By Jenifer Tull-Gauger
I like to say that the people make the dojo, or the dojo is the people (who are working together). Welcome to the concept of Dojo Family! When you are part of an organization, it is important to know why that group exists, and to know your own role in it.
So, for the first question: What is a dojo? Dojo literally means a place of “the way.” It is a training school or area to learn a life path. My dojo, East Valley Martial Arts – Kenshin Kan is a traditional karate school. Our dojo promotes traditional values, as found in the Dojo Kun. It also focuses on positive attitude and on preserving and promoting the traditional culture of Okinawa. Our intent is for the dojo to be a safe, supportive environment where karate practitioners may learn, and work on attaining their goals and bettering their own lives.
To answer the second question: Why am I here? -Why are you here? – Why are we here? Our dojo is overseen by two head instructors. We are also lucky enough to have a Sempai, a second-in-command, assisting the head instructors, and helping the other instructors and the students to stay on track with the overall path of the dojo and their own training. The other Shihans, Senseis and Shidoshas (various levels of black belts) also help teach and mentor students on their karate path.
Each student has an important role at the dojo. At brown belt it is required for a student to start giving back to traditional karate by helping to teach. Intermediate students are charged with soaking up as much knowledge as they can and training hard while setting a good example for beginning students. Beginner ranks are the future of the dojo, and represent its growth. They are also expected to soak up the knowledge, and to ask questions freely. All adult students’ dues help pay bills.
Parents of minor (and many young adult) karate students are an important support system, not only for their children, but for the dojo as a whole. They help finance dojo expenses by paying dues regularly. They support the dojo by supporting their karate kid(s) and by getting them to class. Most are also able to give extra support over the years by participating in dojo events and by volunteering their time and talents.
Family—spouses and kids—of students are also important to the dojo. The longer a karate practitioner trains in the martial arts, the better they will be able to improve their own life. Moral support from our close family is crucial, and so is their help in promoting our endeavors. A few encouraging words from extended family and friends will also go a long way and can help a karate student during the more difficult times.
So overall, we are involved with a dojo to help karate practitioners train, learn, work toward their goals, and improve their own lives. We are also here to create a supportive environment, and to give our time and talents wherever they may be needed to help the dojo be successful. We are here to promote traditional Okinawan karate, which has been a great vehicle for us and many in our community to improve our lives.