RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J.– Dennis Melone wants the students who join his Ridgefield Park dojo to feel like they’re joining a family.
It’s fitting because Melone co-owns Rising Sun Academy with his wife, Sandra, and his children – Trentino, 19, and Ava, 15 – work and train there.
“Working with family is no problem for me. Maybe it is for them,” Dennis Melone quipped. “We have different visions at times, but at the end of the day it’s all about the team. Plus I get to see them every day.”
For Melone, who began studying karate in 1979, Rising Sun isn’t a business – it’s a lifestyle.
“This is what we do,” said Dennis Melone, who earned a black belt in both karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. “I feel that it's not only interesting, but we are elite in what we do. I believe anyone who studies martial arts and devotes a life to the arts is elite.”
Melone took over ownership of the Teaneck academy he trained at in 2004, but soon relocated to Ridgefield Park.
The dojo was on Mount Vernon Street for five years prior to relocating again to its current Main Street location.
The name touches upon both the Japanese influence during Melone’s early years learning karate and his Christian faith.
One of Melone’s teachers was from Okinawa, Japan – the “Land of the Rising Sun” – and in Catholicism, Jesus rose from the dead – the “rising son.”
Melone’s students are ages 4 and up.
“Kids are the future,” he said. “To help a child become a respectful kid or a competitor vindicates that all my persistent coaching to teach them to become a good citizen, kind, respectful, and self-disciplined is extremely rewarding.”
One of Melone’s top students is 13-year-old Brandon Bigelow.
“He trains 6 days per week. He has been ranked No. 1 in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu throughout the country by North American Grappling Association,” Melone said. “Bigelow has over 200 medals and many championship belts.
“So if anyone is looking to have their child compete and gain results, the proof lies there.
Melone has also trained with Robert Drysdale, Paulao Rezende, Rodrigo Ranieri de Faria, Rodnei Barbosa, Gabriel Souza, and Paulinho Alves.
“Training dedicated students is always gratifying for me,” Melone said. “To see a guy walk in and say I want to fight or I want to compete and follow through and succeed makes me happy. It says a lot about a person’s character when they actually walk the walk.”
Melone has also provided demonstrations at charity events, for local scout troops, ran two karate clubs – at St. Francis and Roosevelt schools – and offers free training to members of the Ridgefield Park Police Department.
“I am a family man and a Christian who believes in helping others any way I can,” Melone said.