Transitions: NYC’s The Downtown Dojo Closes

by Robert Kaiser

It is sad but true: NAJJA member, The Downtown Dojo, in New York City, has closed its doors. David Finkelstein (d.), who was one of our most talented and respected Uechi Ryu practitioners and teachers, opened the dojo in the 1970s. Finkelstein taught and mentored countless exemplary Uechi students decade after decade. When ready to retire from teaching, he wisely chose one of his standout students, Lawrence DeVoe (6th dan; New York City), to take over the leadership of his dojo. Following in the footsteps of such a legendary instructor as David Finkelstein must have seemed a daunting task, but Sensei DeVoe was clearly up to the challenge as he lead the Downtown Dojo for more than 20 years.

When work and family obligations became too demanding, Sensei DeVoe turned the dojo over to his very capable senior student, Jeff Fichera (4th dan; Copake, NY). It was a big undertaking as the city was just starting to open after the worst of the COVID 19 pandemic began to wane. Sensei Fichera hit the ground running: he reworked the website, bought new equipment, and filled the dojo with his infectious enthusiasm and energy. However, Fichera’s life also changed directions as he and his family moved out of the city after just 6 months of such a promising beginning. Unfortunately for the dojo there was no one able to take the reigns and the dojo closed. All is not lost, however, as Sensei DeVoe’s own teacher, Bob Kaiser (8th dan; Mount Vernon, NY), is actively teaching 2 of the Downtown Dojo’s students and welcomes all comers to his small home dojo just north of the city.

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