Fledgling martial arts school owner does business his way

At age 30, Joseph Lupo decided it was time to fight his own battles. So he started a martial arts business in Whitestone, New York.

“It was always a dream of mine,” Lupo said. “Little kids grow up and they want to be firemen and cops. Me? I wanted to be a martial artist.”

One year later, Lupo’s school, New York Black Belt Center, now boasts 125 students. He said flyers and word-of-mouth are his only two means of advertising.

Lupo has to compete with having two other martial arts schools in the same area. But his school also has one distinct advantage – his father’s reputation among potential customers in the neighborhood.

“My father used to teach their parents, now I teach their kids,” he said.

But Lupo doesn’t just teach kids. He teaches adults too. And it’s a full-time job. Every weekday, Lupo comes in at 10 a.m. and leaves around 9:30 p.m.

Plus, he teaches all of his classes. He won’t let anyone else — except his father.

“When you have one leader, it creates better technique,” he said. “It creates better harmony within the school.”

Lupo said he saw the effects of disharmony in the martial arts business after a rift between his father and his father’s business partner led to both going their separate ways.

He said he has black belts in his class who are capable of teaching, too. But he said he strongly believes that there should only be “one chief” and “lots of Indians.”