In my very first karate class, we all sat on our knees with our legs folded under us. Our hands on our knees and back straight. Sensei Takahata, our instructor, had each of us read out loud one of the 10 rules of the dojo. Each rule was on a large piece of poster board at the front of the classroom under the mirrors lining the wall we were facing.
This was repeated at the beginning of every class. They were written by my teacher’s Sensei, the Okinawan Master Seikichi Toguchi, years before. They were posted and memorized by thousands of students at many schools for decades.
Still today all of my students recite these basic rules of how to behave in class and study martial arts. They are also a good guide to live life by too.
1. Harmonize Body, Mind, and Spirit
Of course, the body is what we walk around in. Some 50 trillion cells. All organized into what we call our body. Hopefully, it is healthy and active.
Through our mind, we perceive and process our environment, what we can learn, what we know, who we become.
Our spirit is immortal and connects us to a greater belief than just our existence in this time and space.
To harmonize body, mind, and spirit means that if we are lacking or hurting in one area, the other two are affected too. Take care of your body. Embrace the opportunity to learn. Develop the spirit through prayer and meditation.
The ancient text tells us that fasting energizes the body. It can make the mind sharp and connects our spirit to something greater than ourselves.
"The mind is everything. What you think you become." – Buddha. James Allen wrote in 1903 about the power of the mind. In his book, As a Man Thinketh.
2. Be Sincere in Your Learning.
What you learn and are taught can seem non-essential at times. Pieces fall into place as you accumulate information. Therefore, be sincere in your study. Look for truth in what you learn. Do so without hypocrisy or embellishment. There is no room for exaggeration. Put real effort into your training. Get from the class, not through the class.
3. Help one another learn the techniques.
Joe Lewis, the great martial arts fighter, once told me that, "The better I can make my partner, the better I will become." He considered himself a learner and subject to improvement.
As we work together to improve, all of us improve. All of us have a better partner to work with. Don't be jealous of your training partners when they improve. Be happy for them and celebrate with them.
4. Do not criticize.
Many times, we tend to judge others poorly. We think they should be doing this better than they are. No amount of criticizing others will make us any better. Each individual progresses at their own rate. Our focus should be on self-improvement, and not criticizing the other guy. In class, the instructor is the critic. He or she will decide when help or correction is necessary. Everyone wants to do things correctly. The sincere student often self corrects as understanding is gained.
5. Be Courteous in mind and heart. Respect the teacher who taught you and be grateful.
Being polite and having manners should come from a place of spirit. Not because it is required to bow or say thank you for working with me. It should be a sincere feeling that you want to be nice. To be successful, your manners are important. Disrespecting teachers can seem to sometimes be cool to some people. Now respecting the teacher who taught you and being grateful is one of the reasons teachers teach. You may move on and become a bigger success than your teacher. Remember, they were there for you at the time you needed them. Be respectful and grateful.
6. Do not become conceited: If you do, your progress will stop.
Once you start to become conceited and, overconfident progress stops. I have trained very successful people who decided they knew it all. They left, and all of a sudden, they started losing fights. It is not just in fighting but in all aspects. When you start believing your own publicity, you become doomed. Conceit blinds you from the truth and, therefore, improvement. A conceited mind breaks the harmony of the body, developing new skills, and the spirit being congruent with the mind.
7. Cultivate wisdom-right is right, and wrong is wrong.
Wisdom comes from experience, knowledge, and good judgment. One may not believe the whole world should be a dichotomy. Indeed, there are shades of gray in many situations. In the dojo, there is a right way. There may be more than one right way. It stands to reason that if there is a right way, there is a wrong way. Our values and principles determine what is right and what is wrong. Cultivate the wisdom ahead of time to make the determination.
8. Treat a person with respect, and you will gain respect.
In the dojo, there are many students at many levels of success; outside the school, students work as Doctors, Lawyers, Military of all ranks, and folks in the trades. On the mat, we leave all our titles at the door. We are equal as students. There are so many people in the classes that are there for many different reasons. Both the young man who is after an athletic career and the older woman who is after flexibility and self-defense must respect each other. Each person is on a journey. There is no room for discrimination for any reason.
9. Do not become angry. He who is easily angered loses courage at important moments.
Anger results as fear or loss of control induces rage. When this happens, we experience the adrenaline dump into our system. Adrenalin can cause a loss of self-control, such as target fixation, loss of small motor skills, and auditory exclusion. The frog brain takes over. Fight or flight becomes the option. You no longer are working to a preferred solution. Controlling one's temper during confrontation allows the student to push back the effects of anger. You can make better decisions. The old saying of "don't make me mad" like you are suddenly a great fighter when you are mad is incorrect. What really happens is you go down angry. You want to be at a point where your mood doesn't shift based on the actions of someone else. Emotions should not overpower intelligence. The Grandmaster of Goju-Ryu Karate-do, Chojun Miyagi said, "If your temper rises, withdraw your hand. If your hand rises, withdraw your temper.
10. Practice to the best of your ability, and everyone will benefit.
If you look out into a harbor as the tide comes in, you notice all the ships are getting higher and higher. Our metaphor is, "a rising tide raises all ships". If we in the dojo help one another become better, then we all become better. We have an obligation to grow as much as we can and to perform as well as we can. To be all that we can be. You never know who is going to be a benchmark for someone else. We practice to the best of our ability. We teach to the best of our ability. We live a lifestyle to the best of our ability. As the great Jim Rohn said. "How high does a tree grow?" "As high as it can."