Denise Valentine Laiosa
Fitness and athletics were a big part of Denise’s upbringing; her
parents, still fit in their late 70s, were great role models.
Because of her love of athletics, it’s really not a surprise that
Denise eventually tried the martial arts. When
she started karate, she was one of two adults in a primarily youth class. Soon
after becoming a Shodan, Sensei Jon Cierri announced that he was retiring and
moving out of state. Denise was devastated and a bit anxious, especially when he
asked her to accept the primary responsibility of keeping the school together.
Denise was initially awkward with the idea being in charge of the junior black
belt students who had studied karate longer than herself. With the encouragement
of her students and with support from Sensei Jon Cierri and Sensei Jack Summers
and his seniors in the area, she stepped up to the plate. It was a transitional
time for everyone, but it worked out well. Denise says she will
always be grateful for the encouragement and assistance she received, which
supported the school’s growth. Denise believes that never has she derived such
a great feeling of fulfillment and challenge as she has from karate and she
hopes to grow old with the continuation of her studies.
Through karate, Denise has had many doors opened to her:
to new goals and skills, to new friendships and role models, to an
enhanced career path, and last, to this unbelievable journey to
At what age did you begin to study karate?
Why did you choose to study karate?
Was there a reason why you chose to study Uechi Ryu?
am both angry and sad that I found this passion so late in life, thus I feel a
great need to gain as much experience as I can.
What an opportunity, to join such experienced and talented women on this
unprecedented journey…to learn from some of the greatest teachers in
How has your martial arts study affected or changed your life?
Karate has affected my life in so many ways, both personally
and professionally. It has improved
my focus and concentration; it has given me strength, empowerment and
confidence; it has taught me humility and patience.
For the first time in my life (outside of my parents), I found a teacher
who took the time to be a mentor and had the patience push me to my
capabilities; and I found a class which went too fast and wasn’t long enough!
Professionally, I found a new and meaningful path in my job
as a health educator, when I began co-teaching self-defense courses with my
instructor, Jon Cierri. I learned so much from working with him and respected
his knowledge and real-life experience as a former police officer.
I also recognized that I enjoy working with the teenage population, which
now makes up the majority of our school.
The most important thing that I have discovered from karate, however, is that I enjoy the ongoing learning process as much as, if not more than, the end result (promotions). That’s a big change for someone who is pretty goal oriented. I do not intend to race through this most enjoyable experience, and if my body cooperates, I hope to be practicing martial arts in my 60s and 70s, like my instructors. It has given me an unbelievable sense of accomplishment and pride.
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