Bayside black belt school honors memory of Joe Lupo

Several of Joe Lupo Jr.'s students participated in the New York Black Belt Center opening ceremony Saturday. Photo by Karen Frantz
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The room was packed at Bayside’s New York Black Belt Center Saturday as students, friends and family of restaurateur Joseph Lupo Sr. gathered to commemorate his life and celebrate the opening of the martial arts school that he helped make possible.

Although Lupo Sr. died Sept. 22 at the age of 64 , it was clear throughout the evening his memory would live on in the new studio, at 216-03 Horace Harding Expwy.

“Everything I do here is for him. Everything,” said Joe Lupo Jr., who opened the school a month ago, moving from his previous location in Whitestone.

Lupo Jr. said that after his father died, he knew Whitestone, where he had been for nearly three years, was not for him anymore. About a week after Lupo Sr.’s funeral, Lupo Jr. said he went to renew the lease at his family’s restaurant, L’Italiano Trattoria, at 216-01 Horace Harding Expwy. And to his surprise the landlord also delivered him a lease for the space right next door.

“My father made the lease to this place and I had no idea,” he said. “He built this place for me.”

Lupo Jr. said he was worried that when he moved to Bayside, he would lose some of his 150 students, but that turned out not to be the case.

“All of my students followed me,” he said, adding that some additional students have even signed up. “It’s been a blessing because I know my father’s helping me from above.”

Both the elder and younger Lupo have long been known in the borough for teaching taekwondo, with one black belt student at Saturday’s event saying he first started studying with the family more than a decade ago when he was 3.

“The best thing about the school is the fact that we are so family-oriented,” said the student, Kevin Kelly. “Everybody knows each other.”

Lupo Jr. learned taekwondo from Lupo Sr., who earned his own black belt from Grandmaster Moon Sung Lee, who was one of the first people to open a taekwondo school in New York.

Lee, along with Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece, Bayside Hills Civic Association President Michael Feiner and others, were also present at Saturday’s event, which featured demonstrations of taekwondo techniques. Younger students were enraptured as they watched the older black belt students break wooden boards with strikes from their hands and feet.

Lupo Jr. said everything at the school, right down to the emblem and the pictures on the wall, are dedicated to Lupo Sr.

“It was always me and my father’s dream to have a school together,” Lupo Jr. said. “And this is how our dream came true.”

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 5:31 pm, July 9, 2018
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