blackbelt hands
Thirteen brave students tested this month for their Black Belts. This is a big deal. Though many students pass through the doors of Karate Kids, not many stay the three to six years it may take for them to achieve this goal. Naturally, children become bored easily and want to move on and try different activities. This is healthy as long as the parents allow them time to feel accomplished in the activities they try, and don’t over book them as this can cause stress.

Thirteen brave students stood up in front of a panel of teachers (Sensei) and performed Gozen Karate techniques to the best of their abilities. But karate skills are not the only aspect of the test. In fact, the most important part of the test is the work they have been doing throughout their years at Karate Kids — their work on LIFE SKILLS and MANNERS.

Oh yes, these kids are not only learning the value of karate and fitness, they are keeping their rooms clean! (I heard the gasp) That’s right, these fine young students have also learned how to introduce themselves, share, help others, teach, be honest and kind, stayed focused, and never give up until they reach their goals.

All these qualities were on display for the friends and families who had gathered to watch this 3-hour test of champions. Even though the students were between the ages of 9-13, let not their youthfulness fool thee! (Just came back from the Shakespeare Festival. It rubbed off.)

These fine young people have become mentors for manners and lessons for life. They are role models for other students who look up to them.

All passed their test and earned their Black Belts with flying colors and rounds of applause! Well done!

And as my wonderful teachers and I said our farewells to the families, a grandfather approached.

“You must be so proud at creating this wonderful program for the children. My grandson has thrived here.”

With tears in his eyes he shook my hand. “Thank you.”

I thanked him too, and thought to myself, this is what it’s all about! Giving and receiving, sharing and learning, creating and appreciating, and being grateful for those who are grateful. Like the obi (belt) in karate, when tied around one’s waist symbolizes no beginning and no end, so does the Dojo (karate school) represent the never-ending circle of lessons from the children.

Ah those kids. Even after 25 years, they continue to show me how to be a better person, and so especially to them, I am eternally grateful.



YAY! Summer is here! The sun shines, the birds sing, the days are longer, and we are all excited about our summer vacations! Yet, amidst the bright days and warmth of the season, a dark predator lurks. The Tick.

The Tick has three life stages: larva, nymph and adult.  In each stage they feed by sucking blood from animals, then transmit dangerous bacteria into the host through its saliva.  Lyme Disease is transmitted by nymphal ticks, and here is the scary part — they are smaller than a poppy seed!  In fact, they are so small they often look like a mole or tiny scab!

On the West Coast, the Western Black Legged Tick can transmit Babesia, Lyme Disease, Bartonella, and Ehrlichia… the same as the Deer Tick on the East Coast. Besides deer, ticks also attach themselves to small animals and birds, and thusly have crossed all state lines.  In fact, today, Lyme Disease has been found on every continent except Antarctica!

My personal journey with Lyme began nearly 20 years ago.  While vacationing on a lake in Maine (one of the most densely populated regions for Lyme Disease) I was bitten by a deer tick.  Unfortunately, I did not know it at the time.  I never saw a tell-tale ring rash which would have alerted me to take antibiotics immediately.  The odds are very high that if you can see the bite you will have a good chance of killing the dangerous spirochete bacteria, called Borrelia Bergdorferi, that invade one’s brain and other organs very rapidly.  But, without immediate treatment, the bacteria multiply rapidly creating havoc on one’s nervous and immune systems.  Antibiotics often fail to kill off all the spirochete and they remain active for years causing arthritis, extreme fatigue, neurological problems, brain “fog”, and depression.  In fact, there are over 300 symptoms reported with Lyme, which is why it is often called the “Great Imitator” because it can mimic many other illnesses and is often misdiagnosed.

It took the doctors 10 years to diagnose my Lyme Disease! 10 years of going from doctor to doctor telling my story of fatigue, headaches, lack of focus, and a desire to hide from the world.  During this time, I had opened my first Dojo, and was teaching long hours everyday.  When I teach, I go full out.  Kids get a great workout and laugh all the way through class. Even when in top physical shape, trust me when I say that it is hard work to keep four-year-olds interested and focused for 50 minutes!

But teaching is good medicine, and though I was tired, I loved every minute of it.  Yet, at the end of each day, I barely make it home only to climb into bed. My story is not much different than millions of people now suffering with Lyme Disease, but the interesting part of this tale is that my doctors never did actually diagnose me.  One of my favorite parents approached me and wondered why he hadn’t seen me around.  I had given my classes over to other instructors as I was just too tired to teach anymore.  He asked where I had been and I confided that I was in bed about 20 hours per day. I explained how the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me… it looked like Chronic Fatigue but it wasn’t, it looked like Epstein-Barr but it wasn’t, it looked like ALS but it wasn’t… so what was it?!

This wise parent said, “It sounds like Lyme Disease.”

“But I’ve had the Executive Screening Tests,” I replied.

He explained that one has to ask for the Lyme test.  It is a separate test.

The next day I took a Lyme test and it came back positive.  It was sad news, yet a relief, to finally know what was wrong with me.  By this point, nearly 10 years since my vacation in Maine, I was diagnosed with Late Stage Lyme Disease.  Scans showed that my brain and heart were infected and I was put on a cocktail of antibiotics for six months; including a PICC line with two months of intravenous antibiotics.  I combined Western medicine with other therapeutic and holistic remedies including magnets, rife machine, infrared sauna, hyperbaric oxygen, and a daily dose of 50 herbs and vitamins.  I was determined to blast these bacteria out of me.

Today, 10 years later since my first diagnosis, I am currently in my third round with Lyme. Yes, this is sad.  The Lyme bacteria and sub-infections are smart bugs that mutate and know how to hide from the medicine.  My plan is to ultimately obliterate this disease from my body, and I will hold that thought.  I tell you this tale today to stress that this is not an easily diagnosed or treated disease.  In fact, over 200,000 new patients of Lyme are reported yearly, and the CDC considers Lyme to be the fastest growing infectious disease in the country!

Though we cannot live our lives for the “what ifs”, we can be aware of our surroundings and use our best judgements for preventative medicine.  Meaning, that while you are sipping lemonade on your grassy knoll, please take the time to consider your environment. If you go hiking, wear light colors and repellant, try to stay out of tall grass, and avoid sitting on logs or piles of leaves.  Stick to the trails.

I am determined that Lyme will not stop me from experiencing the blessings of nature and the lightness of Summer.  Today, I just look at things a little more closely, which gives me even more appreciation of what I see.  And that is definitely a good thing.  So, I say to you be cautious, but nevertheless, fearlessly drink in the light, and the love, and the fun!  Yay! It’s Summer!

For more information on Lyme Disease and other Tick-borne infections, please visit:




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 


Hi Families,

This month I would like to welcome you to our new Blog site! This column will be my personal connection to you all.  I will write a monthly tip on LIFE, KIDS, and making LEMONADE out of lemons 🙂

I would also like to use this column to answer questions or comments from you! As you can imagine, operating seven locations makes it difficult for me to meet most of you in person, so here is a channel for us to communicate.

Planting Seeds Can Be Fun and Yummy!

It’s Spring!  It is a great time to plant a vegetable garden or box.  Take a sunny Sunday and get your hands dirty.  Sharing this experience with your kids will provide a healthy venue for talking, laughing, and learning.  Even if it is a small herb box in the window, you will build a beautiful memory between you and your child.

If you already have a garden, good for you! Perhaps grab the crayons and keep a journal with your child about the foods you are growing and their nutritional attributes. For example, Spinach has a lot of Vitamin A which helps our skin and provides protein for our muscles!  From my experience, when attaching a specific nutritional value to a body part, kids become much more interested in eating it, even green food!

When I teach I always remind the kids to eat a “rainbow” on their plates.  Think about planting seeds for a more nutritious life.  Perhaps when deciding your garden, plant an artist’s palate and let those colors bloom!  Yum, yum! What’s for lunch?

— Visit Sensei Dawn’s Blog: