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Martial Arts in Chapel Hill. Community-Minded, Family-Oriented, Behavior Based.

Kids Learn Real Karate!



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Of course it’s fun! Of course it’s safe! The missing part for many martial arts schools is the “of course it’s real!” part. Not at Ligo Dojo. Kids learn an art form. Kids learn self defense, and all the character that goes along with learning something they had to work for.

We are not a babysitting service. Kids from the age of 6 can attend class everyday of the week, and we will watch over them and keep them safe, but we emphasize karate first and foremost, and kids’ learning and progress is held to a high standard. “Kids Learn Real Karate at Ligo Dojo,” we say, and parents who haven’t been exposed to karate-for-kids in America, or who have only had exposure to it at one or two select martial arts schools, may raise an eyebrow. “What’s real karate?” they ask.


This photo was taken 12 months ago, and two of these young ladies, the brown belts, are still going strong and right on the verge of earning their black belts.

Another set of parents, however, ones we tend to encounter, watch one of our classes, sign up their kids, and tell us, “thank goodness we found you! We were at that other place, we kept writing checks, our kids kept getting belts, and, yet, our kids never really seemed to learn anything! Sure we were happy to have the childcare, but we also wanted out kids to learn something!”

Unfortunately, this is all too often the norm in American martial arts schools. The fact that we’re a nonprofit, and motivated by advancing karate as an art form, rather than by filling somebody’s bank account, means that we routinely hold our kids classes to a higher standard. Kids at our school sometimes don’t get new belts at test time, and whereas the unknowing parent might initially be concerned, this is why our parents really tend to appreciate the work that we do. We do NOT promote kids just because you pay us; we stay on them and keep trying to drive lessons home until they learn the material necessary to advance. 

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Of course, we are patient with our kids! But we also hold a line that other schools in the area tend not to hold. Although it’s not exactly in writing, our kids are held to a curriculum that requires progress both in terms of kicks and punches, and in terms of character and leadership development. Students learn to be role models for their juniors, and kids who struggle to be effective ones are taught a little more, given a little bit more time, before they’re promoted. But consider! The fact that we hold our kids to a high standard is a good thing! Yes, they have to work hard, sometimes they face disappointment in addition to evenual victory, but, first and foremost, they LEARN, and become better behaved, and better students because of it.


Our founder, Nathan Ligo, has the personal experience of going from straight D’s to straight A’s as an early teen thanks to the influence of his karate teacher. He has the personal experience of going from an unhappy, weak kid to a confident, vibrant one, and he KNOWS therefore, firsthand, the type of change that can be enacted in the lives of young karate students. We have one 11-year-old child currently enrolled, a black belt, who has attended over 600 classes at Ligo dojo over the past 4 years. He helps his mom with his little brother at home with a smile, and he is lauded by his teachers at school for getting the best grades and being the best behaved. And he is a champion already. Was he when he started? No. But he got where he is today, because his parents signed him up at Ligo Dojo and then pushed him to continue those times along the way he wanted to give up.