Fingerlakes Mall: Meet the man behind Finger Lakes Karate | Business

Elizabeth Hebard Special for The Citizen

Summer at Fingerlakes Mall was packed with events, from Absolute Dance concerts to the Poor Boys Car Show. In July we will have even more events!

The Zerbini Family Circus will be here from July 2nd to 4th with a show under the big top! This will be in the back near the cinema entrances. Then, from July 15th to 17th, the Book Fair returns! This will be on display at the Conference Center and proceeds will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Columbia University in New York City. On Saturday, July 16, the peach truck will also bring fresh peaches! Orders must be placed online at one week before the arrival date.

Outside of the events and seasonal changes, the mall is home to some of the area’s best businesses. The Track Cinema was voted Best Cinema and one of the Best Destinations for Family Entertainment in The Citizen’s 2022 Best of the Region rankings. Five Star Dog Grooming is one of the best groomers; Bass Pro Shops is one of the best boat sales/service companies; JB Toys & Games is one of the best toy stores and Finger Lakes Karate is one of the best martial arts studios.

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This week I sat down with Finger Lakes Karate owner Tony Musso to talk about his business and history. The dojo opened here in June 1992 and has been under Tony’s direction since February 1993. Finger Lakes Karate teaches the basics of traditional Okinawa karate and focuses on the Shorin Ryu fighting style. Okinawan karate differs from other forms such as Japanese or Korean because Okinawan teachings focus on humility, dignity and respect. Okinawan karate uses katas, or pre-planned movements, to learn forms and combine techniques. Katas and postures are also a useful type of strength training, in addition to the cardio benefits that karate offers.

Tony began practicing karate in 1979 and received his first black belt in 1989. He trained under Robert Herten, a highly respected Okinawa Shorin Ryu Karate-Do and Okinawa Kobudo instructor. Herten had trained under Shugoro Nakazato and created an Okinawa lineage that was passed on to Tony. He has also traveled to Okinawa to improve his understanding and execution of the art and is now a sixth degree black belt.

When asked why he teaches, Tony said: “It’s a matter of the heart. I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I enjoy teaching and watching the children grow. I love it when those who left come back later in life. They are successful and come back with their own stories and families. I’ve had a few generations of families; you could say we are family oriented. Families trained together. I am interested in my students and their lives. I encourage them to take up other sports and karate has helped them excel in many areas of life.”

As we discussed the dojo, the Finger Lakes karate students were counting out loud while practicing their kata. “During the course of the class we deal with ‘hidden’ techniques and translate katas; the translation is ‘Bunkai’.” Translations allow students to analyze movesets and extract combat techniques from them. “There’s no substitute for the basics, but I like dressing them up and making it fun,” Tony said.

Tony believes the most important thing his students learn is confidence.

“You really come out of here more confident. You learn respect. I have no problems with bullies. None of my students start trouble just because they know how to fight; You are respectful. I had no problem with students being bullied; You are confident enough to stand up for yourself. Everything we teach is applicable as self defense, even the basics. The exercises, conditioning, and coordination taught are helpful for real-world applications.”

Finger Lakes Karate offers a unique experience and focuses on justice for all students.

“We teach students of all ages. We tailor the training to the ability of the person,” said Tony. “We got students with disabilities to join the dojo and excel. Our promotions are based on hard work, not natural ability.”

Finger Lakes Karate is ready to welcome new students, with offerings for all ages and skill levels. Tony would also like to say a big thank you to Sharon Assmann, Dana Estelle and Amber Pidlypchak for helping keep the dojo alive and healthy: “You kept the dojo running when I got sick. They teach the students and do so much for us. Many Thanks.”

For more information on Finger Lakes Karate and its offerings, call (315) 252-8875.

Elizabeth Hebbard is Marketing Director at Fingerlakes Mall in Aurelius. For more information, visit or call (315) 255-1188.

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