When I opened my first little dojo in 1995, my intention was to create a positive experience for children both physically and emotionally.  I declared my mission statement: “To inspire self-esteem in every child!” And I am happy to report that mission is still alive and well today!

From the beginning, my program was designed to be age-appropriate. I wanted to teach children basic martial arts techniques, and–more importantly–to have them learn and practice social skills in a safe and encouraging environment. Throughout the years, I referred to these social skills as “life skills”. During classes and at belt tests, I would ask the kids questions about respect, patience, focus, kindness, responsibility, etc. Yet, I noticed over the years that quite often children and parents had trouble grasping the term “life skills”. In fact, one day I walked through the lobby and took a poll. I asked three separate groups of parents to define a life skill. Keep in mind, these were parents whose children had been enrolled in the program for some time. Not only that, but the words had always been printed on my posters, signage, and advertisements. And yet, several of the parents thought a “life skill” meant the children were learning how to “protect their lives.”

Yikes! How did that happen! Life skills are simply social skills! Or in short– good manners!

So, time to make things more clear. The focus of my program has always been about manners. Karate is the venue by which we teach the children manners. So, why don’t we just call it what it is, right? I couldn’t agree more! So, here we go…

From now on, we are printing different manners directly onto our T-shirts. That’s right! We’re literally putting manners front and center! Now there should be no doubt as to what specific social skill a child is working on with each new belt. The student will know, the parent will know, and the teacher will know.

I hope that will help end any confusion and keep us all focused on what matters most.

“Welcome to Dawn Barnes Karate Kids, School of Manners!”

Sensei Dawn