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Jewish Journal

A Kick Out of Torah

by Carin Davis

June 3, 2004 | 8:00 pm

What do you get when you cross Judaic philosophy with Chinese martial arts? Tora Dojo. The brainchild of Gandmaster H.I. Sober, Toro Dojo combines elements of traditional Karate and Kung Fu with Jewish spirituality. Tora Dojo, which started more than 30 years ago with 12 Yeshiva University students, is now taught to 30,000 people worldwide. There are no storefront studios; classes are held in synagogues, JCCs and at Jewish day schools and universities.

"Tora Dojo is a sport, but it's more of an art form," said Ben Andron, the head of Los Angeles' Tora Dojo West . "Students learn to defend themselves, fight, even break bricks, but the main goal is to improve their ability to focus and unlock unlimited potential."

Andron, a member of B'nai David Judea, has studied Tora Dojo for 20 years and teaches weekly youth and adult classes. His students range from 6-60 year olds. "In yeshiva, students are told to pray with concentration, but no one explains how to do that," Andron said. "At Tora Dojo, students learn to concentrate and be mindful of doing things in a Jewish way."

On Tuesday, June 8, Sober will make his inaugural appearance in Andron's Los Angeles class. A professor of Hebrew and Jewish history at Yeshiva University, Sober will travel cross-country to watch Darren Melameth become the first L.A. student to test for a black belt.

"There are only 200 black belts out of 30,000 students, so this is a big night," said Andron.

To honor Sober's appearance and Melameth's test, Tora Dojo West students will perform fighting and weapon demonstrations, brick breakings and forms. The free, public exhibition will be held at 7 p.m. in the ballroom at B'nai David Judea. Guests can observe the martial art in action and learn about local classes.

"You don't have to be athletic be involved with Tora Dojo," said Andron. "But you do have to be Jewish."

For more information on Tora Dojo and Tuesday night's exhibition, go to www.toradojowest.com .

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