A decade ago, Craig Craig looked around for a new career after an injury prevented him from continuing to work as a paramedic, so he turned to one of his passions – karate.
He and his wife Anita looked around and found a commercial space on School Street in Watertown and opened their studio. They ran it with the philosophy that they would treat pupils like family, and it worked. Last month Craig’s Kempo Karate Academy celebrated its 10 year anniversary with a dinner at the Helenic Cultural Center which attracted over 200 people.
Craig said he has had 100s of students, an often runs into them around Watertown and Belmont, where he now lives.
Along with the students he works with at Craig’s Kempo Karate Academy, he also runs afterschool classes at all three Watertown elementary schools, as well as a couple of schools in Belmont.
Anita, who can be seen around the studio almost as much as Craig, said that her husband works well with the students.
“He’s an amazing teacher,” Anita said. “I knew the students would love him.”
The lessons extend beyond the techniques needed to get the next karate belt, Craig said.
“We work closely with parents,” Craig said.
At times, he will work with parents and even teachers to come up with ways for the karate student to also do well in school.
“We will meet with the student and set up a plan with their teacher to reach a goal,” Craig said.
Before a student can take the test for the next belt, they must get a letter from their school saying they are doing well, Anita said.
Last week, a group of advanced students prepared for an upcoming competition. Many had studied for 5 or more years at Craig’s Kempo Karate. David Izzo, of Brighton, said he was attracted to karate because of the self defense aspect.
“It is good if anyone tries to bully you,” Izzo said. “You don’t have to be afraid.
Craig emphasized that he teaches students NOT to fight. They will be ready to defend themselves, however.
The group included several girls, and one of his assistant instructors is a girl who started learning karate in the early days of the studio.
Vana Pistoftzian of Watertown said she likes learning new techniques and challenging herself.
“When you see someone with a higher rank and see all the cool moves you say, ‘I want to get that rank so I can do that,’” Pistoftzian said.
At the 10-year celebration, Craig received recognition for his work not just from his students but also from Grandmaster Steve Nugent, head of the International Kempo Council Of Grandmasters. Craig received a promotion from Sensei to Renshi, which roughly translated as “Senior Expert Teacher.”