By Kierra Pixler, Managing Editor
Developing courage, inner strength, self discipline and respect are just a few core values that karate can provide for children. The belt and ranking system allow the student to set a goal, about five years away for black belt, and step by step, kata by kata, advance along the way. Although mentioned in a context of martial arts, they apply to any aspect of life: family, home or school. Known as he art of the “empty hand,” karate was born in Okinawa, a Japanese island in the East China Sea, out of necessity during a time when weapons were banned by invading armies.
Growing up in an era when The Karate Kid came out, Robert Barnes was fascinated by the powerful kicks, punches and blocks displayed in the movie. That inspired him to begin his journey with the sport.
“Being a private school kid in the early 80’s and a late bloomer athletically, I wanted to do something cool and new,” Barnes said. “I visited many schools but there was one in Waco that really stood out and got me hooked on the first class.
The head instructor was Master Rick Lancaster. I could go on and on about him and the awesome instructors and the awakening about life that martial arts brought into my life.”
After competing in point style tournaments in the 90’s and going to nationals in 94, Barnes won twice in state and nationals in the 32 and up category in 2002-2003.
“After opening my own school on Sept. 1st of 2001, I was excited to have my own school just to lose everything I put into it ten days later with 9/11,” Barnes said. “I thought it was over, but weeks later students started rolling in. But instead of parents wanting the next karate champion, they all came saying Mr. Barnes you have a special way to get kids to behave and have better manners.”
A central tenet of the sport is its emphasis that everyone has a set of valuable abilities. Barnes spent those next 10 years studying child development, mastering the ability to become a guiding force in children’s lives.
“It did a lot for me too because as a child I suffered from depression and many other problems that I vow to never let happen to another person,” Barnes said. “My parents are ministers and this is my ministry. Pay it forward.”
Barnes did a radio show on 94.5 FM that later turned into a business show called “Marking Truth.” The premise of the show was his take on the different aspects of child development.
“I continued to do the show via podcast and will bring them out this year,” Barnes said. “Through that show I really learned a lot. I also learned so many things that we do rearing children that are so wrong. Most of who we are in our subconscious comes from six to eight years old. We as adults and leaders have to do a better job and continue to learn more. So every class in this program will be filled with many life lessons that will change lives forever.”
In 2008, Barnes landed his own TV show called Next Karate Star on Time Warner Cable. Traveling around Texas, Barnes helped hundreds of children and adults who were on their way to earning their black belt build their strength of body, mind and character.
“That led to me writing for Tae Kwon Do Times Magazine,” Barnes said. “I have learned a lot from the interviews but what I really learned is there is still so much to learn. Black belt isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. We have a great responsibility to tell the stories of the elders before us and to lead the new students coming up now.”
Barnes is bringing his background to Belton with a karate school that focus’ on teaching integrity and discipline.
“Belton NKS will be a part time course (six months) that will be done in part with our other schools,” Barnes said. “We hope to get all the kids to meet and learn together. Some Saturdays, we will have inter-school training and games and competitions. My goal is to let them have fun while learning new things and see others that are pushing forward too. We will be working with the schools in the area. If a student does not keep up the good grades, they will have to skip that belt test. Letters are sent to teachers before every test. These students will represent Next Karate Star and what we value.”