We wanna be better at doing stuff so we can have fun doing stuff and make ourselves and our various tribes better by, and at, doing stuff. And since that’s, for us, a pretty important chunk of our soul, a big check mark on our list of ‘reasons we be,’ then we treat it like a ritual. The transformational process that it is.
The Dojo Concept
Not just a physical place, a Dojo is the philosophy, inspiration and appreciation that grows from a tribe on their path. It is the center of our ritual, which in Bodytribe’s case, is the pursuit of expression and exploration of physical ability towards a holistic existence: getting better at doing stuff for reasons we find pretty important.
A Dojo, which is sometimes defined as ‘the path of the Way,’ is more than a school, more than a gathering place, more than a training center. It is where morality, strength and character can be fully experienced.
It is also, by the way, a physical expression of the unique and revered philosophy of that school… and here’s hoping it is a unique and revered philosophy. Too many ‘philosophies’ seem rife with cliches, clutter, and the borrowed ideas of another business model template, or at least their dojos reflect this. As a sanctuary for ritual the dojo should emanate the soul of the sensei, and the respect of the students, in the presentation, design, and culture of the space. A new guest should grok that something amazing happens.
Common for certain martial arts Dojos is the Kun, or the ‘words,’ which are uttered at the end of each lesson. Loud, conscious and with conviction, these mantras are uttered by an instructor to be repeated by the class, and they might go something like this (although often in Japanese):
1. Work to perfect your character.
2. Have fidelity in seeking a true way.
3. Cultivate a spirit of endeavor and perseverance.
4. Always act with good manners.
This is vocalization of the morality needed to balance the physicality of the training with the character of the spirit. Notice the similarities between this and the Buddhist 8 Fold Path (heck, every religion probably has a name for similar concepts). Ignoring these beliefs and ideas encapsulated in the dojo kun will in the long run have a negative effect both on the individual and on the evolution of the Dojo/Tribe as a whole.
I have a Dojo Kun as well, although it is a simple mantra. Whenever I leave Bodytribe, I say (often quietly) “Thank you for keeping me humble and strong,” and I truly mean it each time, often confirming it by looking at all the people and equipment in the gym with reverence and appreciation. (In all honesty I do this more on the sly so folks don’t think the old guy has lost it, but it does happen daily.)
I stole (and paraphrased and editorialized) the following from the Xin Qi Shen Dojo in Seattle. These are worthy tenets about each member’s role within the Dojo:
• Training in the Strength Arts isn’t just physical but mental and spiritual. Each practice is to strengthen and train our body, mind, energy and spirit.
• Nurture excellence.
• The principles remain constant but the methods can change. Do good things.
• Seek to improve the art and improve the standard.
• Keep thoughts and comments positive and healthy (!!)
• Train diligently; refine your body, mind and spirit. This is your responsibility.
• Your teachers can show you the way and help you, only you can develop the skills.
• Argue for your limitations and sure enough they’re yours. State your convictions of change… then THEY are yours.
The traditional concept of the Dojo is a tactile experience with the chosen ritual space, as well as a mental one. The Dojo members, to complete the connection with their physical location not only train there but also participate in its maintenance and existence. The Dojo is simply a physical reflection of their connection with themselves, and self-respect is portrayed through respect for their space, their equipment and their tribe. The experience is a pro-active one, understanding the foundational needs of the Dojo and therefore taking them in hand and addressing them, whether it is through the exchange of ideas or simply getting on hands and knees with rag in hand, keeping it clean and ‘pure.’ In the case of Bodytribe members, it means pleasant greetings, respecting the equipment (and putting it away when done) and continuing the motivation and inspiration that you guys share with each other.
It also means that any chosen space for rituals of transformation (strength, movement or otherwise) should reflect the reverence and respect for the ritual. A dojo should be unique, a reflection of the teachings exhibited there. Cliches need not apply.
Even if not a physical member of Bodytribe, our little online community here can also be a platform for the Dojo Concept. Thank you all for participating!