Dojo - Karate Kawartha Lakes
On November 9, 2015 Karate Kawartha Lakes held the first class in the new Lindsay dojo. The space was filled with energy and excitement from instructors, students, and even the parents. As people entered, they seemed pleased with the look of the new dojo. An accomplishment to be credited to all the volunteer members that spent long hours into the nights and on their weekends to transform the space into one of the nicest I have had the pleasure to teach in. It is certainly very special and precious to see a group so dedicated to each other, and the wonderful result that can be produced through that dedication. The Karate Kawartha Lakes group, and I both give the most sincere thank you to each and every one of you.
After the classes I started to reflect about our group and how it has developed over the past years into the dojo we have today. That is a word that is used often, yet I believe more often than not it’s meaning is rarely understood by most.
The word “Dojo” literally translates to “Place of the Way”. This leads to the very common definition; the place where people go to learn and to train together in “their way”. People who go to a karate dojo would learn and train in “the way of karate”, someone who attends a Ju-Jitsu dojo would train in “the way of ju-jitsu”. Although this is a very literal and accurate definition of the “place” itself, the meaning in the word dojo is much more, and is inclusive of the space, the people, the atmosphere and more.
A dojo is more than just a learning space. If we compare it to a school classroom for example, where people learn a wide variety of things through reading, note taking or listening to lectures and lessons it is evident that it is very different. It is hard to explain exactly what the difference is, but it is obvious and evident to all who have attended a dojo that there is a substantial difference. That difference is in the further meaning of the word “dojo”. It is the difference between an environment focused on academic knowledge and an environment focused on embodied knowledge. In a dojo, students do not simply learn and become informed. They practice what is taught, and over time they begin to embody and eventually become a living example of the curriculum. This concept is captured in the Samurai Maximum -- "A man who has attained mastery of an art reveals it in his every action."
In an article written about Aikido by Dan Prager, he talks about a time his instructor told him “Jiri Shin Kore Dojo”, which translates to “Your Mind as it is, is the place of training”. His meaning, that the dojo is a common spirit
– the qualities regarded as forming the definitive elements in the character of a person, nation, or group or in the thought and attitudes of a particular period.
The dojo lives inside each student. It exists in their words, thought, emotions and actions.
A dojo exists because of the meaning that the members give it.
A dojo is not a place that can be owned, taken or lost. It is not a time that can begin and end. The dojo is where, what and when we declare it to be with our effort and determination.
Above the door on our dojo wall we have written:
“The duration of a contest is only a few minutes, while the training for it may take months of arduous work and continuous exercise of self effort. The real value is not in winning, or found in the limelight of the applause, but in the hours of dogged determination and self-discipline carried out alone, imposed and supervised by an exact conscience.
The applause die away.
The victory is left behind.
The character you build is yours forever.”
This phrase embodies the difference in what is gained in dojo learning as opposed to classroom learning. The hours of the self effort and determined self discipline that is spent in the dojo, alone or with others will develop a special relationship with the art you practice, the other members of the dojo who you practice with, and with the space itself. Eventually, the dojo space will become a peaceful and safe sanctuary, where the concerns and stresses you face in the world outside are unable to exist. They get left at the door, and that space, and those people, and the training gives freely and unending to your well being as a kind of dividend on the spirit that you have invested into the dojo.
Thank you, each and every member, present and past for investing that spirit into our dojo. You may not have been aware of the difference you were making, or the profound impact it might have on those around you, yet the fact remains that by your effort, our dojo is and will continue to be the “place of the way” for you, for us and for me.
Sensei Kris Reynolds