CSA: The Final Kiah

August 19, 2021

For the past 30 years Jen Lake (AKA Ms. Jen) and her and her father’s business, Comprehensive Survival Arts (CSA), have been a large part of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore. That is why it is with bittersweet sentiments that we inform you that Jen and her father, have decided to close CSA after this summer, to pursue a new career.

CSA was started in the 1970’s by Jen’s father, Douglas Lake, where it was initially located out of Doug’s basement. Over the years, Doug and Jen would travel to different schools and special events to teach martial arts.   In 1991, CSA began its’ partnership with the JCC by bringing their program to Camp Milldale, the JCC’s former offsite day camp. After a successful summer, the Lakes were invited to instruct classes at the Park Heights JCC Rosenbloom Owings Mill JCC, which would be, as Jen stated, the beginning of the “ride of a lifetime.”

CSA grew rapidly from one week of camp its first summer at the JCC to four weeks and then eight weeks in the following two years.  During its longest running summer, CSA karate camp ran for 13 weeks and have served thousands of campers. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, CSA offered classes during the school year at the JCC and at over nine locations around Baltimore, simultaneously running 40 classes and reaching over 1,000 students each week. 


Impact CSA has had on Students 

CSA’s mission was to nurture every student according to their individual needs, providing tools for life while also training students in martial arts. The focus was never about the number of black belts earned, it was about building confidence, making friends and memories, and staying active; “We weren’t trying to make little warriors, we were trying to help make good people.” Explains Jen. CSA provided a safe and comfortable place for children and adults alike.   


“Looking back, what kept me with CSA for over 18 years was never the martial arts, rather it was the unconditional support that was given to me by Jen, the first friends I had ever made, and an atmosphere that encouraged individualized growth for everyone that walked through the doors and bowed in each class. It never mattered if mistakes were made because failure is part of growth.” – Nadav K.

CSA was especially beneficial for kids who needed help working on focus and concentration by providing them with a healthy outlet.  “My mother enrolled me in classes at CSA when I was only 4 years old, and it was one of the greatest things she could have ever done for me. Not only did I forge some of my closest friendships, but at CSA I developed the focus, confidence, and skills that helped me succeed in school, in my career, and in my everyday life. I would not be who I am today without Jen, Doug, and my whole CSA family.” Dr. Mark M.

At the age of 15, Jen started her journey with the JCC. In addition to running Karate classes and camp, Jen always offered a helping hand whenever she could. Throughout her tenure at the J, Jen helped with running children’s leagues, teaching Baby & Me classes and was actively involved with the annual Community Block Party and other events. While CSA remained independent from the JCC, Jen was very much a part of the JCC team.  “Jen and CSA have always been a core part of the JCC. She has served as a mentor and visionary for me and others. She has always been able to see the bigger picture.” Says Paul Lurie, JCC COO. “For a lot of my career, I have looked up to Jen as a role model for the ways she handles herself, especially her maturity and calmness.


So what will Jen do next with all of her valuable professional skills, you ask?

Jen is currently in school working towards her dream degree in of Human Service Counseling. She has successfully completed her first year, making the Dean’s list, with a 4.0 GPA – none of us are surprised by that!  While martial arts have been near and dear to her, Jen’s passion is helping people. It’s Jen’s hope and goal to work with children and families in a school or hospital setting.  

We can’t say enough great things about Jen and wish her all the best. If you would like to reach out to her to offer you best wishes you can email her at lakecsa2@gmail.com.


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