Founder of Karate Equipment Company Achieves International Reach
Writer / Matt Keating
Ricardo Guerrero, president of PUNOK USA and Shodan Martial Arts Academy, has always been a determined man.
It has made him both happy and successful, and he never gives up.
“We opened Shodan Academy about 12 years ago, and have worked on teaching students and kids in our community ever since then,” Guerrero says. “It was about seven years ago that I had the idea of creating a brand of karate uniforms and gear, designed to be used in traditional and Olympic-style karate competitions.”
The main line of PUNOK products includes uniforms, gloves, shinguards, body protectors, mouth protectors and karate belts.
“We started as a very small company with a couple of uniforms, and kept growing step by step to achieve national and international recognition as one of the best karate gear brands in the world,” Guerrero says.
Guerrero says last year was especially good for his business.
“In January 2020, we achieved full approval from the World Karate Federation to be one of the only 12 approved brands in the whole world,” he says.
Guerrero is originally from Venezuela, and moved to the United States when he was 19 years old to attend college. He says he was in search of a better life.
“I started practicing karate at a very early age,” Guerrero says. “Since my father is a sensei, I started training at his karate school when I was 4 years old.”
Since then, he says he fell in love with the art and has been continuously involved in all aspects of it.
“It was first as a student, as an athlete, as a teacher and coach, and as a dojo owner,” Guerrero says.
In 2011 he was able to earn a spot on the USA Karate team, and represent the country in the Pan American Championships and other international tournaments.
“When I was a kid in Venezuela, I was invited to compete at an international event in Japan,” Guerrero says. “After working so hard to earn the money to go on this trip, a few days before buying the plane ticket our house got robbed, and all the money I had saved was stolen. It was devastating seeing my dreams of going to Japan vanishing like that. God, however, works in mysterious ways. Many years later, karate got selected to be in the Olympics, and the dream of going to Japan will be a reality. The only difference is that I will not be competing there, but the brand I created will be used by athletes competing in the Olympic Games. Therefore, it feels like part of me will be part of the most important event in the history of karate.”
Guerrero says he shares his story with the goal of motivating other kids to fight for their dreams.
“With hard work, dedication and belief in yourself, dreams can become a reality,” Guerrero says.