February 28, 2008                                                                    Written by: S. Ponting for
                                                                                                                          Mojave Desert News


SPECIAL TO THE DESERT NEWS:  MOJAVE - The Yoshukai Karate School originally opened in Lancaster on Yucca Street in 1973 when Sensei Ray Zaragoza Sr., opened the first Dojo (school) in a garage he rented. The Karate School relocated several times in Lancaster in association with the Parks and Recreation Department.

Eventually Sensei Ray Zaragoza Jr., took over the school and moved it to Mojave in 1993 operating through Heather Benes Mojave Movement Arts Center until he retired in 1998. Stephen Ponting took over the school and kept teaching the art at Mojave Movement Arts Center where it still is located today.

In 1998 Stephen Ponting named it the Yoshukai International Karate Association Mojave Branch www.YIKAMojaveBranch.com Over 250 students have gone through the doors of Yoshukai Karate from Antelope Valley of which 129 were from Mojave, California City, Rosamond, and Tehachapi. Only eight students have achieved the Rank of Yudansha (Black Belt).

YIKA Mojave Branch operates three schools today. In January 2008, YIKA Mojave Branch welcomed the return of Sensei Ray Zaragoza Jr., a 5th degree Black Belt. Sensei Ray is Director and Chief Instructor of Yoshukai Mojave Branch, as well as, the highest-ranking Black Belt on the entire West Coast. Sensei Ray is a member of the Board of Directors of Yoshukai International Karate Association. Stephen Ponting will be Assistant Instructor along with Assistant instructor John Bryant, 2nd Degree who was one of the original black Belts from 1976. Both Stephen and John are happy to have their teacher instructing them again.

Stephen Ponting began a scholarship fund in 2004 for the Mojave High School students to be awarded every year. He solicits private companies to donate money to the scholarship and in four years has awarded $ 4,500.00 to students at the Mojave High School; Yoshukai also has participated with the Adopt a Highway Program for the last 10 years.

Sensei Ray Zaragoza teaches the Friday class in Quarts Hill, 5221 M Street from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Stephen Ponting teaches the Saturday classes at the Mojave Movement Arts Center from 8:00 to 10:00 am and over sees the 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm Tuesday class in California City and the 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm Friday class taught by John Bryant at the California City Fitness Center. Once a month Sensei Ray Zaragoza visits the Mojave and California City schools and is accompanied by one or more of the Yoshukai Black Belts for training. For further information visit our website www.YIKAMojaveBranch.com or call Stephen Ponting at 661.824.9457

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