Ujjwal Sharma Thakuri, 44, is pretty famous in his native country of Nepal. The Springfield cab driver has been written about hundreds of times in Nepali newspapers for being a three-time Guinness World record holder and a sixth-degree black belt in American Marine GoJu-Ryu Karate.
Today, he lives on Leebrad Street in Springfield with his wife Priyanka and daughter Elizabeth, 11, and has driven cabs for D.C. Cab, USA Cab and now drives for Uber. He came to the U.S. 16 years ago after spending his childhood in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Strictly an amateur fighter, he receives no financial rewards for his hard work but holds more than 30 national trophies, medals, belts and cups for competitions inside the U.S.
For his Guinness World Records, he carries the world record for the most full-contact knee strikes in three minutes (226 on one leg), which he achieved in Toledo, Ohio, on Nov. 3, 2018.
He also holds two world records for his Van Dam-style weight lift – a split and weight lift (64.63 kg or 142.48 pounds) in Herndon, on Sept. 23, 2017. Athletes have to hold weights in their mouth and body and cross a 10-second mark; his world records were 28 seconds and then 18 seconds. The feat is named after Rob Van Dam, whose record he broke two times.
In challenging the Guinness World Records, he recorded his accomplishments by video in front of several witnesses at his dojo, or training sites in Herndon and Ohio.
HIS RECORDS include a World Championship Belt – the 2017 Kuro Bushi Martial Arts Organization Champion on May 13, 2017, in Concord, N.C. Another World Title Belt is from the Battle of Baltimore 2016 World Karate Championship. Another is a first-place Black Belt in Creative Form at the Amerikick International Championship on March 24-25, 2017, in Philadelphia, Pa. He also received the Who’s Who Legend Award from the American Martial Arts Association. In 2016, he earned two gold medals in the USA Masters Game.
Thakuri is an expert in American Marine GoJu-Ryu Karate and he used to do Shito-Ryu Karate, which means karate with empty hands or no weapons.
“It’s a traditional karate from Japan. Karate never teaches attack; it only teaches defense, respect, discipline, so what happens with empty hands is if somebody is in trouble, you are empty-handed. You are going to defend them with empty hands,” he said.
There are four brands of traditional Karate that come from Japan. In addition to American Marine GoJu-Ryu Karate (in the U.S.), there’s Shito-Ryu, Wado-Ryu, and Shotokan-Kai.
Thakuri said in the World Karate Federation, there is no contact. “Definitely we have a fight, not full contact but light contact and speed. It’s very light contact. We have no violence. We don’t hit. If I hit someone, I will lose the game,” he said.
He added: “We have karate fighting stances and we score by close contact, not body contact. It’s a three-minute game, and it depends on how fast you are and how expert your opponent is. The highest score is 14 points in one game, one three-minute game.”
Thakuri started training 24 years ago and for his regime, he works out for an hour and 30 minutes every day, including time on a treadmill. “If you want to make a record, you need to train every day in different manners. You can do it in dojo or a home, too,” he said. “To become a person with special skills, you have to learn every day – you have to give it time. Let’s say you want to be a fighter, you have to fight everyone. If you want to learn a special skill, you have to give it a time every day for that skill.”
He said Karate is physically good for his body and it keeps his mind alert and focused. “The circulation of your blood makes you alert. So, if you do any kind of sport, you have to choose one specific game, and if you go in deeply, you’ll be more of an expert. That’s why I choose karate,” he said.
When he does a split for a minute, he says it gives him new energy. “If you have a problem, that problem can be solved if you exercise. If I do a split for one minute, it changes my whole circulation. It is like a meditation for the body,” he said.
HE ADMIRES the legendary Hollywood star Chuck Norris, who was famous for his kicks. “Chuck Norris had a great leg technique. He is a world champion. The fact is he was the world champion when Bruce Lee called him for the movies. If you see Chuck Norris movies, the way he kicks is the perfect kick. That’s why I follow him and why my kick is good and my knee strike is good.”
His teacher of seven years is 9th Dan American Marines GoJu Karate Master Garry Klaus (USMC Ret.), who lived in Quantico, and has since moved to Illinois. “He is like a father for me,” he said. “He was a great, great Master for me – always an idol for me. He showed me the first North American Sports Karate championship – the U.S. Capital Classic in 2015.”
In the future, Thakuri aspires to teach self-defense to school teachers in an adult education program.