Ban Karate? No Way!

I was shocked. A mother handed in a cancellation form because her school had forbidden its students from taking Karate. That’s right… forbidden!

And it didn’t stop there. Another mother was told by her school that ALL extracurricular athletics were discouraged for their students. Seriously?

Where am I? What year is this?

Don’t get me wrong… I’m sure these policymakers have the best interests of their children at heart. I’m not saying they’re bad people, but they sure are uninformed!

Karate Teaches Kindness.

Karate teaches kindness.

When asked for the reason behind the ban on Karate, we were told that children are too impulsive to control themselves.

NO KIDDING! That’s exactly why the first lesson we teach at Karate Kids is to stand tall with no wiggles or giggles. Self-control is the first goal of Karate!

We were also told that the school believed in finding non-violent solutions to conflict.

SO DO WE! That’s why the first skill we require of students is demonstrating how to use their voice to let someone know how they feel. If that doesn’t work, we teach them to find a grown-up. We don’t want children fighting, either!

Maybe I’ve been on the mats too long. I’m so accustomed to seeing children getting stronger, braver, and kinder that I presume that everyone sees the value in martial arts. I guess not!

It seems some people imagine Karate as a violent blood sport where aggressive parents cheer for their children to punch each other in the head. But that image is so wrong!

Of course, I can’t speak for all martial arts schools, but the lobby at Karate Kids is full of loving mothers and fathers who want to see their children learn how to make eye contact, stand up tall, use their words, and practice good manners. That’s what we’re all about!

What we teach at Karate Kids!

What we teach at Karate Kids!

It might be interesting to point out that there are countries in the world who forbid children from learning martial arts. Girls, in particular. Do I even have to tell you how I feel about that?

That’s why I was flabbergasted to learn that right here in Los Angeles, CA, USA, there are adults who feel that the empowering boys and girls to build stronger, healthier bodies and personalities through athletics and martial arts is something to avoid…. something to ban.

If that sounds like you… if you’re a parent who doesn’t believe that Karate is a safe, fun way to teach your child focus, respect, and patience, then I invite you to bring your child to watch any class, any time, at any of our locations.

Come and see how we encourage children as young as two years old to be brave and kind.

Come and talk to our parents and let them tell you firsthand how Karate is helping their children find success at home and at school.

When you drop by, I believe you’ll agree that we’re really all on the same team. We all just want to raise healthy, happy children.


We didn’t always hold tournaments at Karate Kids, but once we started over a decade ago, we never stopped!

Why do we love tournaments so much?

Sure, it’s fun for the kids to put their skills to the test.

Sure, it’s cool for the kids to win a trophy.

Sure, we all love to see the kids engaged in a little healthy competition.

DBKK tournament group photoBut when I think about tournaments, that’s not what I think about at all. Here’s what sticks in my mind…

At every tournament, you will see a child who never says a word in class suddenly let out a war cry that makes the grown-ups jump.

At every tournament, you will see students who appear to not pay attention in class suddenly do everything right.

At every tournament, you will see students get overwhelmed… catch their breath… and keep going.

At every tournament, you will see students clap for their opponent.

At the last tournament, we even saw a young boy (Go, Gavin!) hand over his trophy to another student who felt bad for not winning one of his own.

What a moment!

Without question, the kids who compete in the tournament try their best in every way. Even the parents take notice of the extra effortโ€”

“I didn’t realize how much he’s learned!”

“I’ve never seen her do that in class!”

That’s why when I think about tournaments, the word that keeps popping into my mind is inspiring.

It’s truly inspiring to see so many brave little souls step up in front of friends, family, and strangers to try their best. Win or lose, they push themselves to new levels of focus, power, and respect.

As adults, it’s easy to lose the courage to step into the arena and put everything on the line. We sometimes worry so much about losing that we hold ourselves back from ever winning.

But take it from me, courage is contagious! When I see the kids breaking free from their fears, it makes me feel a little braver, too.

So, as we grow older, let’s all promise ourselves to never lose our courage. Like the brave kids at the tournament, let’s always build our spirit to step up and try our best!


Every time I watch a Black Belt test, I am overcome with joy. To see so many students reach a goal that most never will is inspiring beyond words.

The fact is only 1-2% of students who start Karate classes will make it to the Black Belt test. Why is that?

Because Karate isn’t easy!

To be a Black Belt, you have to try your best to control your mind, body, and spirit. You have to demonstrate physical techniques, good manners, and show respect at home, in school, and in the dojo.

Not just for a month… for years!

NEVER GIVE UP!We have students who have literally been practicing karate for more than half of their young lives. Their patience, perseverance, and dedication is a lesson not just to other children, but to adults as well!

Of course, the only way to earn a Black Belt is to never give up. Unfortunately, many students want to stop practicing karate the minute it isn’t “fun” anymore. If a parent lets the child quit, they miss the chance to teach a valuable life lesson…

Nothing is fun forever–and it shouldn’t be! Why? Because fun is nothing compared to the feeling of self-esteem that grows from being good at something!

When you stick to a goal–especially a difficult goal–you build a strength of character that quitters will never know.

So, if you’re thinking about giving up something you know is good for you, don’t give up! The best is yet to come! Take it from every Black Belt you meet!


It’s amazing how strong and loud a young child will throw a punch or kick when you’re watching…and how soft and quiet they become when you’re not! Yep! They love attention! ๐Ÿ™‚

karate kids jumpOlder kids (and many adults!) are no different. They work hard when they know someone will see and reward them, but left to practice alone, the motivation to push themselves fades fast.

This is an ongoing challenge for teachers…and parents! How do you teach a child that working hard is its own reward? That being the best you can be only comes by working hard when no one is watching? I discuss the issue this way:

  • If I only eat healthy food sometimes, will I be healthy? NO.
  • If I only study sometimes, will I get good grades? NO.
  • If I’m only nice to people sometimes, will I make friends? NO.
  • If I only clean my room sometimes, will mom and dad be happy? NO.
  • If I only try my best sometimes, will I ever be great? NO.

They usually figure out the pattern before I remind them of our number one rule…the secret to success is to ALWAYS try your best. Even when no one is watching. Even when there’s no trophy. Even when you’re tired, scared, hungry, or sad. Always.

That’s why I slump a little when new parents ask if they can sign up for a three or four-week session…

They think Karate is just for fun. They think Karate is just an activity and not a way of life. They think Karate is just sometimes, when it’s really ALWAYS.


Every student knows the #1 rule at Dawn Barnes Karate Kids is to Always Try Your Best. I remember an older gentleman once puling me aside after a belt test to tell me I had it all wrong. He said, “The first rule shouldn’t be to try your best, it should be to DO your best.”

Jedi Master and Sensei Yoda

Jedi Master and Sensei Yoda

I understand what he meant. Like Yoda, he was thinking, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Ah, yes. A very wise and empowering philosophy. Except for one thing…

You’ll never know what you can do until you try!

Trying comes first. Especially for children. Children don’t know what they’re capable of yet. Their life is a period of exploration…trial and error…and learning. And the greatest lessons to learn are what they CAN and CAN’T do.

Wait–what’s that? There’s something we CAN’T do? But that flies in the face of all those positive thinking posters and uplifting bumper stickers I see everywhere!

Sorry to break the news, but we are all different. Very different. We have different talents and capabilities. Different habits and preferences. And because we are not the same, it’s a fact that we can’t all do the same things!

If you tell a child to do something expecting success every time, you will be disappointed. And you’ll stress the child out as well! The fact is some children can do what you ask and some cannot. And that’s okay!

It’s okay if you’re not the best singer in the world. It’s okay if you can’t break 10 bricks with your head. It’s okay if someone can jump higher than you. Not only is it okay, I say if you find out you can’t do something and want to quit, that’s okay, too! Why?

Because at least you tried!

Let’s be honest. Even when we’re patient and make our best efforts, over and over again, we can never do everything we want. Once we accept that, life gets easier. How? Because we can develop and play our strengths and ask for help to make up for our shortcomings.

In other words, DO what you can do, and DO NOT do what you can’t do.

Hey wait–maybe that’s what Yoda meant when he said, “Do or do not.” Maybe that’s the ultimate wisdom he discovered after living for 900 years. Hmm. We may never know what Yoda meant for sure, but for us, the lesson is clear…

To believe you or anyone can do it all is foolish. But to encourage everyone to try is a step towards self-knowledge and success. That’s why at Dawn Barnes Karate Kids, we say–

Always Try Your Best!


The holidays are a time of appreciation and gratitude. A time to express our love to friends and family. A time to forgive a little more than usual. A time to set cynicism aside and allow ourselves a little more hope.

But why don’t we do all of that year-round?

Karate Kids try their best!I notice the same phenomenon at Karate Kids. All the students know the number one rule is to Always Try Your Best. But sometimes, that word “always” seems to be forgotten.

Yes, I see students trying their best when it’s time to be approved for a belt test. I see students trying their best when a teacher is watching. I see students trying their best when they can earn a trophy.

But what about when they’re on their own… when no one is watching… when there’s no belt or trophy to be awarded?

Perhaps the most important lesson I share with my students is this: The whole world is your dojo. Trying your best is not just for karate class. Trying your best is not just for special occasions. There is no season for trying your best.

Trying your best is an attitude. A habit. A way of life.

I’m sure you agree.

Now back to the holidays. We know that feeling gratitude, expressing love, forgiving others, and embracing optimism not only make the world a better place, they make for a better life. So, why do we wait until we see colored lights on trees and pumpkin pies in markets to smile a little more and give a little more?

This holiday season, let’s try our best to hold on to our good will and carry it into the new year. Let’s try our best to make every day a holiday!

Not just some of the time…ALWAYS!

Happy Holidays! ๐Ÿ™‚