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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

SCOTT FELDMAN, WHO is a third degree black belt, has taught martial arts to hundreds of people over the past decade.

Meet Sensei Feldman

By Jeanne Sager
SOUTH FALLSBURG — August 6, 2004 – The pairing of the names doesn’t sound quite right - “Sensei” “Feldman.”
But yes, you’ve got it right. Scott Feldman is a guy from Woodridge with the sensibilities of old China and Japan.
A third degree black belt, Feldman believes utmost in teaching his craft – to kids who need discipline to help them in school, to women who want to know the basics of self defense on a dark night, to people who are looking to get in shape and protect themselves.
He’s been a “sensei,” Japanese for teacher, since the early 90s when he took a job working at the Villa Roma in Callicoon as a lifeguard.
Boss Craig Passante knew Feldman had a true passion for teaching – he’d trained skiiers and swimmers – and a true talent for the martial arts.
He suggested Feldman start teaching karate classes in Callicoon, using the racquetball courts at the Villa as a makeshift dojo.
The suggestion hit home, and Feldman started teaching in 1991.
Growing up in Woodridge, Feldman always wanted to get into the martial arts.
“The problem was, there were three of us and we were destroying the house as it was,” he recalled with a laugh. “So my father wouldn’t pay for martial arts lessons.”
He didn’t take his first class until 1982 when he fell into tae kwan do while attending SUNY Fredonia.
Five years later, Feldman switched gears, moving on to Henri Shawn’s dojo in Monticello.
A 10th degree master in the goju ryu system, Shawn was inspirational.
“I saw the system and fell in love with not only the system but the teacher,” Feldman recalled. “Henri was phenomenal.”
Goju ryu, which means hard soft style in Japanese, is a combination of the Okinawan karate and Shaolin Kung Fu – a style that works the entire body and prepares students for real life situations.
“It’s true practicality, no nonsense,” Feldman explained. “It allows everyone to focus on what you’re good at.”
Shawn began training Feldman as a fighter, but also as a teacher, allowing him to help guide the younger students in the dojo.
By the time Feldman had an offer to teach at the Villa, Shawn was ready to see his student become a teacher.
For Feldman, teaching is an opportunity to give to others.
He’s worked with young children with ADHD, molding the system to help them focus. And he’s worked with older people who are not quite as adept at picking up new skills.
Feldman has adapted his classes to teach people with prosthetic limbs, and he’s readily accepted women into his dojo – something other senseis have been known to deride.
“The true reason that I teach is my need, desire, to help others,” he said. “Especially to help give the next generation the guidance and the tools necessary for them to do better than the previous one.
“I focus on teamwork, self reliance,” Feldman explained.
He compares his classes to Little League. The baseball program is designed to include everyone, not train kids to be Major League Baseball players.
Ten percent leave there ready to play in high school and maybe college – the others just had fun and learned about discipline and playing on a team.
“I focus on that other 90 percent,” he said. “I focus on not everyone being a super athlete . . . I teach something you can take with you for the rest of your life.”
In addition to karate classes, Feldman runs women’s self defense and rape prevention courses, PeeWee Power for kids and t’ai chi ch’uan.
Feldman’s children’s classes have been designed with kids he’s worked with in mind – even his own son, Aleksy, has influenced the way the classes run at the dojo in his home in South Fallsburg.
Liberty’s parks and recreation department has signed on to offer t’ai chi at the senior center in LaPolt Park, giving Feldman a more central location to teach his courses.
Although his first love was karate, Feldman has been studying the Chinese system since 1991 under the direction of Lai Mui Ma, a teacher he discovered at The Pines in Fallsburg.
“I got into it for the meditation and its healing properties,” Feldman recalled. “I’ve had several crippling injuries, and I was born with some injuries.
“I’ve had severe hip damage, back damage, a broken neck,” Feldman revealed.
With the help of the t’ai chi, he’s rebuilt his own body.
"T’ai chi is a system of internal, soft Kung-fu practiced in slow motion and designed to enhance and stimulate the flow of chi (energy) and blood within the body,” Feldman explained. “It is this enhancement and unification of the chi and blood that reportedly is responsible for the body’s ability to cure the ‘100 diseases.’”
Promoters of the t’ai chi system have claimed it has helped people cure everything from cancer to heart disease – something Feldman takes with a grain of salt.
But there are undoubtedly benefits to the entire body, he said, his own experiences a true indicator of its worth.
It’s a system most people identify with the elderly people on television in the Celebrex commercials, a slow exercise which Feldman said relaxes the mind and the body and yet works the muscles, even burns several hundred calories.
Feldman is eager to share his knowledge with others – his South Fallsburg dojo will reopen in September to a full range of classes. He is also looking to develop classes with the Town of Liberty Parks and Recreation Department.
For more information, or to sign up for a class, call Feldman at 434-0687.

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