"Enlightenment means taking full responsibility for your life."
It is very lonely in the ring. Your coach walks you out to the center of the ring, then leaves you there along. The only other people left is a guy who wants to do you harm and hopefully a good referee. All that you are is now standing necked for the world to see. There is no one to blame and no one to ask for help. You are forced to take responsibility for you self.
In the dojo you should learn to do the same thing. Just as the competitor must learn to take responsibility in a solo endeavor so must the student learn that it is he who is mastering himself. It really is not a bunch of mumbo jumbo. The mind learns first and teaches the body. The spirit becomes developed as the confidence grows.
When you test for a rank, you either know the material or you do not. The beautiful thing about karate is the test is an "open book" test. Everything on it is something you have trained for. The responsibility to do as well as you can is yours. The higher the rank the higher the expectations. A brown or black belt test can be long and grueling. If you think of the whole thing it can become overwhelming. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Just do each small thing as well as you can.
My sensei once told me when I made a comment about someone else's performance that you will have some students that make all "A's" and some that make "C's". He continued that different people may make A's in one area and C's in another. So you have some students making A's and some making C's. The question is only; are they a black belt?
"Self-Improvement is the name of the game, and your primary objective is to strengthen yourself, not to destroy an opponent." - Maxwell Maltz
As a young stud and martial artist and a black belt to prove it I stopped the bulling by standing up to my aggressor and proving a point. I competed in the blood and guts era of karate and somewhat lost my fear of conflict. I started to embrace it. But along the way I started to find that most conflict could just be walked away from. Since I was not fearful, my pride was not challenged. It was becoming easier and easier to find another way. Developing body, mind and spirit is very real and it is up to you to take responsibility for your life.
The big payoff is that the skills you learn in the dojo start to show up in other parts of your life. With your life partner, with your finances. Maybe making your bed first is really the starting point of a responsible day.
Very few people will ever take martial arts. It is very much a spiritual journey beyond your ego. Most people are unwilling to disconnect their attachments to the physical world and their comfort zone long enough to make a life-changing journey. It really does change who you are and many people reading this may say I am happy with who I am. I think it was Henry Ford who said "If you always do what you have always done you will always get what you have always gotten." You can be happy and still work on personal development. They are not exclusive to each other.
Author: Bret Gordon
Especially in the American martial arts community, the word dojo has become synonymous with martial arts school. However, there is so much more to the meaning of a dojo than just a place to practice martial arts. In this article, we're going to explore the etymology of the word dojo, it's true meaning, and why it is not applicable for all martial arts schools.
Dojo is made up of two characters, 道場. The first character, Do, translates as "The Way" and holds a spiritual connotation. "The Way" specifically refers to the path to enlightenment. The second character, Jo, means "place." So a dojo is literally a "place to practice the Way." It is a hall to study the path to enlightenment, a place of spiritual cultivation and an institution of higher learning. The word dojo is not confined to martial arts training, and can be extended to any of the -do forms of Japanese arts, such as shodo (calligraphy). In fact, it is even used in Zen Buddhism to describe the meditation halls where they practice zazen.
In actuality, what most people consider to be a dojo is really a keikojo 稽古場. Keiko literally means "practice," and refers to physical training. Keikojo is the most appropriate term for a martial arts school that does not engage in any spiritual development, that is purely focused on physical training without the trappings or rituals of a traditional art (what some may call a "gym" or "club").
So now that we've defined what the terms dojo and keikojo are, let's go a little more in depth.
Let me clarify that there is nothing wrong with being either a keikojo or a dojo. The beautiful thing about martial arts is that there is something for everyone. One of the very first things I learned in martial arts when I was a child was that "you're on your own journey," and just because someone follows a different path does not make them right or wrong, superior or inferior.
When determining whether or not you have a keikojo or dojo, there are certain things you must look at, not the least of which is why you're there in the first place. Are your training goals purely physical or are you seeking something more? Does your training involve meditation or other methods of spiritual development? Do you study the history of the art you train in, or just the physical techniques? Does the word Budo carry any significance in your training?
To be a keikojo or dojo has absolutely nothing to do with the type of place you train in. It can be a garage, a back yard, a local park, a storefront, a warehouse or its own building. Don't get caught up with the state-of-the-art facilities or the schools that look like an Asian temple. The aesthetics are inconsequential. What matters in determining what you are part of is the training and the people themselves. Are you practicing the art or studying it? Are you a member or are you a student?
What makes a dojo is the commitment to higher learning. First and foremost, a martial art should be martial at its core but that doesn't mean you train purely for "the street" while neglecting everything else it means to study Budo. The connection between spirit, mind and body is not just a marketing slogan. It is meant to represent the unity and cohesion of being we develop through the study of Budo. There should be some form of spiritual development (training the spirit). There should be a study of history, understanding where your art comes from, and an intellectual study of the art itself (training the mind). Remember, in a dojo you are a student of the art, not just a practitioner. If you are training only the body, you are in a keikojo.
But in addition to the content of the training, a dojo is defined by the people, especially the teacher. In a good dojo, the teacher can be either a competent technician or world class encyclopedia of the art. In a great dojo, however, the teacher is more of a senior student. They recognize that the study of Budo is lifelong and do not place themselves on a pedestal above their students. Understanding hierarchy, customs and respect is essential, however the teacher should never be above learning themselves. They find excitement in polishing and refining their own skills. They lead the school through the journey of Budo, rather than standing up front and barking orders.
Next comes the students. In a dojo, the students care for the school. They show up early or stay after to make sure it's clean and ready for training. They take care of each other, and take care of the teacher. When they go out, the teacher should never have to reach for their wallet. It is an honor to pay for one's teacher. The students and teachers of a dojo make up a family, and should function as such. It is not uncommon for students, especially higher ranking students, to stay after training and socialize providing that everyone still understands the separation between teacher and student. It should be noted that once that line is blurred, the dojo will suffer.
During the training itself, all students are appreciated for the value they bring to the school. They are treasured for the experiences and knowledge they share in their training. While there should be a strict hierarchy observed between teachers, senior students and junior students, respect is mutual and never forced. This respect comes from the trust and care that develops between the students, not just in physical technique but that you trust each other enough to pull each other aside and talk about potential problems or what's troubling you outside of the dojo, without fear of judgement or ridicule. A dojo is a support network. More than anything else, the people make the dojo.
So to reiterate, if you are in a dojo you are training the spirit and the mind as well as the body. You are taking an intellectual look at the art, studying its intricacies and exploring its depths. You are embodying everything the art has to offer, including the culture and traditions of its origins, even the language. You are studying Budo, which I personally translate as the "path to enlightenment through the study of combat." Essentially, by studying war and combat, you are hardening the spirit to withstand and transcend the worst of human interaction, ultimately leading you to seek a higher level of peace and compassion (to read more about Budo, please click here).
If all you're doing is training the body, you are in a keikojo and there's nothing wrong with that. We all have our own goals and at the end of the day, you're on your own journey.
P.S. For my Korean martial arts readers, a dojo would be dojang and keikojo would be jaeyoekkwan