Remember 1980s hit movie “The Karate Kid”? A Rocky for the adolescent set (the same filmmaker directed both movies), it starred Ralph Macchio (and Jaden Smith in the 2010 remake) as a high school senior who, through force of will and discipline, surmounts physical adversity to triumph against the odds.
Hollywood’s Karate Kid is, of course, make believe. Westchester’s Karate Kid is not. He’s as real as you or me.
Meet Adam McCauley. Adam’s not a kid anymore, but he once was a bullied kid. Today, he holds two black belts in two different forms of karate, Ryu Te (sixth degree) and Shotokan (fourth degree).
Adam owns and operates Go No Sen Karate. His school’s flagship location, in Blue Mountain Plaza on Welcher Avenue in Peekskill, was joined in early January by a second dojo in Parkside Corner on Route 202 (Crompond Road), bordering Yorktown and Cortlandt Manor.
“Our program focuses on building confidence in children,” says its website (GoNoSen.com). “Along with programs in bully prevention, stranger danger and health/nutrition, we teach martial arts fitness for men, women and children.”
“Building Better Bodies and Stronger Minds!”—the school’s motto—is something Adam had to learn the hard way. He was the proverbial scrawny kid who got picked on in his Mount Vernon high school.
“‘The Karate Kid’ was my story,” says Mr. McCauley. “I didn’t like school because I was beat up. I saved lunch money so I could avoid taking the bus home, and used the money to take cabs home instead. I was a skinny kid with acne, long hair, braces and lived in a rough neighborhood where my friends didn’t want to visit me.”
As Adam underwent an often-agonizing adolescence, he also would binge-watch Bruce Lee martial arts movies. “There was something always in me. ‘The Karate Kid’ inspired me to find an instructor to teach me to stand up for myself. My sensei [like Mr. Miyagi in the movie] gave me the ambition and tools to stand up for myself.”
He calls his sensei, the late William Richardson, “truly one person who made a difference in this person, who has made a difference in thousands. My goal is to carry his legacy, build a legacy through our teachers, and pass that knowledge on.”
He adds that “I had no confidence growing up as a teenager, but when I put on my uniform, I was invincible. I was really into karate. I would go every day, and I would just love it. At the time, my parents bought a deli next to the local karate school. I would work at the deli, then go to karate school, so it was very convenient.”
Adam was in 10th grade at the time, so he had a relatively late start compared with some of the youngsters he and his staff now teach at Go No Sen, where most students, he says, are 5-13 years old. There’s even been a 2-and-a-half-year-old getting in his kicks.
His school days were notable also for academic challenges. “I had learning disabilities. Educators told my parents I would never pass the fourth-grade reading level, even in adulthood.” He said the malady was the result of an allergic reaction to medication that he suffered as a newborn twin.
But none of that stopped Adam “The Karate Kid” McCauley from earning an associate degree in graphic design from Westchester Community College. He also was bestowed an honorary Ph.D. in Martial Arts Sciences by the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
He’s been at it now for more than a quarter-century. While in his late 20s, living in Verplanck, he started teaching martial arts to three teenagers in his living room. “Word got out that I was teaching, I promoted myself more, and I got more clients.”
Yet there still were hurdles. Working part-time as a cable TV installer, he was in an accident that resulted in his termination. In addition to his karate students, he took on several part-time jobs, working at UPS mornings and other times as a receptionist. “I built myself back up. It was a slow and steady pace as I went from part-time instructor to full-time. I turned lemons into lemonade.”
Adam credits his mother Marianne with his positive outlook and his work ethic. She was commissioner of human rights in Mount Vernon. “She never labeled anybody, so we grew up without any prejudices. She always would fight for me, always saw the glass as half-full.
“It’s because of her that whenever a parent who comes through my door says, ‘My kid has a problem,’ I correct them and say, ‘No. He has a challenge.’”
Bruce Apar is chief content officer of Google Partner Agency, Pinpoint Marketing & Design, as well as an actor and a regular contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce the Blog on social media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-275-6887.