Before joining the Central Hawaiian Activities 3 Kenpo Karate Association in 1969, Nicholas Dennis Silva would watch his older brother, Joseph, train.
“At that time, they wouldn’t let anyone under 18 (train),” the Kalaheo man said. “When I turned 18, I could finally train.
“I remember coming home from training and I had a brand new bruise that I found on my body … That’s how it was back then. You had to be tough when learning,” he added.
Under chief instructor Kenneth Bonachita, Silva earned his black belt after a decade and was allowed to teach. He then received the title of chief instructor 10 years later.
Bonachita brought CHA-3 kenpo karate to Kauai during the 1960s. His son, Michael, is also an instructor in the classes his father started. Michael said he was supposed to take over the class when his father passed, but he chose other pursuits. However, he doesn’t mind that Silva took over to continue what his father started decades ago.
“The Bonachita family, everyone does martial arts … Our name is there. Our father started it and it’s still here,” Michael said. “I just go to help, just to teach and help the class.”
The club allowed children in the club during the 1990s, Silva said. He added he wanted to include kids to keep them busy and out of trouble. Children as young as 5 years old are enrolled in the class.
“When you teach students, when you see them and they’re doing good, it’s something as instructors that we like to see,” Silva said.
“(Instructing) kids is harder because they like to play around,” Michael said. “They think it’s a joke and you can laugh and play … you just got to go along that. Just got to adjust … you cannot be temperamental with the kids.”
He added he has two granddaughters, 9 and 10 years old, who attend the class.
Jerry Sagucio, who has been an instructor in the class for 20 years, said Silva was very strict as his teacher many years ago but very kind outside of class.
“He’s like a brother. I look up to him,” Sagucio said of Silva. “He’s a very good guy. Very humble person … That’s his nature I guess. He was always like that. Very friendly. Always smiling and easy to talk to.”
Silva said he feels most accomplished when one of his students earns their black belt. Five of his students have completed the feat.
He did, however, add he hopes one of his female students would earn their black belt before his time on Earth is over.
“If you can get one person to receive their black belt, that’s wonderful. I got a few,” he said. “I just love when we get students to come down. Female or male, young or old, it doesn’t matter,” Silva said.
Silva has no plans to stop teaching. Outside of his kenpo classes, he has worked for the state for 11 years as a plumber. He also enjoys fishing every weekend.
“There’s just an excitement and rush that you get when the reel goes and you get a big fish,” he said. “When the ahi bites, it’s a rush.”
Classes are held in a multi-purpose facility in Hanapepe. Cost is $10 to join and an additional $13 a month. Call Silva at 639-6637 for information.