Terms like “dojo,” “dojo t-shirts,” “dojo family” and “dojo mates” become familiar to newcomers the more they’re used. It took my mother-in-law a very long time to become familiar with the word “dojo.” Technically it means “place of the way” and we often think of a place when we hear “dojo.”
Our founder, Michael Newland Renshi, opened our dojo about 18 years ago when he started teaching karate in World Gym. The number of students went up so much they outgrew the gym and moved into a location on Baseline next to Barro’s Pizza. Gauger Shihan and I started karate there in a dojo that was a bit smaller than our current one, with a blue mat with a padded post right in the center. That was at the height of growth for the dojo with over 100 students.
The dojo fell upon hard times, attendance dropped, and we ended up moving back to World Gym. It was like moving from a nice house into an apartment; not that enjoyable. But this was a great lesson for Gauger Shihan and me. We learned what a dojo is really all about. It’s not about a place with a nice mat. It’s about people – supporting each other, being there for each other, working together as a group for the common good of all, and training together. You can have the nicest location in the world, but if nobody’s training there, it’s no good. You can have just a patch of dirt and, with the right people, have an awesome dojo.
Newland Renshi handed the dojo over to us in 2002 in order to find balance in his life. In autumn 2004 World Gym closed unexpectedly and Gauger Shihan and I stood up to the challenge of finding a new location. We held classes at Val Vista Lakes’ Clubhouse for a week or so, then at DancEnergy dance studio for a few months before opening a new location on Baseline. It was like moving from an apartment to a nice house. (Many of you were there, you know.) I remember a young student asking me, when he went to his first class at that location, how long we would be there. I told him it would be for a lot longer than we were in DancEnergy. It turned out that we were there for a little over seven years. In April of 2012 we were happy to move into a new, more workable location.
As martial artists we are constantly working toward improvement. So we know when change comes, it is a good thing because even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time, it is opening up new avenues of improvement. Gauger Shihan and I assure newer students that in uncertain times as well as easy times we are committed to continuing to work with you and teaching karate. Long-term students already know this because they have seen us do this through thick and thin, and they have been there beside us working, training and supporting the dojo. Thank you. We aim to continue offering to the community traditional martial arts as an avenue to life improvements – and that’s for the long haul.