Barnes, Dawn 1957-

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Barnes, Dawn 1957-


Born 1957; children: two sons.


Home—Lost Angeles, CA. Office—Karate Kids, 3015 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90403. E-mail—[email protected]


Karate instructor and writer. Instructor in karate at schools in and around Los Angeles, CA, beginning 1988; Dawn Barnes Karate Kids Inc., Santa Monica, CA, founder, 1995; National Association of Professional Martial Artists, director of children's education, 2004—; lecturer. Worked previously as a ballerina; stuntwoman for film and television, 1985-88. Kids Kicking Cancer, member of advisory board.


World Karate Federation.

Awards, Honors

Earned first-degree black belt, 1988; earned third-degree black belt in Shotokan karate, 2001.



Seven Wheels of Power, illustrated by Bernard Chang, Blue Sky Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Night on the Mountain of Fear, illustrated by Bernard Chang, Blue Sky Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Beware of the Haunted Eye, illustrated by Bernard Chang, Blue Sky Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Martial Arts Professional and Los Angeles Family.


The "Black Belt Club" series was optioned for a multiplatform franchise by Hand Picked Films.


In 1984, Dawn Barnes took her first steps toward a new career when she enrolled in a karate class with her two sons. A former film stuntwoman, Barnes took to the discipline immediately. In addition to working her way up to third-degree black belt in Shotokan karate, she also became an instructor, and in 1995 founded her own schools for young people to learn karate. The Dawn Barnes Karate Kids schools, which focus on the positive self-esteem-and confidence-building aspects of karate, have made Barnes's program the largest all-children karate school in the world. "We never use our skills to hurt people," Barnes explained of her program in an article for Los Angeles Business Journal. "We want people to be strong inside."

In addition to teaching karate, Barnes also uses the sport as the basis for action-packed storylines in several graphic novels she has written for young readers. Her "Black Belt Club" series starts with Seven Wheels of Power and features four pre-teen black belts who must save the Tree of Life from the machinations of the evil Master Mundi. Barnes, who writes herself into her stories as the character Sensei Dawn, came to children's-book writing after penning columns for several magazines. She also draws on twenty years' spent working with young martial-arts students, and writing for young readers allowed her to spread the same positive messages about building inner strength that she does in her classes.

While Seven Wheels of Power introduces all four members of the Black Belt Club (BBC), the story focuses on Max, the newest member of the group. Max lacks con fidence in his own abilities, but as he works with fellow BBC-ers Jamie, Maia, and Antonio, he learns that while he has a store of inner strength, he is ultimately more powerful working with a team than when working alone. While School Library Journal contributor Douglas P. Davey called Barnes' graphic-novel approach "notable but flawed" due to her plot's complexity, a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that, in her novel, the karate principles came through for "readers swept along by the nonstop action." Barnes's story is accompanied by illustrations created by veteran comic-book artist Bernard Chang.

The four members of the BBC return in Night on the Mountain of Fear, in which they must overcome their own fears in order to defeat the Hate Master. In addition to writing further of the one dozen novels anticipated in her series, Barnes has also been involved in efforts to adapt the "BBC" series for film as well as for an animated television series and video games. Along with her BBC projects, she develops instructional materials for the National Association of Professional Martial Artists and continues to instruct at her four karate schools. Of her message, Barnes told Sara Wilson in Entrepreneur: "If one seed of self-esteem can be planted in one child, that child is going to grow up and make a difference for other people."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Entrepreneur, April 1, 2005, Sara Wilson, "For Kicks: Karate Is More than Fun for This Teacher," p. 20.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Seven Wheels of Power, p. 116.

Los Angeles Business Journal, April 17, 2000, Frank Swertlow, "Karate Kids," p. 22.

School Library Journal, April 1, 2005, Douglas P. Davey, review of Seven Wheels of Power, p. 94.


Black Belt Club Web site, (November 22, 2006).

Dawn Barnes Home Page, (November 22, 2006).

Karate Kids Web site, (November 22, 2006).

Scholastic's "Black Belt Club" Web site, (November 22, 2006).