DOJO  Karate: Preparing champions for life

Confidence, respect, discipline: these are characteristic attributes of one’s experience with Dojo Karate, Buffalo. “For kids, for adults, for life” is their slogan, according to owner, Chris Hourscht, and all individuals benefit in personal development, as well as self-defense skills and fitness.

“Dojo” is a Japanese word meaning “karate school,” and students are instructed in Westernized Korean TaeKwonDo or American Karate. Karate is one of the martial arts, and Dojo’s style is sometimes referred to as “sport karate.” Kids, adults and families are encouraged to join together with separate classes designed to meet kids’ needs. Hourscht adds, “Families who train together, bond together and stay together.”

Adults often focus on self-defense training and fitness, while boys and girls focus on active fun and goal setting to earn patches and belts denoting levels of skill proficiency, responsibility, personal achievement, respect for self and others, and goal setting. A healthier mind and body are achieved through the physical training. Part of attaining the advanced levels requires giving back by mentoring and instructing others.

Dojo Karate owners pride themselves on being partners in education. Students’ karate accomplishments are tied in with academic success, and teachers can be team members supporting the students’ progress, along with parental involvement. Dojo staff conducts school talks and demonstrations featuring the students (confidence building), and work with the various area schools to support their fundraising initiatives.

Business Background

Hourscht and business partner, Keith Stormoen, who owns the Elk River school, have been in operation since August 2000; Hourscht has been working in the industry since 1989. They established their own schools in order to follow a business plan focused on the success of each student. Each of the classes is uniquely designed based on the needs and abilities of each student, ensuring their success through exercise, self-discipline, mutual respect and positive reinforcement.

Their business practice requires two instructors in each class so one is available to tutor individuals while another leads the class. With a staff of five, someone is on hand to take calls, greet walk-in customers and answer questions that arise during class sessions. Hourscht has been in Buffalo since 2003 and at their current location on Hwy. 55 near Co. Rd. 35 since 2006. In addition to the Buffalo and Elk River schools, Dojo Karate franchises are located in Monticello, Rogers, Medina, Maple Grove and Waconia.

Hourscht states, “Martial arts is a journey. The ultimate goal is a Black Belt which is not the end, but just the beginning as Black Belt holders are more likely to succeed in life.” It typically takes 3-5 years to earn a Black Belt, after reaching various other proficiency and advanced levels. Masters are practitioners who have earned a Fifth Degree Black Belt. Masters teach classes but also prepare advanced lesson instructors for 1-2 additional years of teacher training and skills.

Dojo Karate’s Mission

Dojo Karate’s mission statement is “to help each student reach his or her highest personal potential; and to provide them the lifelong benefits of participating in the martial arts through professional, superior karate instruction. “Our students have the opportunity to advance through various belt ranks in order to achieve the ultimate goal of Black Belt. These advancements take place through goal setting, one-on-one tutoring and involvement in tournaments both in and out of our schools.”

Hourscht believes, “When confidence is instilled in a child, the sky’s the limit. It’s empowering to see a child go from low self-esteem to being a leader.” Kids of all abilities, with or without limitations or special needs, can grow and learn at their own individual pace. Instructors work with students with physical or mental limitations such as physical injuries, major surgeries, asthma, ADD/ADHD, Downs Syndrome, etc. “It’s all about putting your mind to something and accomplishing it mentally and physically.”

Their mission success is enthusiastically confirmed by student endorsement. Maple Lake student, Victoria Rollings, has been attending Dojo Karate lessons for one year and has achieved the Advanced Red Belt Level. She states, “Dojo helped me improve my self-esteem and open up. I used to be shy and quiet but now am bubbly and outgoing. It helped me with my grades and focus.” Victoria’s 9-year-old brother, Ty, is an Advanced Blue Belt holder, and 4-year-old sister, Olivia, is a Mighty Dragon. Their mother, Wesley, confirms, “Dojo Karate has given Victoria and Ty confidence and self-esteem and helped them become better listeners. Desire to earn the academic patch pushed them to excel and reach the honor roll, and their grades have improved with timely finish of school work.”

Maple Lake Ambassador Heather Blahut further supports the Dojo Karate mission. Blahut attended Dojo Karate lessons for seven years and holds a 2nd degree Black Belt. She also worked as a Karate mentor with kids for one year. According to Blahut, “You learn new things you wouldn’t learn elsewhere, like discipline, while having fun. I learned new things about myself and gained a lot of respect for myself and others. It was a great self-confidence-building experience and opportunity to meet new friends. You’re never too old; anyone can do it. I’m so grateful for the awesome opportunity.”

Families involved with Dojo know that it takes dedication and hard work to achieve a “Black Belt in Life.” Dojo instills the philosophy that Karate can be practiced for exercise and self-defense, but also assists those that may be experiencing bullying, attention disorders, fatigue syndromes or low self-esteem by teaching them how to handle each situation in a non-violent, concentrated manner.

Hourscht said, “Our passion lies in watching our students become lifelong martial arts participants and reaching their highest potential. Dojo Karate encourages student advancement through goal setting, leadership and character development, and healthy competition. Each instructor strongly believes in creating ‘champions in life’ along with champions in Karate, so our lessons are easily applied outside of Dojo classes.”


Dojo Karate offers lessons year ‘round with classes specifically for kids, adults, and teens at various levels from Mighty Tigers (2-3 yrs. old) and Mighty Dragons (4-5 yrs. old) to Red, Blue, Brown Belt advanced levels for juniors, intermediates and adults. Dojo offers an introductory one-month promotion for $14.95, which includes a free uniform and eight classes (two per week). Classes are offered day, evening or Saturday hours, which are convenient for public or home-schooled children. Home-schooled children often use the activity to satisfy physical education requirements. In addition to the physical activity lessons, a character building class is held Saturday mornings.

Dojo currently instructs 250-300 students at the Buffalo location, and their busiest time is during the school year. Students can start anytime throughout the year; classes are always available. As stated on their website, “Dojo Karate provides professional, superior Karate instruction to families that are interested in attaining the lifelong benefits of our programs. Our schools are extremely family-friendly, and we strongly encourage each family member to become involved. This helps build a stronger relationship and gives a whole new level of support to each student. Our policy, Customers First, inspires each individual who steps into our school to excel and learn valuable life skills.”

See the Dojo Karate website for more details about lesson schedules, curriculum and fees, or call 763-684-1000 (Buffalo).