Fingerlakes Mall: Meet the man behind Finger Lakes Karate | Business

Summer at Fingerlakes Mall has been filled with events, from Absolute Dance’s recitals to the Poor Boys Car Show. Continuing into July, we will have even more events!

The Zerbini Family Circus will be here July 2-4 with a show under the big top! This will be in the back, near the cinema entrances. Then, July 15-17, the Book Faire will return! This will be in the Conference Center and proceeds will be donated to the Alzheimer Disease Research Center at Columbia University in New York City. On Saturday, July 16, the Peach Truck will also be here to drop off fresh peaches! Orders must be placed online at thepeachtruck.com one week prior to the arrival date.

Outside of the events and the seasonal changes, the mall is home to some of the region’s best businesses. In The Citizen’s 2022 Best of the Region rankings, Track Cinema was selected best movie theater and one of the best family entertainment destinations. Five Star Dog Grooming is one of the best pet groomers; Bass Pro Shops is one of the best boat sales/service businesses; JB Toys & Games is one of the best toy stores and Finger Lakes Karate is one of the best martial arts studios.

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This week I sat down with the owner of Finger Lakes Karate, Tony Musso, to talk about his business and history. The dojo opened here in June of 1992 and has been under Tony’s direction since February of 1993. Finger Lakes Karate teaches the basics of traditional Okinawan karate and focuses on the shorin ryu fighting style. Okinawan karate differs from other forms, such as Japanese or Korean, as Okinawan teachings focus on humility, dignity and respect. Okinawan karate utilizes katas, or preplanned move sets, to learn forms and combine techniques. Katas and stances are also a beneficial type of strength training, alongside the cardio benefits that karate provides.

Tony started practicing karate in 1979 and received his first black belt in 1989. He trained under Robert Herten, a highly regarded instructor of Okinawa shorin ryu karate-do and Okinawa kobudo. Herten had trained under Shugoro Nakazato, creating an Okinawan lineage passed down to Tony. He has also travelled to Okinawa in pursuit of improving his understanding and execution of the art, and is now a sixth degree black belt.

When asked why he teaches, Tony said, “It’s a labor of love. I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I enjoy teaching and seeing the kids grow. I love seeing those who’ve left come back later in life. They are successful and come back with stories and families of their own. I’ve had a couple generations of families; you could say we’re family-oriented. Families have trained together. I take interest in my students and their lives. I encourage them to play other sports, and karate has helped them excel in many parts of life.”

As we spoke about the dojo, Finger Lakes Karate students counted aloud while practicing their katas. “As classes progress, we get into ‘hidden’ techniques and translate katas; the translation is called ‘bunkai.'” Translations allow students to analyze movesets and extract fighting techniques from them. “There’s no substitute for the basics, but I like to disguise them and make it fun,” Tony said.

Tony believes the most important thing his students learn is confidence.

“They really come out of here more confident. They learn respect. I don’t have problems with bullies. None of my students start trouble just because they know how to fight; they’re respectful. I haven’t had problems with students being bullied; they are confident enough to stand up for themselves. Everything we teach is applicable as self-defense, even the basics. The exercise, conditioning and coordination taught are helpful for real-world applications.”

Finger Lakes Karate provides a unique experience and focuses on equity for all students.

“We teach students from every age. We adjust trainings to the person’s abilities,” Tony said. “We’ve had students with disabilities join the dojo and excel. Our promotions are based on hard work, not natural ability.”

Finger Lakes Karate is ready to welcome new students, with availability for every age and skill level. Tony would also like to give a huge thank you to Sharon Assmann, Dana Estelle and Amber Pidlypchak for helping keep the dojo alive and well: “They kept the dojo running when I got sick. They teach the students and do so much for us. Thank you.”

For more information on Finger Lakes Karate and what it has to offer, call (315) 252-8875.

Elizabeth Hebbard is director of marketing for Fingerlakes Mall in Aurelius. For more information, visit fingerlakesmall.com or call (315) 255-1188.

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