(610) 280-0873   

         Full-time dojo serving Chester County since 1998.
                                                 14 N. Village Ave. Exton, PA

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  • Ask your parents EVERY DAY, “How was your day, Mom/Dad?”
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Martial Arts is More Than Just Kicks & Punches
By Sensei La France

​​​​“Character is what we do when we think no one is looking.“  – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

When you think about the martial arts (ok… karate), you think about kicking and punching, right? Well true, it IS about learning how to fight and defend yourself. But as a whole, the martial arts is much, much MORE. It’s about self discipline… courage… strength of body and character… and striving to be the best version of yourself possible. The martial arts are a mindset.

At Makoto, it’s important that our students realize this. Especially our younger students. So, one of our favorite questions to ask them is this:

“You’re on vacation and playing on the beach. Are you still a martial artist/Black Belt?”

This question is first met with some confusion and then a variety of responses such as, "No, ‘cause I’m not in the dojo training.” Or, “I’m not sure what you mean? I don’t wear my belt to the beach.”

So, we attempt to clarify things a bit with a follow up question. “OK… even if you are not wearing your uniform or your belt, are you still martial artist/Black Belt? Are you a martial artist/Black Belt in places other than the dojo?” It is with this question that the light bulb seems to go on.

They realize that we’re not asking them about just the belt… we’re asking them about their mindset. Are they a martial artisit/Black Belt in the truest sense? Do they follow the values of a martial artisit/Black Belt in all aspects of their life? At school? At work? While jumping the waves on the beach?  

Getting our students to understand that earning belts and training is not just about their physical state, but their character values too, is a top priority. This is why having a Character Stripe System as part of our training is suuuuper important to us.

What is a Character Stripe system? It’s the Makoto Way of making sure that what our students are learning in the dojo translates to the outside world. In a nutshell, the Character Stripe system works like this… a student must show they have CONSISTENTLY done a specific value (for example… “no complaining”) in order to earn a stripe for their belt. Without this stripe, they cannot graduate to the next belt level. And who determines when a student has earned their Character Stripe? Why, their parents and teachers. Those who see them acting in an outstanding manner in the real world.

So, what are some of the core values our students have to show in order to earn their Character Stripe? Here are a few examples…


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All are values of a strong, polite, and compassionate person. Just what we want as our neighbor, friend, and schoolmate.

You see, understanding that what you do in the dojo should also happen OUTSIDE the dojo is probably one of the most important lessons an instructor can teach. It is – we feel – one of the most important things that we can teach. Showing our students that being a martial artist means that you should endeavor to: (1) always do the right thing… (2) put forth 100% effort every day… (3) treat all others with equal respect… and most importantly, (4) have outstanding character whether you are on the dojo floor or at the beach. This is the Makoto Way.y tuned. I’ll be back.