BYU’s own ‘Mr. Miyagi’ Kyokushin karate teacher

Alfredo Chandia and his Kyokushin karate students. Chandia teaches a free program that encourages dedication and hard work.  (Facebook)

The cry “Hajime!” punctuates the rhythms of jogging and volleyball practice at the Smith Fieldhouse as BYU’s Kyokushin karate class begins for the evening.

Alfredo Chandia, 52, leads the yell of “Hajime!” at the top of his lungs.  His students, dressed in white karate robes, or “Gis,” with belts of all colors, begin scissoring the air with punches, kicks and blocks.

For more than four years, Kyokushin Utah has been a free organization promoting the learning and practicing of Kyokushin karate, a rare form of stand-up, full-contact martial arts. Chandia founded the organization in 2010 with just himself and one other person.

Chandia believes that setting examples are the best ways of promoting the gospel, and martial arts, he said, is one of the best ways to set examples of hard work and dedication — attributes necessary for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Martial arts brought me to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Chandia said. “It has been the biggest thing that has helped me become a member of this church. A friend in high school invited me to practice at his church, and that is how I got to know the gospel.”

With hard work, determination and a warm personality, Chandia now teaches more than 30 students twice a week in the indoor track of the Smith Fieldhouse.

“I train Kyokushin karate. What makes us different is that we are bare-knuckle, full-contact martial art,” Chandia said. “Tournaments are bare-knuckle, full-contact.”

Bare-knuckle is the stunning difference that distinguishes Chandia’s students from ordinary martial arts organizations.

“We are not a feel-good place. You have to earn your belts. It’s an intensive training that provides a real feeling. It’s going to be useful for you in a real-life situation,” Chandia said. He has repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction in larger, revenue-driven organizations that, in his opinion, can promote their students too quickly to make them “feel good.”

Because Kyokushin Utah is free, Chandia focuses on what really matters, which is pushing his students to their limits and making sure they are well-educated in the world of Kyokushin karate.

Chandia was born in Santiago, Chile, and has been studying martial arts since 1977, having trained in Kyokushin karate since 1992. He currently works for BYU, managing the disposal of hazardous waste. He and his wife have seven children, many of whom study martial arts with him.

“Some of the greatest moments of my teaching have been watching my students earn their belts,” Chandia said. “Seeing my children enjoy the martial arts is something I enjoy.”

Chandia and his students. (Facebook)
Chandia and his students. Chandia said some of his greatest moments teaching have been watching students earn their belts. (Facebook)

Kyokushin is a martial art founded in Japan by Korean Masutatsu Oyama in 1964. Kyokushin means “ultimate truth,” and the martial art is known for being extremely difficult and taxing on the body. This karate is full-contact with focus on self-improvement and discipline.

Its full-contact style has attracted worldwide attention, and an estimated 12 million have participated since its founding. Tournaments consist of full-contact kicks to the head but not hand strikes. The curriculum is taught through a series of seven different color belts.

Kyokushin Utah students are not expected to pay for their instruction, but they are responsible to pay for their own testing in graduation from one belt to another.

All are welcome to participate at all levels of experience. The group includes BYU students and members from the Provo and Orem communities.

For many students, Kyokushin Utah has provided confidence and a great addition to their way of life. It is certainly something that distinguishes them from other people. For Pamela Aguayo, 53, Kyokushin karate is a crucial part of her life.

“I have been training a year and a half. I lost 30 pounds and feel a lot healthier. I have more confidence in my abilities, and I know I can do hard things,” Aguayo said.
Aguayo was also born in Chile and feels a special proximity being able to train with another native in the martial art she loves. “It’s community,” she said. “There is mutual cooperation and desire to maintain the sport. It has helped me learn English and be part of a good group.”
Chandia stayed with Kyokushin karate not because of the free training but because of the friendships and values taught.
“He’s a good teacher and helps me keep motivated,” said Sarah Bevan, 22, a junior from Pasadena, California, studying chemical engineering. “That, and having the organization be so close helps me keep motivated.”
Chandia continues to promote this marital art as a way of life and a way of improving confidence and capability. This is the greatest factor to his character and the strength of himself and his family. “I love it. It is a constant challenge to be better, and as I get old. it’s a mental challenge,” Chandia said.
His charity and service have influenced hundreds of people over the years, and Chandia hopes that influence continues as he strengthens his community of Kyokushin karate fighters.
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