With Netflix’s Karate Kid spin-off Cobra Kai now available, we thought we’d reach out to Henry Novoa, founder of Guangzhou-based Karate Tiger Temple, to learn about the benefits karate can have on children’s physical and mental development. Novoa shares with That’s what got him interested in the sport and his academy’s success in international competitions.
How did you get started in karate? What prompted you to open a karate academy?
I started taking karate lessons when I was just 5 years old, while living in Venezuela. As a child, I absolutely loved martial arts movies. My parents realized very quickly that I had a keen interest in learning, so they took me to a karate academy. From the very first moment I started, karate became a huge part of my life and my entire attention was devoted to this exciting sport. But I never thought I was going to open a karate academy in the place where martial arts was born! This has truly been a dream come true. When I opened KTT Academy, I knew that I had to share all the life-changing skills that I had learned in Venezuela to young people here in south China. I am very proud and humbled by the fact that I can represent my native country in my host country for a sport that I love so much.
What has the reception been like in South China for learning karate?
It’s been completely wonderful! Everyone, from the students to the parents, have supported us more than I would have ever expected. They enjoy karate because it is an energetic activity and builds discipline, as well as inner and outer strength. The more that our students train, the more disciplined they become. This is beneficial for them, as they learn to control their emotions and release daily stress. Our parents have slowly begun to understand that karate is not only to defend but also to help with the maturity and lifelong development of an individual’s mind and body.
“In August 2019, our team traveled to Tokyo to represent China, and it brought us the greatest pride and joy we have ever felt”
What important skills do you think kids learn from your program?
The KTT program is strategically developed to maintain a fine balance between continuous learning and having fun, as it is very important that students enjoy the learning process. Our program allows students to acquire physical skills (coordination, elasticity, physical strength, resistance) and discipline (self-esteem, respect, courtesy, teamwork, discernment, getting to know each other better and so on). But more than these important skills, we are building habits to live a better life.
What kind of competitions does your academy participate in Asia?
We take part in several competitions around the world on a regular basis. But for us, the most important of all is the World Shotokan Karate-do Federation World Cup. In August 2019, our team traveled to Tokyo to represent China, and it brought us the greatest pride and joy we have ever felt. We won seven medals, including a gold for first place, and it was a moment of many stirring emotions because we saw what we could achieve if we pushed ourselves. All our efforts during the last few years had finally paid off. As for our students, it was an unforgettable experience. Being in another country in an international combat competition, with children from around the world, is something that has undoubtedly helped them with their development and training. It proved to them that with effort and the right mindset, they can achieve all that they have set out to do. It also showed them that it did not matter if they won or lose; all they needed was to be brave, face their adversaries and do their very best. This has always been our mission at KTT to exemplify this.
Name your favorite martial arts movie.
Well, that’s a hard question for a karate coach and lover of martial arts movies! My favorite Hollywood flick is Blood Sport with Jean Claude Van Dame. And my ultimate go-to karate-themed film is Kuro Obi. I have watched both so many times and I don’t think I will ever tire of them.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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[Images provided by Henry Novoa]