Dr. Ernest Hyman: HKI

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The Harlem Karate Institute (HKI) dojo is a smaller version of the streets.  Everything that can happen in the streets can happen there.  Vital lessons in survival are learned even from the day you set foot on the dojo floor.  In fact, the application process is a learning experience in itself. 

From ages 6 to 106 – students pile in to learn the way of Japanese Goju Ryu under the perspicacious teachings of Dr. Ernest Hyman who is known and respected throughout the martial arts community for his expertise in ice breaking (1,200 lbs of ice), nunchaku, weapons, kata and kumite.  Legendary to some, notorious to others, Dr. Hyman is well-known for his robust, sometimes even egregious style, but everybody loves Dr. Hyman, if not just for his jovial, high-spirited, warm and compassionate nature.

Dr. Ernest Hyman -- There's only one.

Legend has it that in Dr. Hyman’s early days, during a martial arts sports competition, after suspecting foul play at the hands of the judges, when the winner was announced, and it was not him, Hyman marched up, snatched the trophy out of the hands of the judge and ferociously announced, “Anyone who believes this trophy does not belong to me, come and take it.” A still came over the arena, and nobody stepped up to challenge Hyman.

This class is not for everybody.  The saying, only the strong survive holds very true when it comes to Dr. Hyman’s martial science classes.  New classes start out huge – but the classes diminish as the ranking heightens.  That is because only the best of the best can handle it and remain.

Dr. Hyman says some students take his class to a point, leave and get their black belts from other schools because they can’t handle the challenge at HKI.

In 1986, Dr. Hyman created his own system of martial science called Mokoboshi, meaning Circular Fist in Japanese. The key elements constituting Dr. Hyman’s Mokoboshi system: Determination, Discipline, Patience & more Patience, manifest a blueprint of his life:

Dr. Hyman understands the challenges our youth face every day.  Born in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, he left home at the tender age of 12.

He first became interested in the martial arts because he wanted to be a gang leader like Mugsy from the East Side Comedy, a weekly television show based on a street gang in Brooklyn. But early on during his quest, he learned through martial arts that gangbanging was not the right choice and instead, he joined the New York City Bike Patrol, founded by New York City Mayor John Lindsay (who was Mayor at the time).  The Bike Patrol’s headquarters were in the Central Park Precinct and he patrolled Hell’s Kitchen and crime-ridden areas of Midtown with his team, fighting crime. 

Committed to making it on his own and wanting to be self-sufficient, young Ernest began shining shoes in Midtown, Manhattan to eat and to pay for his karate lessons.  There was no obstacle too great to stop him from attending his classes.  With his strong determination and the grace of God, Ernest was able to withstand and resist the vices and temptations impressed upon him by the city streets.  Even at such a young age Ernest knew that his choices would control his destiny and no drugs, thugs, prostitutes or other negative elements were going to stand in the way of his goal to succeed.

By the time Ernest was 18 he had already set his sights on teaching.  He had his first class at JHS 45, Manhattan, teaching martial arts as a green belt. By the time he was 21, he had saved up enough money to open his own school.  He opened his school even before he received his black belt.  Sensei Hyman (as he was back then) taught at the school for 3 years before a fire forced him to find a new location.

He came across a run-down, dilapidated building -- 2234 Third Avenue, between 122nd and 123rd Streets in East Harlem.  Although the building was practically a shell, young Sensei Hyman believed it would be a perfect place to open his dojo.  He went inside to further inspect the building. There was no roof, no ceiling, no bathroom, the place needed to be virtually, rebuilt.

He knew it would be a lot of hard work but he was determined to do it.

Not a penny to his name, 24 year old Ernest approached the Landlord’s office and told her he would like to have the entire second floor to open his dojo. The landlord told him that the building recently had a fire and it would take at least $200,000 to $300,000 to fix up the space and asked how he would be able to do it.  Ernest replied, “I don’t know how, but I know I WILL”.  The phone rang and it was someone inquiring about the same space Sensei Hyman was requesting.  The landlord replied to the telephone inquirer as she smiled at Sensei Hyman, “It’s already been rented”.  Soon after, Sensei Hyman was given the keys to the building at 2234 Third Avenue and with the help of his students and his friends the Harlem Karate Institute Youth Development Center was born. The year was 1979.

Now, in the year 2006, 27 years later, the Harlem Karate Institute Youth Development Center still stands and Dr. Hyman continues his relentless struggle to keep the doors open at the Institute.  The Harlem Karate Institute Youth Development Center has survived thus far through tiny, but much appreciated local government grants and community support.

In five years, when it is up for sale, Dr. Hyman intends to buy the building he has built and nurtured from practically the ground up.

Dr. Hyman, during his 30 years in the martial arts, has competed in over 500 karate tournaments.  Dr. Ernest Hyman holds a 10th Degree Black Belt in Japanese Goju -- the only system of martial science where 10th Degree Black Belt is recognized as a Doctorate Degree. Dr. Hyman studied martial arts under world acclaimed martial arts legend, Dr. Aaron Banks.  Dr. Hyman has won over 1,000 1st place trophies and has won in all divisions over a 25-year span.  He is known and respected throughout the martial arts community especially for his expertise in ice breaking (1,200 lbs of ice) and nunchaku.  Dr. Hyman also masters weapons, kata (forms) and kumite competition.  He is a performer in all divisions at martial arts shows and has appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Action Martial Arts Magazine, Official Karate, Karate Illustrator and other martial major arts publications.  Dr. Hyman has since created his own martial science system and named it Mokoboshi, translated meaning Circular Fist and has taught periodically at various public schools in New York City.

Performance credits:
Madison Square Garden Arena (over 12 years); Nassau Coliseum; Meadowlands Arena; Studio 54; The Ritz; Beacon Theatre; Hunter College; FIT; Dr. Hyman has traveled on tour to Europe, South America and throughout the United States with the world’s number one martial arts show, “Oriental World of Self Defense”; Dr. Hyman has also performed for the Queen of England.

Patience, Patience And More Patience:
Dr. Hyman’s students come to him from the East Harlem and surrounding communities with a wide range of issues such as depression, behavior problems in school, gang violence, obesity, domestic violence, poverty, substance abuse and more.  He takes on each young person’s challenge, individually, and helps him or her overcome and win.  He will not hesitate to meet with teachers and administrators when a child is in need of help or attention.  He quickly intervenes to make sure the youth, children, and even adults are behaving responsibly and in a respectful manner.

As afterschool programs rapidly dwindle away due to government cuts and parents are at a loss to find a quality place for their children to stay until they can pick them up from work, The Harlem Karate Institute, to the relief of so many parents, has been a safe haven for their children.

Dr. Hyman has enriched the lives of his students, their families and peers by teaching tolerance, self-confidence, respect for themselves and all people. He makes every community he works with a better and safer environment to live in.

Dr. Ernest Hyman is passionately known and admired in the world of martial science, the community and in the hearts of those who know him.  His zeal for martial science and humanity is manifested through his sons, Master Ernest Hyman, III and Sensei Shar-ma Hyman, who continue his legacy.

Students who spend a year or more at The Harlem Karate Institute and follow the teachings of the Mokoboshi system, will be ready for life, for the streets and for anything else that gets in their way.  . 

The most important lesson learned at The Harlem Karate Institute, I think, is, “Never give up!  No matter what – never give up!”

The Harlem Karate Institute is a 501(c)3 Community Based Organization.  Sponsors are encouraged to please help support the school and the kids who eagerly pass through the doors of The Harlem Karate Institute – their home-away-from-home, and a newfound means of survival, as opposed to joining gangs and committing crimes.  The building is about to go up for sale and Dr. Hyman is trying to buy the building that so many kids and parents have adopted as their home for 26 years.  Dr. Hyman has been a strong asset to the East Harlem community.  The Harlem Karate Institute is 38 years old and they have been at the same location for 26 years.  Dr. Hyman needs our help now.  
Please e-mail Brenda@blackstarnews.com to find out how you can help.

To learn more about The Harlem Karate Institute, visit

Brenda Jeanne Wyche, Advocate for Solutions and Results ©2006 is Managing Editor for The Black Star News and Harlem Business News and CEO of Winning Strategies & Associates , a business development consultancy in New York City.  If you have a solution, contact Brenda@blackstarnews.com .  Maybe we’ll talk.

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“Speaking Truth To Empower.”

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