American Freestyle Karate

In American Elite Martial Arts classes, we practice the style of American freestyle karate.  American freestyle karate is a hybrid martial art that combines a solid foundation in traditional Japanese/Okinawan style karate with elements from other martial arts including taekwondo, kung fu, jujutsu, muay thai, boxing, weapons training, and others! This style of martial arts was born from competition, where practitioners adopted techniques from other styles to keep an edge on their opponents.  Our classes display a fusion of both Japanese and American cultures, to both pay respects to the traditional Japanese roots of our art, as well as acknowledge its evolution into what is now a truly American form of karate.  American freestyle karate is a living art that is constantly growing and evolving meet the challenges of the modern world.  It is a powerful tool for self-defense and complete exercise for the mind, body, and spirit for students of any age!


Class Procedures and Parent Information


Safety is our top priority! Always escort your child to and from class. Please drop off and pick up your child promptly! 

A quality student uniform is highly recommended for all class participants. Students without a uniform should wear their class t-shirt and workout pants. Students should never wear any jewelry or hats or chew gum in class! 


Dojo Safety Rules

"Dojo" is Japanese for classroom, and it is very important that our students have a safe karate experience in the dojo.  It is very important to adhere to the following rules for the safety of all students before, during, and after your karate class.

  • All students must be escorted to and from each class by a parent and checked in at the front table.  Under no circumstances should you drop of or pick up your child in the parking lot.
  • Please do not bring your child to class more than 15 minutes before your scheduled class time.  Parents must remain with their children and supervise them until the start of class.  We do not provide childcare.
  • Students are not allowed to run and play in the dojo before or after class. 

  • Do not be late to pick up your child!  No staff members will be available to supervise your child after class. 

  • Please make sure your child is appropriately dressed for class!  Students should wear their karate uniform or karate t-shirt with appropriate workout pants. 

  • Students should never wear hats or jewelry in class!  Watches, bracelets, necklaces, rings, and large/hanging earrings can be easily damaged during karate training and are also very dangerous to yourself and others when working on techniques with your instructor or a partner.

  • Students should never chew gum in class!  Parents, please make sure your child spits out their gum before the start of class.

These rules exist strictly for the safety of all students in our classes.  Parents, please be responsible for making sure you and your child have adhered to these rules when attending class.


Proper Dojo Etiquette

Practicing martial arts is an ancient tradition that is rich with culture and heavily values honor, respect, and harmony.  Here are some good tips to practice good etiquette in your dojo, or karate class room.

  • Your instructor is known as "Sensei," which means "teacher" in Japanese.  He or she should be referred to by that title unless they instruct you to call them something different.
  • Always refer to others in your dojo as "sir" and "ma'am."
  • When responding to a command or answering a question in the affirmative, always respond strongly with "Yes sir!" or "Yes ma'am!"  Never use "yes, yeah, uh huh," or anything else when responding to your instructor.
  • Always bow to the front of your dojo when entering or leaving the room.
  • Students should always take off their shoes and socks when entering the dojo.  Specialized martial arts shoes may only be worn with the permission of your instructor.
  • Students must have their instructor's permission to leave the dojo before the class has ended.
  • Always face your instructor when he or she is talking to you.  Do not practice techniques while your instructor is explaining them, rather wait til they are finished.  Your instructor will give you plenty of opportunity to practice.
  • Do not talk unnecessarily during class.  This includes when you are not currently practicing; students should always remain quiet, attentive, and ready.
  • Do not rush the count!  Especially when practicing waza (techniques) or kata (forms), students should follow their instructor's timing, and the class should move in unison.
  • Always perform techniques with speed, strength, and confidence when practicing in class and at home, even when no one else is watching.  The legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi once said, "You can only fight the way you practice."  Good karate takes hard work!  If you practice your techniques in a weak or lazy manner, your karate will be weak and lazy. 
  • Always be courteous and helpful to others in your dojo.  When we build each other up, we all become stronger.  Bullying will never be tolerated in the dojo.


Head Instructor: Sensei Jarrod Keesling

Sensei Jarrod Keesling has been training in martial arts since 1990 and has been teaching since 2000.  Sensei graduated with a degree in mathematics from Appalachian State University in 2004 and then moved to Charlotte, NC and began teaching martial arts full time.  He then founded American Elite Martial Arts and Community Martial Arts, non-profit organizations created to provide affordable high-quality martial arts classes to everyone who wants to learn.  Sensei has taught classes and seminars as well as competed in tournaments all around the Carolinas! 

Sensei Jarrod Keesling has the following certifications:

  • 4th degree Black Belt — American Freestyle Karate
  • 3rd degree Black Belt — Olympic Taekwondo
  • 1st degree Black Belt — Shito-ryu Karate
  • Level 2 Tricking Instructor under Professor Dan Perez
  • AEMA Certified Karate Tournament Official


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do kids enjoy karate?  Do they stick with it a while?

A: Kids have a blast here.  There's smiling and laughter throughout every class. We have our moments of intense concentration and focus... but we always balance things out with fun and games to keep everything alive and light!

Q: How old should my child be to start karate?

A: We recommend 5 years old as a minimum age for a child to start karate. Students must be mature enough that they can listen and focus on the instructor and follow along in a group class setting. 

Q: Do you teach adult classes?

A: Some of our class locations do offer teen and adult classes.  Please check out our Class Location page to see if your local class is one of them.  We often would like to offer more adult classes, but simply do not have enough adult interest in a particular location.  If you are interested in taking an adult class at a location that currently does not offer an adult class, please let us know!

Q: Is karate for boys AND girls? Or just boys?

A: Martial arts are for boys and girls. Our classes have a good mix of both, too. So if you're worried about your girl being alone in a group of boys, wipe that worry from your mind!

Q: How long are your classes offered?

A: Our classes run year-round.  We offer a spring, summer, and fall semester of classes, and each is about 4 months.  

Q: Are students required to wear uniforms?  How much are they?

A: A karate uniform, or gi, is highly recommended as it is the best attire for training martial arts.  However, students are not required to purchase a gi.  Students may wear their AEMA t-shirt with comfortable workout pants (no jeans) to class until they decide to purchase a gi.  For current gi prices, please check our Pro Shop.

Q: Do the students get belts?

A: Yes, students begin class as a white belt.  Their actual physical white belt will come with their gi when they purchase one.  Students will have an opportunity to test and earn more advanced karate belts at the end of each semester, and can work their way up to black belt and beyond through hard work and dedication.

Q: Are parents able to watch the classes?

A: Yes! We believe students benefit greatly when parents know what their kids are learning and can help them practice at home, so parents are always welcome to watch.

Q: Will karate make my child violent?

A: No way! Karate is a defensive martial art only, and students will learn to be able to defend themselves if attacked.  We do not teach aggression or "bullying."  Students will learn when it is appropriate to use their karate and when it is not.  In fact, martial arts often makes kids calmer and more respectful than ever.  Martial arts has always been about peace, and it always will be.

Q: Will my child get hurt?

A: There is always a risk of injury in any athletic activity, but karate is no more dangerous than any other sport!  Our beginner level classes are completely non-contact.  Sparring and other contact activities are available in higher level classes, but are always practiced in safe and controlled manners with proper safety equipment and expert supervision.

Q: Do the kids participate in any tournaments or special events?

A: We offer lots of opportunities for students to enrich themselves with many optional special events on the weekends, including tournaments, seminars with special guest instructors, martial arts clubs, and even themed parents’ night out evenings. These are always a blast!  Check out what's upcoming on our Events page.

Q: What happens if I miss a class?

A: Attendance in very important!  If you miss a class, you will need to make up that missed class by staying for two classes back to back another night.  Students who have not made up their missed classes will be unable to earn their next belt at the end of the semester.

Q: Why don't you offer a class in my town?

A: We would love to hold one there!  We are always looking to offer our program in more locations, but we need help scouting facilities to hold classes.  If you are part of a school, recreation center, church, business, or any other facility with a very large open space that we could use one evening each week for classes, please let us know!

Q: Are you hiring?

A: We are always looking for qualified instructors and occasionally for administrative and support staff.  All instructors and class staff must be able to pass a background check.  Please follow our Contact Us page to get more information on openings and to apply.