Ligo Dojo of Budo Karate : Striving for Excellence

Traditional Japanese Martial Arts in Chapel Hill for Adults and Kids


The Team Training


    Differing from other area schools, we offer a single Team Training class for adults and teens, and a feeder class for kids, ages 6 and up. We are a nonprofit organization whose mandate is to achieve excellence in a martial arts skill set delivered through an ongoing interaction with our instructors in Japan. We choose the term “team training” to emphasize the importance of the individual student’s relevance to a team momentum in learning AS A GROUP in which an individual’s regular attendance, determination, and progress drives the group average. Your classes will be smaller at Ligo Dojo, you’ll work with the same students class after class, you’ll have the regular attention of your teacher, and you’ll benefit in terms . . .

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. . . of depth of learning.

Classes are suitable for all motivated kids and adults who want to achieve excellence in a martial art, but should not be considered a solution for making the lacking student become focused or motivated. Class sizes are smaller, and the curriculum is ever-evolving, and content delivery is brisk. It means the student learns in a much more concentrated fashion, but they are also required to keep up. We are the dojo in the area that is the most opposite of the after school program designed to make a profit and provide child care to many students. Unlike programs that have kids’ programs, and then also teach adults (often like kids), we are an adult program that teaches adults and teens at the most professional end of the spectrum, but also run a kids’ program to prepare them, as they grow up, to move into our adult/teen program.

The central idea behind team training is that the individual doesn’t become exceptional in a group that’s not universally striving to become exceptional. One star student in a room full of students who don’t apply themselves is only a star in that one room. A star student in a room full of aspiring stars, however, becomes exceptional in the broader world beyond. Kids and adults with no prior martial arts experience join our team, and team spirit should fall into place naturally. Only understand that we do learn at a group pace. Make sure to understand our class schedule because participation is vital. The kids’ feeder class operates on the same principle with a little bit more leeway; we understand that we’re dealing with kids who develop at different paces.

Kids kumite at Ligo Dojo where we emphasize REAL but also safety. Watch through to the end. The instruction here was to use light contact even though the kids like to rough it up quite a lot more than this. We’ve added some footage at the end of the same kids, a little older, having gotten a little tougher. Still they’re exercising self-control. MH MP MC

Against all odds, Sensei Ligo took 6th place in the Kyokushin-kan World Kata Tournament in Japan at the age of 46. Here is Seienchin, the kata he performed in the final. The board breaking is done as a tie breaker should a tie occur, and Sensei Ligo tied for first place in board breaking.




Kyokushin Karate and Iaido?

Iaido is the Art of Drawing and Cutting with a Japanese Sword


Mastery of Art,

Or Mastery of Fighting?

    The real answer is BOTH, but at Ligo Dojo we approach real-world self-defense through a pursuit of mastery of ART in which practice fighting is important, but never through unnecessary roughness. Humility is key to learning, and working together as a team. We are the opposite of the dojo in which toughness blurs the lines with attitude, pride, and ego. Kyokushin Karate is a style of Japanese Karate internationally renowned for its full-contact tournament fighting, and Sensei Ligo, a personal student of Kyokushin’s founder, has practiced for 37 years. Our teachers in Japan, however, are . . . 

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. . . moving us towards a return to authentic Budo Karate which existed in the earliest days of Kyokushin’s history which means developing an appreciation of self-defense in a real-world situation in which our lives may one day be on the line. Since the sports rules of tournament fighting rendered even devastatingly powerful full-contact fighting eminently safe, we supplement with Iaido (use of Japanese sword), and Kobudo (use of sai, tonfa, bo and jo) to deepen our appreciation of the life-and-death reality of martial arts.

Making tough-guy fighters in Kyokushin Karate is a relatively rapid course for making young people tough so that they can fight with other tough guys, and that type of training IS very efficient. The pursuit of mastery of self-defense, however, is a longer pursuit in which depth of knowledge, and precision of technique, takes closer attention to detail over a longer period of time. This leads, in turn, to a more rounded appreciation, creating a martial artist for life, rather than a sports fighter for youth. At Ligo Dojo, students experience kumite (“real” fighting in a protected-by-the-rules setting), but tournament fighting is not our emphasis. Instead we emphasize the pursuit of mastery of our ART(s) in which kumite is also vital. Iaido, the art of drawing and cutting with the Japanese sword (available to adults and teens in our team training program), hones precision of technique like no other martial art. We use it also to “up our game” and increase precision in our empty-handed karate, moving us towards a deeper appreciation of self-defense.

The devistating power of Kyokushin Karate. Sensei Ligo here breaks three Louisville Slugger baseball bats with his unprotected shin bone.

Sensei Ligo, and Ligo Dojo student Jake D. (here 14) compete in a Houshokai tournament in Japan in beginner and advanced divisions. The tournament features Kata events in Iaido, Jo-do, Ryukuy Kobudo, and Shitoryu Karate-do.

Kata. Bunkai. Kumite.

Understand the Tenets of Budo Karate.


Jiyu Kumite vs. 
Bunkai Kumite 

     Jiyu Kumite means “free form practice fighting” and can range from controlled impact to full-contact. Sensei Ligo can be seen in the video clip at right in a heavy contact setting, working with a student in Jiyu Kumite. Note here that Sensei Ligo’s intent is to NOT defeat the student, since the student is attempting 10 rounds, and Sensei Ligo wants his willpower tested, but not him defeated. This particular student, was training for full-contact tournaments, which today is not our norm. Sensei Ligo can be seen below demonstrating Bunkai Kumite. Bunkai means . . .

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. . . “application” and this art is the practice of understanding and applying the motions of Kata, as in the formal exercise shown in the page-width video clip above. All karate students must have some exposure to Jiyu Kumite (fighting) because this is what prevents the students from developing a fantasy notion of what they can do with their karate. However, at Ligo Dojo, our emphasis is on Bunkai Kumite which develops a higher degree of Art, but a lesser degree of day-in and day-out impact. Below, as well, is a video clip showing our team practicing a very basic, beginners’ level of Bunkai Kumite practice. In the video, we’re outside during the pandemic.

Some contact kumite above. This was  special case where this student was training for full-contact tournaments. Sensei Ligo is testing him, not trying to defeat him.

Above and below are examples of Bunkai Kumite. This is the study of the application of the movements of Kata. At the beginning stages the pair cooperates to facilitate success in the application. As time passes the degree of cooperation is reduced, moving the practice in the direction of Jiyu Kumite.

Where Team Training Will Take You

Weekly Classes are Just the Beginning


The Places You’ll Go,

The Experiences You’ll Have

    For the adult/teen Team Training class, three classes per week are supplemented by scheduled events meant to deepen your learning. Frankly, there is no limit to how you might participate. Lately our more senior members have been attending bi-monthly Zoom seminars with our instructors in Japan, once every quarter we have a all-day Saturday trainings that students from dojos in other cities (or countries!) often attend, and every year those who make the investment actually travel to Japan to attend seminars and compete in tournaments. Above, you can see team members practicing outdoors during the pandemic, and, at right, that’s us training under the awesome force of Crabtree Falls in North Carolina on a recent day trip to Grandfather Mountain. Sensei Ligo teaches . . . 

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. . . groups in Washington, DC, Costa Rica, and Honduras on a regular basis, and there are opportunities for joining combined special events with these other groups when they come to visit.

Prospective students should understand that class participation on a Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday schedule is just the first part of team participation. These classes are relatively short at 60+, 60+, and 90+ minutes, but these are supplemented by occasional events (Saturday seminars, group trainings, and zoom seminars) meant to be an integral part of the students’ learning. Everybody has things that come up (vacations, ilness, etc.) but students should probably not consider team participation unless their actual schedule permits them to attend most of the regular classes, barring the unforeseen. The supplemental events are irregular enough, they’re just things to plan for when announced. 

We are members of two organizations, Kyokushin-kan, a Tokyo-based international karate organization chaired by Kancho Hatsuo Royama, and also Houshoukai, a sister organization chaired by Soke Hiroto Okazaki (who is also Kyokushin-kan’s technical director) which offers Iaido (Japanese sword), and a more concentrated exposure to Kobudo (Bo, Sai, Tonfa), Karate-do, and Jo-do (a “Jo” is a short staff used traditionally in Japan for defense against a sword). Along with Shihan Masuhide Ishijima, a key techncial instructor for both organizations, it is from these three instructors that we do most of our learning. Our recent Zoom seminars are with Soke Okazaki; on our previous trip to Japan we arranged private training with both Shihan Ishijima, and with Kancho Royama. Clearly there’s some cost involved, and this is not required, but the option is here if you choose to join.  

The 3-class per week Team Training schedule is based on what the Team seems to be able to handle, given their other life obligations. Sensei Ligo would teach more, and is willing to at anytime for the excelling student who wants more, but the important point is that the Team moves forward together, rather than the individual. At this moment in time, the Team seems to be able to handle three classes per week.  

This is Crabtree Falls in North Carolina. This weekend instructors from Costa Rica and Washington, DC came to North Carolina to train with us, we trained on the ridge of Grandfather Mountain, and practices under the awesome power of this icy waterfall.

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