As a traditional Okinawan karate school, East Valley Martial Arts promotes time-honored values. These are the standards that any sensible and loving great-grandmother would have wished her offspring to learn. These principles would help her progeny to take control of living their own best lives. You don’t have to use words like “progeny” to be able to learn to use traditional values, though. They are accessible to just about everyone.
THE DOJO KUN’S TRADITIONAL VALUES
When you enter our dojo, you can see the values that we hold dear posted front and center in the training area. Just look for the title Dojo Kun: we have it in English, and in its more original version in Japanese as well. It is important to know that we don’t just put the Dojo Kun up for decoration.
VALUES TO PUT INTO ACTION
We recite these values of the Dojo Kun regularly in classes and ceremonies. New students are required to memorize them. We discuss actions that use these principles of good moral character, honesty, perseverance, respect and restraint. We give our youngest students examples of using them in class.
#1 STRIVE FOR A GOOD MORAL CHARACTER
Remember that great-grandmother with common sense? She would have wanted her grandchildren to try hard to be good people. Our training at East Valley Martial Arts requires us to consistently work on moral character. That doesn’t mean we are perfect. But we are obligated to consider our moral responsibilities, and we are compelled to be willing to improve and gauge our actions based on the values of the Dojo Kun.
#2 KEEP AN HONEST AND SINCERE WAY
Another one of our duties is to guard and keep on a path of truth. That includes being honest with ourselves and others, as well as sincerity. Our perceptions may be muddied, but truth doesn’t change. It just is, whether we like it or not. Whether truth is believed or not, it is still absolute. If we have a strong base of values, that can help us to see the path of truth, and therefore stay on that path.
#3 CULTIVATE PERSEVERANCE OR A WILL FOR STRIVING
The value of perseverance dictates that we are duty-bound to keep going despite difficulties. A student’s most difficult task could be getting out of bed in the morning, or executing 1,000 push-ups. Each one of us must strive to overcome obstacles that threaten to keep us from living our best, healthiest life. Long-term practitioners learn that the magic in perseverance is in the daily actions applied over time. Those regular decisions, though small, make a huge impact.
#4 DEVELOP A RESPECTFUL ATTITUDE
In our great-grandparents’ time, the family unit as well at the larger community expected and upheld the value of respect. Generally, society expected a level of deference and regard for others just because they were humans. Both old and young generally used that tradition. Today, our dojo is one of those remaining institutions where respect is expected and upheld by old and young, by everyone involved.
#5 RESTRAIN MY PHYSICAL ABILITIES THROUGH SPIRITUAL ATTAINMENT
Anyone who teaches skills that can hurt others has the moral responsibility to also teach self-control. Otherwise they may “create a monster” and put undue harm into the world. Many times, simply remembering this Dojo Kun and knowing your instructor expects you to follow it is enough for hotheads to cool off. If that doesn’t work, this Dojo Kun instructs the practitioner to focus on their spiritual source. For most, that is through religion. As a dojo, we don’t prescribe any particular religion, nor should this value of spirituality over physicality conflict with one’s religion. Instead, it encourages each student in their spiritual path.
OUR DUTY TO UPHOLD TRADITIONAL VALUES
Many of our young students are still forming life-long values. The Dojo Kun can be a compass with which to measure life’s pursuits and problems. Parents of child students appreciate the reinforcement of these values taught at home. This compass is also appreciated by adult students – we all could use help and support in walking the path for a good life.
PERFECT AT USING VALUES?
As traditional karate instructors, we sometimes see ourselves or our students straying from these values. Then it is our job to notice or point it out and to reinforce that we need to be willing to put these essential standards into action. We are all human and we all make mistakes and step off the path. You do not have to be perfect to do well at our dojo. But it is vital that you are willing to follow, protect, support and promote the traditional values in the Dojo Kun, and that you show this in your actions. Not only will your great-grandmother be proud, but you will have the benefit of improving your life.
By Jenifer Tull-Gauger