Seido Karate Program Servicing Southeast Queens For Decades

The Jamaica YMCA’s Seido Karate program was recently at National Night Out at Rufus King Park. Photo by Jordan Gibbons.


In the late 1960s, when Michelle Cuttino was growing up in Jamaica, the YMCA was exclusive to males. Even at 5 years old, she was not happy being excluded from the facility, which was the center for activities for all the boys her age.

“I used to ask my parents why I couldn’t go and play with my brothers,” Cuttino said.

Fortunately for her, she did not have to wait too long for the Y to open its doors to females, and she took every advantage of finally being included.

“I’m part of the original group of females that ever walked into that YMCA” she said.

Now, she goes by Sei Shian Michelle and she is in charge of the Seido Karate program at the Jamaica Y, which has branched out as the Seido Central Queens Collaborative Karate dojos, featured throughout eight other YMCAs in Queens and Brooklyn.

She joined the karate program when she was a child, but eventually took over for her original instructor when the center was still known as the Central Queens Y.

“And 45 years later, we are doing fantastic,” she said. “I have students who have been with me from the start.”

Seido Karate is a traditional Japanese style of martial arts that comes from the name “Seido,” which means sincere way. It comes from the Chuyo, Confucius’ book “The Middle Path,” or “The Doctrine of the Mean,” which says, “Sincerity is the way of heaven. To follow this sincerely is the way of mankind.”

Seido Karate is aimed at helping us live with sincerity; to throw away the traps of fear and false ego and develop compassion and true inner strength.

Sheila Clark-Hawkins, the membership and healthy lifestyles director at the Jamaica Y, said that they take great pride in their karate program for many reasons.

“The students become better equipped to manage whatever circumstances come their way and their training and support system allows them to make positive contributions to improve their community and society at large,” Clark-Hawkins said. “We are catalysts for positive growth and firmly believe that small improvements can lead to seismic changes.”

The program now services more than 300 students per session across Queens and Brooklyn. There is a children’s program for ages 5 to 15 and an adult program for ages 16 and older.

The Jamaica Y’s registration is going on now for the fall session, which starts on Tuesday, Sept. 2 and ends Saturday, Oct. 26.

Registration can be done at the Jamaica Y at 89-25 Parsons Blvd., or visit For more information, call (718) 739-6600 or visit

Reach Reporter Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123, or @jgibbons2.