that he wanted more."
Despite the different perspectives, they both have risen to the same level in a short amount of time. And Jon Thomas points out that it is because of him that he and his brothers kept going back for more.
"It's a fun place to be, and I like going back so I can become a better fighter," Jon Thomas said. "(Nick) kept going back because of me - to keep up with his older brother."
Jon Thomas, Nicholas and Michael also have used what they've learned in karate to achieve success in other sports. They are avid skiers, snowboarders, water skiers and baseball players and even use their dirt bikes to partake in motorcross events up at their summer house in the Adirondacks.
But as good as they all are at other sports, karate is still at the top of their list - and it showed during the holiday season.
"They don't ask for traditional Christmas gifts," Jon said. "They'd rather have nunchucks or a new gui than get a new video game."
Wonderful. Black belt masters at 7 and 8. Maybe if the 4 year-old advances he can set a new record for youngest black-belt at that school.
And here is the outstanding school - http://www.onhudsondance.com/index.cfm?page=8