Although the primary style of karate taught at Hill’s Family Karate Kajukenbo, an Okinawan style developed in Hawaii, is an eclectic and ever-changing art, the values this local Mentor, Ohio dojo were founded on have not changed. At Hill’s Family Karate at 8901 Mentor Avenue, owners Libby and Tom Hill believe in the strength of the family and stress its importance in their teachings. This value and passion for family permeates everything they do.
The ‘Ohana Dojo (‘Ohana is Hawaiian for family) was founded in May 2005 in Mentor, Ohio because most of the martial arts schools nearby were focused either on children or adults exclusively. The Hills had a unique idea. They wanted to create a karate studio that would allow the whole family to study together and progress together. Classes at Hill’s Family Karate are designed and scheduled so the whole family can partake in them.
Inspired by their own personal experience studying karate with their children, the whole Hill family eventually progressed to the highest rank at the dojo earning their black belts. But there was a problem. The entire family could only take one class per week together. From their experience studying karate as a family and seeing all the challenges families can face, the Hills felt that there was a better solution than what was being offered and Hill’s Family Karate was born.
Other karate studios also impose a restrictive long-term contract system on families in the Mentor, Ohio area. The Hills didn’t think this was fair to the busy modern family that continuously faces new challenges and changes to their schedules.
“We felt the long-term contracts were really unfair especially considering the type of lifestyle today’s family has,” owner Libby Hill says. “They get tied into a six or twelve month contract and they have to pay whether their child gets ill or if the family takes a vacation.”
Hill’s Family Karate provides the flexibility that the owners saw the community demanded. They offer a month-to-month experience that gives families a chance to breathe and balance their lives.
“We tried to keep all the fun and discipline in the martial arts at the same time making a business model that was more conducive to families today,” Libby says.
Besides offering Kajukenbo, families can also study the Korean national martial art, Taekwando from Sensei Ciro Grandini. There are three mats at the studio and most nights they are all being used. The dojo also offers classes in North Coast Aikikai, a form of aikido which is the most modern non-competitive form of martial arts from Japan.
Just a few years ago in 2009, Hill’s Family Karate started offering 40+ Karate which is based on the Okinawan style, but with careful consideration for the older physique. The program still includes belts and testing so families can progress together even if they are in a different program.
If one of the adults in the family doesn’t want to learn karate, there are other options for them as well. With an array of adult fitness programs including Zumba, yoga, and tai chi, there is something available for everyone no matter what their skill or fitness level.
Like most successful businesses, passion stands at its heart. If the business doesn’t believe in what they’re doing, it can’t last long. With almost a decade of success, Hill’s Family Karate has passion and it shows. The team at Hill’s Family Karate gets excited about working with people and introducing them to karate.
“Martial arts is not just a fitness activity,” Libby explains. “It’s a Mind-Body-Spirit journey. The excitement about martial arts is that at sometimes it’s easy and other times very difficult. It teaches very important life lessons to both children and adults.”
There are a number of choices families have when choosing a karate studio or other extracurricular activities. Children want to try everything from baseball, to dance, to music, to soccer, and parents want their children to be able to participate in those activities. Hill’s Family Karate addresses this from a business stand point by offering a budget-friendly opportunity for the whole family to study together all at one location.
“We’ve always been a community minded organization,” Libby says. “Our business is not just in the dojo. We’re outside, we’re involved in the community, and we encourage our students to volunteer. In fact, part of our leadership and instructor program have required volunteer hours.”
Hill’s Family Karate believes in making a difference in the Mentor, Ohio community. You’ll find them helping out at a lot of the local soup kitchens as well as organizing a community supported agriculture group.
At Hill’s Family Karate, “the family that kicks together, sticks together.”