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

Chapel Hill Martial Arts at the Cutting Edge. Training For Adults.


Short Film About Ligo Dojo’s Adult Program



Shihan Okazaki teaching Japanese instructors (and several from Ligo Dojo) at an annual seminar at Mt. Mitsumine in Japan.

Members of Kyokushin-Kan International Karate Organization, Ligo Dojo instructors travel to Japan one or more times per year to participate in international instructor’s seminars hosted by Kancho (Chairman) Hatsuo Royama, and other instructors at the very top of their field worldwide. Adult Ligo Dojo students are always invited to tag along and quite a few have gone with us in the past. (There is, of course, the issue of cost, and students who have gone with us have had to pay their own way). 


Nathan Ligo training at Mitsumine, Japan, instructed by Kancho Royama and Shihan Okazaki.

Having attended many Kyokushin-Kan seminars in Japan, and also in Korea, Russia, South Africa, Hungary, and Kazakhstan, our founder and head instructor Nathan Ligo has attended more Kyokushin-Kan seminars than any other American, making him the go-to person on the continent when it comes to the content of Kancho Royama’s international seminars. More than that, even, Sensei Ligo often acts as interpreter for Kancho Royama when teaching to English-speaking audiences, meaning that he is also at the front line of understanding what’s being passed across the language divide to international students.

At the core of mastery of karate, is the relationship between teacher and student, between sempai (senior) and koohai (junior), a highly formal structure for interaction in which the student learns as much from that interaction as from the kicks and punches. Sensei Ligo considers it obligatory, therefore, that while he is teacher to the students of Ligo Dojo, he and his instructors also remain students of Kancho Royama and Kyokushin-Kan in Japan. Kyokushin karate is an art form that has always evolved from the time it was first created by Mas Oyama in the early 60’s. Unlike many dojos in the US, Ligo Dojo is well positioned to have regular exposure to instructors in Japan who remain at the forefront of that evolution. 

Why training “at the cutting edge”?  Because karate can both evolve and devolve. Distance has always posed a severe challenge for martial arts development in the United States because martial arts tends to drip in from its center of momentum (usually in the East, depending on the style) in spits and bursts. In the worst case scenario it’s brought to the States by one instructor who then becomes separated from the heart of the art’s development internationally, and the art deteriorates over time. This has always been a particularly vicious cycle in America where martial arts becomes “Americanized,” or watered down to a money-making business at the extreme, to something almost unrecognizable from the original. In many cases it becomes something very expensive, but that is of very little value.

Kancho Hatsuo Royama, chairman of Kyokushin-kan Internatinoal.

Kancho Hatsuo Royama, chairman of Kyokushin-kan Internatinoal.

At, Ligo Dojo, we stand as the exact opposite of this trend. We would never suggest that we are the best, or even great  by international standards. We only do the best we can, but comparing us to  the for-profit Americanized martial arts schools(and there are several in Chapel Hill and Durham) is like comparing apples to oranges, and we know that we stand in a far better position than almost all of our local competition. Of course, some families in this American culture tend to actually want fluff, some people want what comes easy. In that case, we’re not the place for them. Yet Budo Karate, the karate you will find at Ligo Dojo, IS for everyone. It’s for the young, the old, men, women, the athletic and those that wish they were more so. Anyone can learn karate at Ligo Dojo, and if this is where you begin your karate training, you’ll never know that you’re training at a different level from the rest, not anyway, until someday you witness training at the Americanized school across town, and then you’ll be amazed. 

In Karate you only get as strong as you can given how much you put in to your training. If you’re only training 2 or 3 hours per week, rather than 2 or 3 hours per day, you will only progress accordingly. However, prospective students should ask themselves: How far do you want to go in 2  or 3 years of your life, practicing martial arts 2 or 3 times per week? At the end of that time, do you want to be exceptional, or do you only want to be mediocre? Do you want to have something that’s yours forever, or do you want to remember an activity in your past as something that was just a passing fancy? Spend the same amount of time, spend LESS money, but do it at Ligo Dojo and what you’ll have in the end will be 100 times more valuable that what you’d have, training at the belt-mill down the road.



Nathan Ligo with Kancho Royama (right) and Vice-Chairman, Shihan Hiroshige (left).



Shihan Okazai, part of Kancho Royama’s team of instructors, regularly takes us during international instructors’ seminars to places that leave us dumbfounded, marveling that there’s still so much to learn. Here, teaching a traditional kata, that many of us had never seen before, he leaves us to marvel. Note the stumbling black belts in the background. These guys are among the best in the world, but Okazaki Shihan often leaves them staggering.