The Dojo

A dojo (道場) is a Japanese term which literally means “place of the way” Initially, dōjōs were adjunct to temples. The term can refer to a formal training place for any of the Japanese do arts but
typically it is considered the formal gathering place for students of any Japanese martial arts style to conduct training, examinations and other related encounters.

A proper Japanese martial arts dōjō is considered special and is well cared for by its users.

In many styles it is traditional to conduct a ritual cleaning of the dojo at the end of each training session (called souji, which translates from Japanese as “cleaning”). Besides the obvious hygienic benefits of regular cleaning it also serves to reinforce the fact that dojo are supposed to be supported and managed by the student body, not the school’s instructional staff.

This attitude has become lost in many modern, commercial dojo that are founded and run by a small group of people or instructors. In fact, it is not uncommon that in traditional schools (koryu), dojo are rarely used for training at all, instead being reserved for more symbolic or formal occasions.

The actual training is conducted typically outdoors or in a less formal area.

The dojo is that place where the martial arts knowledge is taught and passed down to the next generation, as it has been done for 1500 years in our system of Shaolin Kempo. To me, it is the most
important part, because it is the heart of the art! It is where the art is kept alive as a series of programs for your cerebellum to download. It must be shown from person to person, too complicated to be written down only. There are so many subtleties that must be watched and copied and then corrected by a knowledgeable instructor. This is where that takes place and where some darn good martial artists have been created!

There are a lot of traditions associated with the dojo, among them is bowing as you enter or leave the area designated as the dojo, kneeling when you put on or remove your belt, kneeling when a higher rank kneels for any reason, and following the 5 rules: effort, etiquette, sincerity, self-control, and character. When class is starting, we begin with a small period of meditation in order to put aside your daily cares and to calm your mind in preparation for learning.