From an early age, martial arts have played a prominent role in the life
of orthopedic surgeon Derek H. Ochiai, MD.
A two-time national and seven-time All-American karate champion, Ochiai
started taking karate lesions when he was 2 years old from his father Master
Hidy Ochiai, a professional karate instructor and member of the Black Belt Hall
Karate has always been a strong influence in my life, Derek
Ochiai told Orthopedics Today. When I was 6 months old, I
was in my playpen at the dojo [karate school]. I grew up with karate. My father
was a central part of my life and he taught me both the physical and mental
aspects of karate, techniques which translate to any other endeavor one pursues
Derek H. Ochiai, MD, (left) attends the
Martial Arts History Museum Hall of Fame induction of his father Master Hidy
Image: Ochiai DH
As a child, Ochiai travelled the country with his father competing and
demonstrating. A fourth-degree black belt, Ochiai learned hand-to-hand self
defense and weapons training for using the bo and jo staffs, nunchaku and sai.
He started travelling as a member of the U.S.A. Karate Team at age 15 and later
competed internationally in countries such as Kuwait, Costa Rica and Curacao.
In competition, he was recognized for his fighting and execution of different
patterns of specific karate moves known as katas [forms].
Although he stopped competing during his third year of medical school,
Ochiai continues to train for up to an hour and a half three times a week and
occasionally teaches classes at the main branch of his fathers Hidy
Ochiai Karate school in Binghamton, NY.
I think the reason a lot of people burn out in sports is that the
drive to participate is external, Ochiai said. The parents want
their child to participate in the sport more than the child wants to. That
really was not the case for me. My parents never pushed me to practice or
forced me to do anything with regard to karate. It was available, fun and
interesting to me. That is why I kept up with it.
A self-defense guide
Ochiai practices a style of karate called Washin-Ryu, which
translated means harmony with truth. Like many forms of martial
arts, nonviolence is a key tenant of the style. A strong karate
practitioner is a peaceful person who tries to avoid violence at all
costs, Ochiai said. A central tenet of the sport is its emphasis that
everyone has a set of valuable abilities.
Karate is a tool to maximize yourself, Ochiai said.
There is no real competition in karate with other people. The person you
are competing with is yourself.
He also co-authored a book with his father called Hidy
Ochiais Self-Defense for Kids: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.
This book was designed for children who do not have a lot of
strength and leverage with respect to possible adult attackers. It demonstrates
and teaches ways they can defend themselves if needed, Ochiai said. He
came up with the idea for the book during medical school. I realized that
my medical profession would become time consuming and I thought this would be a
nice way to work with my father and contribute to others as I continued on with
my medical career.
He continues to use the skills that he learned from martial arts in his
professional and personal life.
The concentration, the focus and the dedication are definitely
beneficial in orthopedic surgery. Karate demonstrates that there are limitless
possibilities with what we have been given in life, and one can do with that
whatever one chooses to do, Ochiai said.
Derek H. Ochiai, MD, a two-time national
karate champion and co-author of a self-defense guide, continues to train and
occasionally teaches classes at his fathers karate school in Binghamton,
His martial arts knowledge has also been an asset in his practice where
he treats many athletes and karate practitioners.
Understanding the mindset of athletes who wish to be able to
pursue their sport and their passion is definitely an asset, he said.
Also, being intimately aware of the technical aspects of the different
styles of martial arts is helpful when I treat martial artists and karate
practitioners. It is similar to how knowing the phases of pitching helps me to
treat baseball players.
Karate is a recreational activity that can be enjoyed throughout
ones life. So much of karate is mental, Ochiai said. The
punches and kicks are merely the physical manifestations. It is an activity
that helps with maintaining balance and flexibility later in life, which is
important orthopedically. We have people who start karate in their early 60s
and they keep going in their mid-70s. It can be a great cardiovascular exercise
in keeping your heart healthy and it is great to do with families.
For more information:
- Derek H. Ochiai, MD, can be reached at Nirschl Orthopedic Center
for Sports Medicine and Joint Reconstruction, 1715 North George Mason Drive
Ste. 504, Arlington, VA 22205; 703-525-2200; e-mail: