Doreen DiRienzo is one of the most heralded Karate instructors in the history of her sport. In her 48-year career that started at the age of 16, DiRienzo has compiled an incredible record of achievements.
She is a Tenth Degree Black Belt, which makes her a Grandmaster of Kenpo Karate.
But this year, she is officially a legend, having been inducted into the American Martial Arts Alliance Foundation’s Legends Section of the Changing Lives Series.
It’s a much-deserved designation for DiRienzo, who has been changing lives one at a time through the martial arts inside her well-known studio, Revere Karate Academy, on Broadway.
“I like to believe that changing lives has been the body of my work for the past 41 years here at Revere Karate Academy,” said DiRienzo, who retired as a Revere schoolteacher in 2020. “I remember when I graduated from Northeastern University and went out looking for a job, and the first job I applied for was working with troubled youth. The lady said to me, ‘You’re very nice, but you have no experience’. “I looked at her and said, ‘But this is the work that I’m meant to do’. “I knew in my soul that I was supposed to work with kids and help them find themselves and help them find the best of themselves.”
DiRienzo estimates that 35,000 students have walked through the doors at the Revere Karate Academy. There are multiple generations of students whom she has promoted to Black Belt and are now helping others to ascend through the ranks.
One of those outstanding students who studied at Revere Karate Academy is current Revere School Committee member Susan Gravellese. Several Revere police officers and firefighters were also RKA students.
Celebrating 40 years
Last year, Revere Karate Academy was set to celebrate its 40th anniversary with a big reunion-type gathering at Casa Lucia.
“I’m in my fifth decade now, which is pretty incredible,” said DiRienzo. “What’s amazing is a lot of people ask me, ‘Don’t you get tired of it?’ “I tell them, every time I teach someone knew, it feels new to me.”
DiRienzo was asked where she ranks her most recent award which affirms her status as an all-time legend. Does she feel she has reached the pinnacle?
“The honors and accolades are somebody else thinking I did a good job, but the pinnacle for me is looking at our family tree (a list of all the past RKA students and their honors), and knowing that we did a good job here, because our students have made accomplishments and went on to better their lives for having been here.”
Sons carry on a
tradition of excellence
Doreen DiRienzo believes in her heart that Karate is the right pathway for children to develop confidence, to be active in physical fitness, and, be able to defend oneself when the situation calls for it and other measures have been exhausted.
“I started my son, Anthony Cogliandro, when he was two years old – he walked on the floor, like he belonged there,” recalled DiRienzo. Today, Anthony is a Sixth Degree Black Belt, Professor of Kenpo Karate, and a six-time international champion. Anthony is overseeing operations at RKA. Her son, Joseph, who studies Muay Thai, is an accomplished tile mason.
DiRienzo said Karate is meant to be enjoyed and appreciated by all ages. “My oldest students have started in their 50s,” said DiRienzo. “There are some kids who walk in the studio and are ready to start at age 3 or 4.”
And judging by the enthusiasm Doreen DiRienzo demonstrates each day at Revere Karate Academy and the passion she still holds for the sport, the Grand Master, make that officially the “legendary” Grand Master, will be helping Revere kids better their lives for many years to come.