Neighborhood Karate School Going Strong Since 1979

Noah Lucia, owner and operator of Boston Budo, has been involved in the Beacon Hill-based karate school going back to his early childhood, which was somewhat of an inevitability considering the program was the brainchild of his father, Duane Lucia.

“When I was coming up, my father was teaching karate at Hill House, and I was also going to Hill House, so I was pretending to be a ninja or Bruce Lee as early as I could run around,” said Noah, now 37. “And as soon as my father could get me to stand in line, I was standing in line.”

Nami and Hana Lucia, daughters of Noah Lucia’s who is owner and operator of Boston Budo, as well as students at the karate school.

A longtime community activist in the West End, as well as the past president of the West End Museum, Duane established Boston Budo in 1979 and started offering classes through Hill House eight years later.

Noah, meanwhile, was diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) in the third grade, but rather than putting him on medication, Duane opted to immerse him in karate instead.

“I struggled with focus as a kid, so karate was instrumental in getting me focused – it’s one reason I believe I’ve hugely benefitted from this,” said Noah.

Noah went on to earn a hockey scholarship to Norwich University, a private military college in Northfield, Vt. After graduating from there with an English degree, he spent some time in the corporate world before moving to Japan to teach English. Noah eventually returned to Boston and came to work at Boston Bodo alongside Duane around 2010.

By around 2012, Noah had assumed the reins from his father and became the de facto owner of the karate school, although there was no official passing of the torch per se.

“I got more active in teaching then and had just taken over a majority of the students, and had started running the day-to-day stuff,” said Noah.

Boston Budo teaches Uechi Ryu – a traditional style of Okinawan karate – with a modern approach that incorporates elements of other athletic, movement, and martial arts disciplines. At any given time, between 1,000 and 1,500 students are involved in the programs Boston Bodu offers on its own at 74 Joy St., as well as through Hill House, and at the Florida Ruffin Ridley School in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner. The karate school also instructs a group of about 20 seniors, with the oldest being around 80, at the Brookline Senior Center. Since Boston Budo’s inception, well over 10,000 families from all over Boston, including Beacon Hill, the West End, East Boston, Charlestown, the North End, and the Back Bay, as well as from Brookline, have participated in its programming, according to Noah.

Karate worked for him as a child, said Noah, and it can do wonders for a lot of other kids, too. Besides boys who want to emulate their favorite superhero or become a ninja, like Noah once did, kids gravitate towards karate for a variety of different reasons. Physicians nowadays also often recommend martial arts for children who are struggling to focus, self-confidence, or bullying, among other issues.

And while Boston Budo’s programs are typically open to children ages 4 and up, kids as young as 2½  or 3½ years old have participated in Sunday Kiddie Karate in instances where their parents thought it could benefit them. “I’m impressed they can follow along,” Noah said of his youngest students.

Moreover, Boston Bodu’s programming crosses all barriers to include people from a variety of different backgrounds and capability levels.

“We teach all different kinds of people,” said Noah.

For instance, one autistic student Noah taught privately has made such great progress that the student has matriculated into group karate classes and even participated in the semi-annual karate tournament that Boston Budo sponsored on Sunday, June 5, at 74 Joy St.

Another of Noah’s students is an eighth-grade girl with what he describes as “serious lower-leg physical impairment” who has also excelled in karate.

In fact, more girls are taking part in their programming than ever before: of the 50 to 60 participants in last weekend’s karate tournament, Noah estimates around 60 percent of them were girls, many of whom also took first-place in a number of different categories.

“They listen well and are more focused early than boys are,” Noah said of his girl students. “When they started to really learn some tools, and to surprise themselves, they feel very empowered. After a few classes, you can see a young girl has discovered something inside herself, and that can be very empowering.”

Duane credits Noah for the large influx of girls into the program – a phenomenon that never happened when Duane himself was at the helm of Boston Budo.

“The great thing about martial arts is that everyone can participate so it’s not just the good athletes getting playing time on the field,” said Duane. “Everyone gets out of it what they put into it, so it’s an even playing field, and I think that’s the greatest thing about it.”

Perhaps most importantly, “no one is left behind” in martial arts, according to Dune.

Besides children with ADD, Boston Bodu also includes kids who are on the autism spectrum or who have emotional problems, among other issues.

“It gives them a sense of empowerment,” said Dune, “that they’re wanted, and that they belong.”

Martial arts also teaches kids important values, said Duane, such as “standing up for themselves; being creative; that being different isn’t a bad thing; and making up your own mind and not being swayed.”

Added Duane: “It helps put the world into perspective – don’t be sold on trendy or fashionable or some sort of propaganda.”

Martial arts also fosters community building, as Duane sees it.

“Community building is one of the most important elements of martial arts and the brotherhood and sisterhood between [everyone involved] in martial arts, but the community gets pretty small in Boston and on Beacon Hill,” said Dunae, adding that “community protracts out from the family.”

Many parents have seen the benefits of karate via their children’s involvement in the karate school, said Duane, so it’s not uncommon for parents to be receiving karate instruction in one room while their children are next door doing the same, or instead, they’re all in one class together.

On Saturday mornings, Boston Budo offers its Family Karate program, which has been ongoing since the karate school’s inception and often includes a number of father/son and mother/daughter participants. 

“It’s multi-generational, which makes it interesting,” said Duane.

Similarly, Noah point out that the benefits from karate are often the same for the youngest participants as they are for the oldest ones.

“The benefits of karate for early childhood development are also the same benefits for seniors – body awareness; mindfulness; thoughtful movement; mind-body connection; proprioception (i.e. your body’s ability to sense movement, action, and location); and general balance,” said Noah. “These things that are very important for young kids become very important later in life because as you get older, just movement becomes a challenge.”

To learn more about Boston Budo, visit bostonbudo.com.

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