Joseph Lupo Jr., the headmaster at Bayside’s New York Black Belt Center, recently returned home after winning the gold medal in the taekwondo sparring event at the 2023 Asia Pacific Masters Games in South Korea. He was one of approximately 30 American taekwondo masters invited to take part in the competition.
According to Lupo, the entire experience of the Asia Pacific Masters Games was an honor for him. He noted having the privilege of being able to compete in sports venues dedicated to taekwondo in the country from which the practice originated.
Lupo, 43, said he started practicing taekwondo at the age of 3. His father, Joseph Lupo Sr., served as his master and his grandmaster was Moon S. Lee. Lupo Sr. was Lee’s first student and first black belt.
“Taekwondo has been a part of my life basically since the day I was born,” Lupo said. “When the opportunity arose to compete in Korea, I jumped on it. Korea is the birthplace of taekwondo, so to have the opportunity to compete there was my greatest accomplishment as a competitor. To win the gold medal is an amazing feeling of accomplishment, not only for myself, but also for my team. I can’t take all the credit. It takes a village.”
He credits his coach, Peter Bardatsos, his team at New York Black Belt Center, his personal trainer and nutritionist for helping to make it possible for him to bring home the gold medal. Lupo said he never would’ve been able to achieve this without all their help and support.
The 2023 Masters Games marked the second time Lupo competed in it. He also took part in the 2019 European Masters Games in Turin, Italy. He was set to compete in the 2021 Masters Games in Japan before the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation that year as well as in 2022.
The New York Black Belt Center, located at 216-03 Horace Harding Expy., was opened by Lupo in 2010. Today, he has more than 300 students. In addition to having his students compete in competitions since its founding, Lupo went back to taking part in competitions of his own around 2019.
“The experience at the games was surreal,” Lupo said. “For someone who’s been doing taekwondo as long as I have, I saw this as a right of passage. This is something every lifelong practitioner should do.”
Since coming back from the competition, Lupo said he has felt the love and appreciation from the community. Kids have painted pictures for him and many have congratulated him on social media.
With the venue of the Games being 13 hours ahead of New York, many of Lupo’s friends, family and students stayed up late to watch him compete. His first fight ended up taking place at around midnight here. Many people even stayed up to watch his gold medal match at 5:00 a.m.
“That alone shows the amount of support I had back here,” Lupo said. “It still doesn’t feel real. It’s still sinking in, which itself is a great feeling.”