Dawn Barnes Karate Kids: Inspiring Respect, Patience and Focus for 20 Years

By Elena Epstein

Dawn Barnes Anniversary positive parenting

Dawn Barnes has been using her unique teaching methods to bring martial arts to L.A. kids for two decades. PHOTO COURTESY DAWN BARNES KARATE KIDS

To receive black-belt recognition in karate is a major accomplishment, requiring three to five years of consistent practice. For students enrolled in Dawn Barnes’ Karate Kids studios, earning a black belt also means learning and practicing the following pillars: Try Your Best, Show Good Respect, Focus, Learn from Mistakes, Protect your Circle of Power, Live Honestly, Make Healthy Choices, Act as a Leader, Stand Tall and Share a Smile.

Dawn Barnes opened her first studio in Santa Monica on March 13, 1995. During the past 20 years, she has taught thousands of children in the community to enjoy and excel at martial arts, and to be self-reliant and good members of society.

Barnes’ innovative idea of a child-focused martial arts program was a big draw for parents, and her first 900-square-foot studio quickly expanded to include six locations across the L.A. area.

Barnes has specific expectations of her teachers. “They have to get down on the mat, be positive, uplifting and encouraging,” she says. “They need to work soul-to-soul with each student.” Dawn Barnes Karate Kids, she says, is about learning life skills such as perseverance, etiquette and focus. Studio rules begin with the way students enter. They are taught to make eye contact with the receptionist and instructor, ask how they are, and always say “please” and “thank you.”

Karate Kids is open to students of all abilities, including those with special needs. The Santa Monica studio, in partnership with Kids Kicking Cancer, offers free Sunday classes to kids with cancer and their siblings where students engage in relaxation, mental imagery, breathing and active karate exercises.

Barnes says she is most proud that for 20 years she has stayed true to the original mission and standards for her studios – teaching kids the importance of respect, kindness and patience.

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