Commitment & Martial Arts

by Jenifer Tull-Gauger Shihan, 4th Dan

It seems that today’s society holds little value for commitment. People get a cute puppy only to abandon it when it grows up. It is common for people to change jobs every two years. Who can blame them? Most companies are not willing to make any commitment to an employee until they’ve served at least a 90-day probation and even then, employees are routinely downsized and may not even get a minimal two-weeks notice.

On the other hand, when a person follows through on a commitment it can be inspiring. Think of a child raised by parents to successfully complete high school and move on to bigger things. It is awe-inspiring when a couple celebrates their 50-year wedding anniversary, or when a person like Mother Teresa dedicates their life to service.

In December of 2002 when Newland Renshi handed the East Valley Martial Arts dojo over to us, Gauger Shihan and I made a commitment to keep it going by taking over our dojo in World Gym. We did this because we knew how being a part of the dojo had exponentially improved our lives. We wanted our 60 dojo family members to have a continuing support system dedicated to their success, as well as give future students a way to better their lives too.

When World Gym closed on short notice, local gyms showed little or no interest in housing our dojo. Gauger Shihan and I stood by our commitment to keeping the dojo going.  Our dedication was evidenced by us taking a loan against our house to buy the outside sign, the mat we train on and otherwise create the dojo you see today as East Valley Martial Arts Kenshin Kan. We don’t expect all of our students to give the dojo the same level of commitment, but we do expect some commitment from them.

We expect each student and their parents to be honest with us and to let us know where they see room for dojo improvement. We expect each student to constantly work on doing their best. When it comes to training agreements, the student (or parent) chooses their time commitment.

If your training agreement is one year paid in full, we expect you to train for that year. If you commit to a one-year term but pay by the month, we still expect you to train for that year, and we expect you to pay dues each month as agreed. We base our dojo’s financial commitments on that income. If you choose the monthly agreement with 30-days notice to cancel or change, we expect you to pay those dues each month. If you wish to cancel, suspend or otherwise change this short-term agreement, we have always been clear about asking for 30-days notice to put this in force.   

Students pay not for attending a certain number of classes, but to support a program which in turn gives them constant support, encouragement and life tools in a top-notch facility. If one or more students take off for a month, the dojo’s rent, insurance, loans payable and electric bills do not go down for that month. We have constant financial commitments on the dojo’s behalf. One student’s monthly tuition makes the difference between my family eating peanut butter and jelly for a few weeks or having a variety of vegetables and proteins. If a student gives us 30-days notice, we can at least plan ahead, conserve and stock up on spaghetti.  It is important to us that our dojo family follows through on their commitments to us, even ones as short as 30 days.

We expect a higher level of commitment from our black belts (yudansha). We have put in years of work, care and commitment with these students. Black belts are commissioned to continue and uphold our art. They are officially adopted members of the dojo family. They are forever an integral part of the dojo, whether they realize it or not.

Traditional Martial Artists take their commitments seriously. Even if they just say they will do something, they are giving their word and that thing should be as good as done. That is part of sincerity (makoto) and often takes good moral character and perseverance. It’s worth all that work and more when it comes to serving your dojo family. In the words of “Socrates” in Peaceful Warrior “This is a service station…there is no higher purpose than serving others.”

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