In Japan, the art is called "Karate-do", which means "empty hand way". Tae Kwon Do, which is Korean, translates into "kicking and punching way". The word "do" means more than a way of doing physical things, it means a "way of life". Those martial arts that use the suffix "do" generally teach that the way a person lives is important to their martial art development. The art is for more than self-defense or sport; it’s a way to achieve improvement of the individual and the surrounding world. While we drop the suffix "do" from karate, we don't drop the concept that goes with it.
We can do a great deal to help our students improve in class, but the world won't change until people get out of the gym and into the community. To encourage that, we require our students to perform community service for testing to all but the first belt ranks.
Community involvement or volunteer service is work done for a non-profit group or for someone who cannot do the work themselves. While it’s impossible to list everything that qualifies for community service, we have had students:
Helping out family members is expected, and does not qualify as community service. Helping people in the community who can do things for themselves or those who can afford to pay others is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t fulfill the community service requirement.
Sometimes people insist on paying for what is done, even though they cannot really afford it. Those payments can be donated, in their name, to a charity to keep the service qualifying as "community service".
Many students do their service because they enjoy it; others find that they enjoyed doing it after the fact. This work does require that the student put the needs of another before their own needs. It doesn't mean they shouldn't get any personal satisfaction out of the experience.
The best way to handle the community service requirement is to get started on the community service project soon after getting a new belt, rather than leaving it as a last-minute thing to try to get done after the testing list has been posted. We don't waive the community service requirement.