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The Dojo, what is it to you?

The Dojo, what is it to you?

Caveat: Please make note that this article/post is my personal analysis of the subject and the information used was chosen or picked by me. It is not an analysis piece because it lacks complete and comprehensive research, it was not adequately and completely investigated and it is not balanced, i.e., it is my personal view without the views of others including subject experts, etc. Look at this as “Infotainment rather then expert research.” This is an opinion/editorial article/post meant to persuade the reader to think, decide and accept or reject my premise. It is an attempt to cause change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs and values as they apply to martial arts and/or self-defense. It is merely a commentary on the subject in the particular article presented.

This article is mine and mine alone. I the author of this article assure you, the reader, that any of the opinions expressed here are my own and are a result of the way in which my meandering mind interprets a particular situation and/or concept. The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of other martial arts and/or conflict/violence professionals or authors of source materials. It should be quite obvious that the sources I used herein have not approved, endorsed, embraced, friended, liked, tweeted or authorized this article. (Everything I think and write is true, within the limits of my knowledge and understanding. Oh, and just because I wrote it and just because it sounds reasonable and just because it makes sense, does not mean it is true.)

This morning a Mr. Mike Kleiman asked some decent questions in his effort to learn about dojo and to write up a paper on the subject. I applaud this effort because simply that is how I learn and encode such knowledge in my old gray cells. Here are the questions with my answers directly following each:

1. What is a dojo to you? Simply a training hall where we train and practice. I know that there is a Japanese culturally driven formal dojo with special and significant configurations but when we speak of Okinawan training that occurred mostly outdoors and in places like the Sensei’s home/yard, etc. The Okinawans adopted a lot of the Japanese martial cultural and environmental type processes and procedures so they pretty much are Japanese martial arts now with roots in the indigenous disciplines of pre-1900’s.

If you are training to fight and defend, a combative type system, then it is important to take the training into environmentally challenging locations to gain a bit of reality. That would then indicate that my idea of a dojo is more a mind-set/mind-state than a place. Therefore the dojo is your car, your home, your work and everywhere in between.

If you are training for a traditional feel that helps you connect, physically and philosophically, to the ancient practices then creating and adapting those proverbial traditional trimmings and symbolic trappings of that form of dojo may be the way you go. They are all training halls and what is trained there provides the distinctions as to what, why and how that dojo is created, etc.

2. What makes a dojo a good dojo or bad dojo? The people with the Sensei setting the tone, the rhythm, the cadence and its philosophy. Bad and good are relevant according to who created the dojo, how they run it, what they teach and its connections to either traditional, classical or modern philosophical traits, etc.

3. Some believe a dojo can be your garage or backyard so is it possible for someone to practice karate somewhere that is not called a dojo? This question is inaccurate for to define the dojo is to call it what it is, a training hall. The perception of the traditional Japanese dojo may seem to be the defacto perception and assumption of the “Dojo,” but that is as I said, inaccurate. Yes, a dojo, a training hall, can be anywhere, anytime and with anyone. It is about what is taught because to train and teach the combative martial system of a traditional nature can use the term dojo while all others are actually a physical endeavor distinguished by the essence of its teachings, i.e., sport, combative, fighting, self-defense, etc., and that being said all of them except the one are trained in a training hall, i.e., what we Americans call the “Gym.” 

4. What happens in a dojo that doesn’t happen in other learning facilities i.e. why not call it a karate classroom – what makes it a dojo? I alluded to this answer a bit in the last set of answers, i.e., it is more about the philosophy and essence of what is taught under the heading of martial art, martial discipline, martial system, etc., where a more traditional form uses terminology such as dojo while the others may or may not use terms as dictated by the person running the training facility. Remember, the term “Dojo” is not just a martial art term just like “Sensei” is not exclusive and indicative of martial arts training and dojo because all of that comes from the entire Japanese culture, i.e., the shi-kata of the culture derived from influences of the feudal era, etc. We are assuming since we were introduced and exposed to such terms in the Dojo through martial arts that those terms are martial and that is inaccurate. 

5. I used to train in a fight club and we called our training hall a dojo. The students there would argue tooth-and-nail that it is a dojo but, philosophically speaking, do fight clubs have dojos or is that term reserved for traditional training?  See the answer to 4 above. A dojo is a club is a training hall is whatever you want to use it for, even training in the gym could be referred to as training in a dojo. I would say that the term is not appropriate for all those other venues but it would not be incorrect, especially as used in its home, Japan. 

6. Karateka train in dojos but do all martial arts have something similar? Yes, the Korean’s call it the Dojang, etc. I can’t remember the term for a Chinese Kung Fu training facility but all of them tend to describe a place where one trains and that training, to be a bit more accurate, is NOT exclusive to martial arts, karate, kobudo, judo, Aikido, etc.

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