Igor Dyachenko — New Karate Kid on the Blockchain

Studyum
11 min readApr 26, 2021

An interview with Igor Dyachenko, CEO of Studyum Labs

Igor Dyachenko
Igor Dyachenko: Two-time world Karate champion and celebrity martial arts coach.

There are many people with lofty aspirations to change the world, and while a number of them are beautiful souls with the best intentions, others are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Five minutes after meeting Igor Dyachenko in a Turkish cafe, having decided he was more bear than wolf, I settled in, sipped coffee, and listened to the exuberant New Yorker, as he spoke about Karate; his battle with dyslexia; all things crypto, and of his hopes for Studyum’s wholesale redefinition of how people learn and train, in the wake of Covid-19.

Educators are failing students by only using one book from the shelf.

Igor Dyachenko

For those who don’t know, Studyum is a learning experience platform that combines a veritable smorgasbord of technologies, including artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and NFTfi trading — all on the blockchain.

So that’s the what and when out of the way, but who is the driving force behind Studyum? And why is he hellbent on becoming a linchpin architect of the future of education?

Igor with one of his early master instructors, Manabu Murakami.

Father

Born in Kyiv in 1981, Igor was a prototypical Soviet kid with two hard-working parents, both engineers. While Igor’s early relationship with his mother was “disconnected,” his father, a computer scientist in the Soviet space program, was a stoic role model to the child. In the 90s, as the Soviet Union collapsed, Igor’s father became an entrepreneur, eventually growing his business to become the second-largest hardware & software company in Ukraine.

Papa Dyachenko was also a keen martial artist specializing in Judo. In fact, from the early 1960s, a vast wave of Soviets developed an interest in martial arts — Judo and Karate in particular. Many practitioners, however, adopted a somewhat DIY approach and thus lacked an understanding of the core spiritual pillars of Karate. As a result, soviets took to using Karate in brutal street fights, and since the USSR was all about policing its citizens, all martial arts, including Karate, were banned and unbanned several times over three decades.

My father taught me to learn from the best. To be a sponge. Observe, and extract anything I could use, and finish whatever I started.

In 1989, the Soviet Union finally unbanned Karate. Meanwhile, young Igor, who’d been surrounded by martial arts books, equipment, and videos, had already begun secretly training with his father. As it transpired, he’d taken to it like a duck to water. Aged seven, Igor was “already a Ninja!” creating short-cuts to master Karate in a way that better suited his unique style of learning. “The biggest thing my father taught me was the value of commitment,” he recalled. “I committed my whole life to Karate and early childhood learning.”

As a young boy with learning difficulties that were neither understood nor fully appreciated in those days, Igor didn’t have the easiest of times at school. His early learning experiences were rather frustrating. “As a small child, I called bullshit on the school teachers’ systems. I could feel it wasn’t right or natural for the other kids or me. Right there, I decided I wasn’t gonna accept this type of education system,” he told me. However, Igor’s frequent return to this sentiment during our discussions left me with very little doubt that his passion for education will never wane.

Igor Dyachenko
After a series of life-changing experiences, Igor Dyachenko now has a very different perspective on life.

Obstacles

The majority of Igor’s early personal challenges were linked to reading, learning, and memorizing. These tremendous obstacles were all thanks to this dyslexia, of course. He read my mind as I wondered how his parents coped or whether they even knew he had dyslexia, adding, “I think my father knew I had learning difficulties, even though he didn’t know what dyslexia was. Seeing this, he just encouraged me to learn my way.” Dyslexia, as Igor explained, is not something you can really overcome but instead come to terms with. “You have a different operating system, and you have to learn to accept and adapt to it. You cannot change the operating system, but you can change the way you look at the world”, he added. Igor often speaks in this fun and functional way, though it’s always interlaced with calm, meaningful, and esoteric undertones. To me, he seems like a breath of fresh air compared to the less-than-friendly Eastern-European stereotype. He’s a hybrid between Ivan Drago and Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan. It’s refreshing, and it works.

As history shows, Igor went on to win eight national and two international Karate championships. As the boy grew into a man and coach, he became widely respected as an expert creator of new teaching techniques. All the while, he could never shake the burning desire he had to disrupt the “antiquated” teaching methodologies in the world of sports and fitness.

Before the IDO in late May, Studyum will launch its staged presale STUD token offering in April & May.

Training for real life

Learning to control mixed emotions and frustrations became somewhat of a personal mission to Igor. So he embarked on a self-learning program to understand how better to manage his feelings and bio-rhythms. As he explained it, a dyslexic person experiences many mood swings, which change throughout the day. “Through my intensive research into neuroscience,” he explained, “I learned about how the brain works during certain activities and exercises. For example, by doing jump-rope for half an hour while memorizing whatever thoughts come into my mind, I can better analyze them.” This ‘active meditation,’ plus breath-work and seated meditation techniques, have helped Igor to cope with changes in moods and environments, providing him with an entirely new set of strategies to remain in a state of mindful balance.

Through his self-learning process, Igor became truly fascinated with how our brains work and adapt to different learning techniques. It’s also helped him in the world of business. “We’re organic creatures,” he declared boldly, “but school teaches us to be robots. They tell you to ‘make this action, and you will get that result.’ This doesn’t work. We’re organic! So everything should be aligned with the laws of the Universe — with nature…. It’s a slow progression, just like in business.” He went on to add, “A business is to be nurtured, like Chinese Bamboo. It takes three years of watering before you see the first sprout. Once it’s sprouted, though, it will grow 10 meters in two weeks.”

A soft underbelly

While believing that a former world Karate champ from the mean streets of the Bronx (via Kyiv) might, on the face of it, have absolutely no weak points, I inquired all the same. My first attempt to open him up yielded, “I’m working on my posture, nutrition, and breathing habits, to enhance my brain activity.” This tickled me for all the right reasons. I pressed on for a deeper dive, and eventually, my “British interrogation technique,” as he called it, uncovered some of the man’s soft underbelly.

“Okay, I’ll admit I’ve got to work on my patience.” he fessed up. “One of my mentors said to me in recent years: ‘You know your industry, you know your market, you know your product. But you must trust yourself and your decisions.’ That seed he planted three years ago led me to understand that it’s not only myself that I need to trust, but in the process and the Universe. You have to surrender to the Universe with gratitude, serenity, and love.” These words admittedly surprised and impressed me. Watching him as he spoke, I sensed he felt and meant every word. The thing about Igor is that you’ll often find yourself listening as he passionately discusses blockchain or the failing education system. You’ll suddenly be struck by a more spiritual side to the man. This vulnerability shared with me — a total stranger — was ample evidence of authenticity all too scarce in entrepreneurs today. Either that, or he was a master deceiver.

I’m rewriting the old useless stereotypes of myself and the business environment. I’m all about self-improvement. That’s what Studyum’s all about too. We’re about helping people improve and rewrite how they learn — in a good way.

Reinvention

In 2003, Igor was in a near-fatal car accident. It was at this point that he found himself entirely reframing his purpose. He explained, “I totally realized the preciousness of life. That my mission was a lot bigger than what I’d been doing. So I became vegan and fully adopted clean-edge living, to be more connected to myself and the world around me.”

Igor has continued to live a mindful life, constantly researching new ways to find a balance of mind, body, and spirit. In fact, in 2020, following a holotropic rebirthing breath-work experience, he was able to rehabilitate his relationship with his mother, which he now happily declares is “super-connected.”

The reinvention did not stop there. Seven years ago, on the anniversary of his father’s death, Igor suffered a terrible injury as his Achilles tendon ruptured. “I was so focused on success, I was putting in 50 hours a week of teaching, on top of my training. Some Saturdays, I would work for eight hours straight with no rest. So when my {Achilles} tendon ruptured on that day, in particular, it was almost as if my father was sending me a message.”

Half-smiling, he added, “It was like he was saying, ‘Igor, you are going in the wrong direction! You have to rethink how you look at life and redo everything.’ This was a truly transformational experience for me.” Shortly after, he suffered an additional ACL injury, which was the final straw. This, as he recalls, was where his journey of personal development began; and where he chose to “rewrite the operating system.”

As our conversation romped, I’d absent-mindedly accepted and imbibed two more tasty oat milk lattes. Despite his charming arrogance, it was abundantly clear I liked this crypto-Karate guy and his bold ideas for improving life on Earth — a significant number of which we only discussed in brief. Along these lines, I mentioned my firm belief that all of us are always learning. So as we glided effortlessly into the territory of philosophy, I inquired about what fundamental truths guide Igor. My guiding philosophy…” he paused to play with his beard, “Yes… Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.’ Mandiba was a wise man indeed. In my opinion, if we want to change the direction of society, then we must reinvent education — from the ground up.”

I could not find fault with this idea, as it seems plain to me that the only way we can heal our broken society is through education. Of course, he could’ve dropped the mic right there, but by now, I was all more intrigued about just how he intended to achieve these plans.

Studyum

Around the same time as his injury, Igor’s NYC-based children’s charity Karate City had taken off. Unfortunately, the children he taught had common learning disorders leading to a lack of commitment and focus. “This is how I developed the points system and an entirely new way of learning Karate,” he said. “This rewards system became the core concept behind Studyum, as we’ve created a tokenized rewards system for education. For all education. Our first app, Olympic Karate, has been designed to help children become more structured, more focused, and more dedicated.”

I did not write the Studyum White Paper alone. It was a genuinely incredible collaboration between some beautiful people.

In 2015, Igor was approached by someone offering to market his system on a new technological platform, and when close to signing a contract, he realized it wasn’t for him. Then, spurred on by his business mentor (Justin Marcus), he decided there might well be a better way. “He told me, ‘Igor, you have to create your learning management system.’ So I did!” And so he did.

As he impatiently waited for technology to catch up with his ideas, Karate City continued to grow, as did his celebrity as a coach. Finally, when he sustained his injuries and was unable to teach, he tried to replace himself, but students and parents wanted his system taught by him. This turn of events sparked a realization, “There had to be a way to allow teachers to scale their systems how I wanted to — by leveraging technology….”

As he talked about the life-changing impact that smartphone technology now has, the myriad of opportunities envisioned by him all this time suddenly began to dawn on me. “Smartphones are now offering miraculous possibilities. Communication portals have been opened where people with dyslexia can encourage and utilize more audiovisual interaction. It’s not just about dyslexia, though: all of us learn uniquely.” This, as he explained, is what made it possible to start Studyum. He added, “While we’ve made amazing interactive and personalized technological advances, we still have these very antiquated and linear ‘one-size-fits-all’ education systems. Studyum will change that paradigm and revolutionize the education space forever.”

All things considered, and choosing to “surrender to the flow,” in 2018, Igor knew that it was finally time to take the leap and launch Studyum.

The future of decentralized learning

I asked Igor about his hopes and dreams for the business. “It’s simple,” he said, “We’ve built a star team. We have a real and unique system utilizing next-generation intuitive technology. We’re very excited about the possibilities. We want to rewrite the way people learn and train. As the app grows and we expand into new learning territories, we will recruit super-star educators from all over the world.”

We don’t want a Unicorn; we want a centi-billion-dollar company — the name of this mythical creature I do not know… Perhaps we could call it a ‘Leprechaun’?

There’s no doubt about it: the man’s got ambition. More than that, though, he’s got what appears to be a bloody good idea.

The company intends to incorporate NFT gamification for its students. Besides uploading content in 2D or 3D, educators will create unique NFT collectible cards, which students can then buy, trade, and swap.

It doesn’t end there since the company is also launching a crypto token. Igor explained, “Just as Ripple’s XRP is the token ‘face’ of the payment solutions company, STUD will be tokenized rewards for education across institutions, corporations, and government.”

Eventually tired of the sound of his own voice, Igor finally dropped that mic, and I gratefully drank two overdue large glasses of water as we sat in silence for a while, watching the waves.

There are currently over 5,000 altcoins in the crypto market and almost 150 new ICOs due in the next few months. We’re in a bull market, and the world’s leading governments have hyperinflated their currencies to insane levels, further reducing confidence in fiat currency. It’s an exciting time to be alive and most certainly an exciting time to be a tech entrepreneur — especially if you’ve invented a game-changing solution that the world genuinely needs. I’m no economist, but I know people, and I know business. Two more things I knew for sure when I walked away from my meeting with Igor Dyachenko: He’s not going to stop until he changes the face of education, and man, oh man, he means business.

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