Business SpotlightsThe Examiner

Okinawan Goju-Ryu School of Karate, Chappaqua

We are part of The Trust Project

When Mark Dwyer, owner of the Okinawan Goju-Ryu School of Karate in Chappaqua, discovered Okinawan karate at the age of 17, it changed his life.

Mark Dwyer, owner of Okinawan Goju-Ryu School of Karate.

A Pleasantville native, Dwyer was introduced to the discipline by his stepfather.

“I knew right then and there that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said Dwyer, who has been teaching since 1984 and whose school has been a Chappaqua fixture since 1988.

An operations manager at Ergotech in Elmsford, Dwyer dashes off to his South Greeley Avenue studio five evenings a week, in addition to teaching Saturday morning classes and private sessions on Sundays by appointment only.

Dwyer offers classes for men, women and children and shares his studio space with Dance Emotions.

Dwyer’s school is among just a handful of local martial arts schools that teach Okinawan karate. It is part of the Jundokan Dojo in Natha, Okinawa, an island off the coast of Japan where the discipline originated more than 200 years ago.

Unlike other forms of martial arts, Okinawan karate emphasizes the hands. That’s not surprising, since the ancient Okinawans refined their own type of hand-fighting techniques, an “in-close combat system,” Dwyer explained. As a result, the techniques that students focus most on include grappling techniques, throws and take-downs.

Students who enroll in his school won’t get a “watered-down” version of karate, he said. Instead, they’ll learn the craft and attain belts the old-fashioned way. To acquire black belt status, students must be 16 years old, with an average of eight to 10 years of study behind them.

“To me, karate is like a bank,” Dwyer said. “If you don’t put anything into it, you won’t remain sharp.”

That’s a principle he has lived by his whole life. Eager to perfect his craft, Dwyer, a master teacher/sensei, continues to learn. He trains with his own sensei, Michael Mancuso, a senior member of the Jundokan federation, and travels to Okinawa every few years for specialized training.

While Dwyer’s oldest student is 76 and he has plenty of longtime students, he has attracted a whole cadre of newer students. His compassion and dedication to the profession has fostered a respect from local parents who see Dwyer as someone with the patience to deal with the most difficult of children, said his wife, Marcy.

“Mark’s approach is such that he can adapt to any kind of student and bring out the best in all of them,” she said.

With the help of his assistant sensei Eric Pfisfterer, the school has been successful in providing children who have ADHD and other behavioral problems the motivation and discipline to excel. Dwyer, whose son Ryan, 11, also attends the school, said he uses a combination of discipline, repetition and strict adherence to the traditional form of karate to turn students around.

Despite the hectic schedule of a full-time job and running the school, Dwyer wouldn’t change a thing. The discipline has not only kept him in great physical shape, it also helps strip away stress and gives him a positive perspective on life.

And for those karate students who think they’ve reached the pinnacle, there is always more to learn.

“A lot of people claim they are masters of karate, but I don’t believe you can ever master it — you can always be better,” Dwyer said.

The Okinawan Goju-Ryu School of Karate is located at 75 S. Greeley Ave. It is open from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays; 7:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. on Tuesdays; 7:15  to 8:45 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays; 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays; and by appointment on Sunday.

For more information, contact Dwyer at 914-879-9780, email him at or visit





We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.