2014-01-30 / News

Tae kwon do master will begin training islanders at rec center

By Margo Sullivan

Islander Jo-Ann Pizzi is one of only two women in Rhode Island to be reach black belt master. She will begin teaching tae kwon do next weekend at the recreation center. 
Photo by Margo Sullivan Islander Jo-Ann Pizzi is one of only two women in Rhode Island to be reach black belt master. She will begin teaching tae kwon do next weekend at the recreation center. Photo by Margo Sullivan Tae kwon do is a Korean martial art that emphasizes kicks to overcome an opponent, according to Jamestown’s Jo-Ann Pizzi.

Jo-Ann, better known as Master Pizzi, will teach an introductory class starting Saturday, Feb. 8, at the recreation center. The first meeting is from 10 to 10:30 a.m. at the rec center. A second class will take place the following Saturday at the same time. The training is open to anyone ages 10 and up.

Pizzi approached rec officials and offered to teach the class, said Jill Goldstein, program director. Jamestown has never offered tae kwon do before, so this was an opportunity.

“It sounds awesome,” Goldstein said. “It’s not just about the martial arts.”

The teacher will also stress the spiritual tenets. According to Pizzi, the seven tenets are discipline, respect, integrity, focus, courage, humility and victory.

Pizzi is a fourth-degree black belt, meaning she has earned four black belts. She trained with a master in San Francisco for six months and then continued training in Rhode Island for 15 years. She is one of only two women in Rhode Island to attain the level of black belt master.

Pizzi took up the sport as a tribute to her father. Part of her satisfaction comes from knowing her achievement pleased both parents.

She is the daughter of the late Joseph and Mary Pizzi.

Master Pizzi is originally from Cranston. She followed her sister to Jamestown, and eventually her entire immediate family moved to the island. Pizzi arrived in town 25 years ago, and with both children on the island, the parents were close behind. They decided to sell their home in Cranston in 1995.

Both her parents died in the past three years, and they were well known and loved in town, she said. They also supported her and attended all her tae kwon do events.

“I have no regrets,” she said. “I know how happy I made them.”

Pizzi is a defense contractor with the U.S. Navy. She has a master’s degree in business administration.

Originally, Pizzi traveled to California for an “adventure,” and after meeting a tae kwon do master in San Fran, she begin learning the martial art.

“I always was interested in martial arts growing up,” she said.

Her father had been a soldier and a World War II hero, but her parents couldn’t really see her following in his footsteps.

“Being a girl, they never wanted me to go into the military,” she said.

Once she discovered tae kwon do, she had found her direction.

“It is my life,” Pizzi said. “I have a love for it and a passion.”

Pizzi said all the martial arts developed from Chinese calligraphy, but tae kwon do is Korean, not Chinese.

“Tae kwon do is known for its high and powerful kicks,” she said.

Karate works more with the hands, she added, which are used for motion, punching and striking. In tae kwon do, students learn powerful kicks that are used to “go in for the kill.”

Pizzi said older people can attend, but she will require a waiver from adults with cardiac or serious back problems. Regular old age, however, is not a barrier.

She teaches the class so people can get as much out of it as their physical conditions allow. If the introductory classes are successful, she would like to teach another class in stretching, and one strictly for women.

“We would like to introduce it to Jamestowners,” Goldstein said.

The cost for the two introductory classes is $30. The registration fee includes a uniform, called a dobok, which means “learning cloth.” (Call Goldstein at 423- 7260 to register. Waivers can be found on the recreation page of the town website.)

Students who want to continue can take a training course to earn their white belt. It will last three months. Classes, Pizzi expects, will meet twice weekly at the rec center and will probably start around March 1. This time, the ages will be separated, so youngsters will take the Junior Tigers class, while adults ages 18 and up will take the Adult Dragon class.

If the class proves popular, Master Pizzi will offer subsequent levels for a year, continuing with the yellow-striped belt and the yellow belt. The last training will last five months.

Another difference is that other martial arts rely on weapons, while in tae kwon do, the body is the only weapon, Pizzi said.

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