Your Ultimate Guide to Real Estate on Chicago's North Shore

Growing Up With Martial Arts On The North Shore

You won’t find them practicing at dawn on the beaches, or meditating in the Botanic Garden’s zen temples, but have no doubt:  The North Shore is full of martial artists.

Even some longtime residents don’t realize the popularity and strength of martial arts schools on the North Shore.

Glencoe is home to Pride Dojo, considered one of the finest karate programs in the nation.  Fonseca Martial Arts in Evanston is run by two world champions.  Krav Maga Illinois has trained Golden Glove boxers and regularly hosts seminars from top fighters.  And that’s just to name a few of the schools–there are even more of comparable quality.

I began attending Pride Dojo at the age of eight.  Martial arts is sports with a value system and philosophy that is held above any competitive achievement–hence its popularity with parents, and mine were no exception.

We don’t retain many things at eight, but I can remember with perfect clarity my first day at Pride Dojo.  My instructor surprised me by telling us the best way to win a fight was to run away.  And then explained that if we used what she taught us in anything but vital self-defense, we would be kicked out.  That stuck with me through the years.

I was a timid and quiet child who hated playing soccer, or basketball, or anything that involved what I felt was too much yelling and running.  Karate gave me a sense of strength through peace.  It was something that I could excel at by being controlled and careful.  It taught me to channel the strength of my mind into my body.

That’s not to say everyone was like me.  Martial arts doesn’t have a type.  I’ve fought six foot behemoths who played football on the side, and girls half my size.  When I went on to teach karate in college, I used to joke to my students: Nothing will teach you to treat women as equals than having your butt kicked by a female black belt.

The environment at karate tournaments is unbelievably positive, and shaped how I approached any competitive environment in life.  There is no booing, not even “aggressive” cheering.  Every parent and instructor looks out for the young competitors, regardless of what school they come from.  Even at national competitions, our coaches repeat the same message over and over:  this is not about winning; this is about testing your skills and improving yourself as a martial artist.  It’s a message that kids take into their academic and personal lives; martial artists learn to focus on self-mastery and personal achievement instead of comparing themselves to their peers.


Pride Dojo
Takiff Center, 
Glencoe Park District, 999 Greenbay Road, Glencoe, Illinois 60022
(847) 835-3030

Krav Maga Illinois
2200 Skokie Valley Road Highland Park, IL 60035

Fonseca Martial Arts
823 1/2 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL 60202

Kevin Thomas is a graduate of New Trier High School and Brown University.  He is an avid martial artist and media geek, and recently returned to Chicago to pursue professional aspirations in advertising, consulting, and digital communication.

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