Our History

GOZEN LOGO mediumDawn Barnes Karate Kids is the proud creator of Gozen Karate. To appreciate our style, it’s important to answer a few questions…


Karate is a modern term for the ancient art of self-defense. “Empty hand” self-defense has undergone many changes to meet the needs of different people in different times and places.

The Karate of today owes much to three great teachers:

history01Anko Itosu introduced Karate to the Okinawan school system in 1901 after noticing how karate students lived long lives. This transformed the little-known art into a popular exercise for large groups of young adults. To make Karate safer and easier to learn, Itosu focused on fitness and character instead of self-defense.

history02 Gichin Funakoshi, a student of Itosu’s, introduced Karate to Japan in 1921, Like Itosu, Funakoshi sought to instill discipline and good morals through perfection of technique, not self -defense. His students came to call his art Shotokan.

history03 Jigaro Kano helped Funakoshi introduce Shotokan into the Japanese school system. At the age of 23, Kano created his own style called Judo—a safer version of Jiu-Jitsu. In 1924, Funakoshi adopted Judo’s white uniforms and belt system for Karate.

The first Shotokan Karate tournament was held in 1957, prompting many changes in technique to highlight the sports application of Karate.

 Today, millions of students practice many different styles of Karate all over the world.


In 1985, Dawn enrolled herself and her two sons in Shotokan karate lessons… and loved it! She earned her Black Belt in 1988 and began teaching children’s classes in after-school programs. history04Parents were drawn to Sensei Dawn’s age-appropriate curriculum and “love-based” teaching method which balanced discipline, positive dialog, and fun!

In 1995, Sensei Dawn opened her first school. Following in the steps of Itosu, Kano, and Funakoshi, she focused on “life-skills” such as honesty, kindness, and courage.

In 2001, by popular demand, she began expanding Karate Kids to multiple locations. Her success in inspiring children led to Sensei Dawn being asked to mentor other teachers across the country through lectures, advice columns, instructional manuals, and DVDs. Sensei Dawn is also the author of Scholastic’s successful book series titled, The Black Belt Club.

In 2006, Sensei Dawn was inducted into the Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame for her contributions to the martial arts.

In 2010, after more than 20 years of teaching children, Sensei Dawn founded Gozen Karate, the world’s first “child-style” of martial arts.

 Today, history05has one mission: To be the best martial arts school for children in the world!

What is GOZEN Karate?

history06Sensei Dawn created a style of martial arts to meet the needs of today’s toddlers and grade-schoolers — age groups not considered by the fathers of Karate. She chose the name “Gozen,” or “morning time,” for her child-style… the perfect metaphor for our childhood years. Gozen recognizes history07that a child’s body is not the same as an adult’s. Many traditional techniques are confusing and physically difficult for a child to perform correctly. But with some subtle adjustments, children can learn faster and have more fun!

Sensei Dawn also put the emphasis back on self-defense over sports training… especially after one of her black belt students was hurt by a bully. Determined to offer her students more, she designed a list of child-friendly, playground-appropriate techniques that empowered kids to escape danger without being aggressive.

history08Gozen includes Karate techniques for self-defense, grappling for escaping trouble, fitness drills for strength, competition to face fears, a mentoring program for leadership, and manners training for social skill development.

history09In short, Gozen is the ultimate enrichment program. It inspires self- esteem, builds strong character, and prepares students to face life’s challenges.

Now you know what makes us so special!

We invite your child to grow up at Karate Kids! Together we can build strong minds, strong bodies, and strong spirits!

To try a free class, CLICK HERE!


Watch Mila’s Journey to Black Belt on YouTube!

Karate Kids Journey to Black Belt