We once had a guest from India visit our dojo. He was here for work and said that stopping in and watching a class was the best part of his U. S. trip. He is probably the person who has come to us from the farthest away. We had guests from Finland who said they enjoyed coming to the dojo and seeing what we do. And a couple Alliance black belts from New Zealand have made the long flight and joined us for classes while they were in the U. S.
Dojo is a Japanese word, literally meaning “place of the way.” Do is the way or path and jo is the ground or place. It most commonly references a place where people learn the path of Japanese martial arts. Some Zen Buddhists use the word dojo for their meditation hall, and the literal translation works here too. I think it is appropriate that the karate training place has a special word because it is more than a school, meeting hall or rec center.
INSIDE DOJO WALLS
When you enter our dojo, you will see a welcoming foyer. Don’t let the clanging wind chime overhead startle you. Think of the sound as the dojo greeting you. The chimes help with good feng shui as well as alerting us that someone is entering or exiting the premises. Lucky bamboo near the door ushers in the good energy along with you. You may notice: banners that announce the values we promote; certificates for our black belts; and the dojo name, Ken Shin Kan, on an engraving above the second entryway. The second area is a little overflow training area that is more often used by dojo family members waiting for someone in class. There are outlets for charging your phone, chairs to relax in and a toy box under a kids’ table for younger family members to happily pass the time.
After that, you enter the largest room of the suite, the mat room. The front has tile with more chairs, shelves, and some organized training gear. The mat starts a few feet in front of that, and covers nearly the entire huge room. Hopefully you notice a “No Shoes on the Mat” sign before setting out into the training area. This rule helps us keep the area we workout on barefooted and bare-handed, clean. Removing shoes before walking here also shows respect for the place, the owners, the students and everyone who trains in the art. Along the back side of the mat you can see heavy bags, large targets, exercise equipment, and shelves with more training equipment.
A DOJO IS NOT A PLACE
Despite all that, I assert that a dojo is not a place. A dojo is nothing without the people who frequent it. If you come during a class, we may not be right there greeting you, but come on back, make your way to the mat room and check it out. In the middle room, you’ll see a karate parent or two who will be happy to give you a schedule and tell you about their kid’s classes while their younger one plays with the toys.
Feel free to sit on the sidelines in the mat room and watch the progression of class. You’ll see a variety of belt ranks and all ages, from six through adult, training on the mat. Teachers and some of the advanced students help lower, younger ranks to learn and stay busy, making the most of their class time. Students get a workout without even thinking about it because they are having fun and learning new skills at the same time. A high-ranking instructor oversees it all, putting their many years of training and leading to good use. As soon as we get a chance, a black belt will want to meet you and answer any questions you may have. We will ask you questions too…
Are you interested in starting karate? I was only mildly interested when I gave it a try. Karate hooked me on day one and has impacted my life in a huge, positive way. Do you have an interested family member? Great – their potential to go far is enormous. And if you are both thinking about training, we highly encourage it! We have family member discounts and training together will help you both as well as create a special bond over time. Only your kid wants to do karate? That’s perfectly fine. Starting as a child builds brain pathways that will help them as adults to have self-accountability skills, self-defense ability and a moral compass. Not to mention ease in learning martial arts, dance, and other physical skills throughout life.
No kids – you’re interested in adult classes? We’ll gladly take you into our dojo family. As a traditional Okinawan dojo, kids are welcome in nearly all classes and activities. So if you have a problem with children, sorry, this is not the place for you. But our “oldest student success story” is of a man who started with us in his 50’s. He was a solo karate practitioner who earned his black belt at 60 years old. He supported the dojo and continued on to become a sensei before retiring and moving away. We count him as a close friend.
I hope you have enjoyed this peek into our dojo. Maybe you even learned something new in your “virtual” tour. If you’d like to stop by in person around class times, feel free to give me a call. If you’ve been here and done this, thanks for stopping by again with me today. Take care and sayonara until we meet again.
By Jenifer Tull-Gauger