What is Dojo? 道場とは何ぞや？
“What is dojo?” This may be a silly and too obvious question to most of the readers. Some of them may say, “Are you kidding us?” Some others may even believe that I am ridiculing them. I wish to assure them that I am quite serious about this subject. I believe it is more than what you are thinking, so I hope you will continue reading this essay.
When you hear the word of “dojo” most of you will think of a special place such as a gym in a school or a health spa. Some lucky people have a building where the practitioners gather to train and that is definitely a dojo. I am not disputing this. In fact, that definition is correct. However, I want to explain that a dojo can be more than this.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, dojo is defined as a school for training in various arts of self-defense (i.e. judo, kendo, karate, etc.); It further explains the origin and etymology of dojo as follow: it is from do (道) way or arts plus jo (場) groud.
I am afraid this explanation is not sufficient or even understandable. What do you think? Let me explain better. The first kanji, 道 means path, road or way. The second kanji, 場 means place or area. So those two kanji together it means a place where you seek a way. It sounds simple enough but it is not so easy if we ask the next question, “What is a way?” It is certainly not a direction to a certain place such as a Post office or a cafe. When we talk about a way in the world of karate-do or any other martial arts, the definition becomes pretty deep. Most of us have heard of karate-do but how many of them know the difference between simple karate and karate-do. You can know the difference only if you have learned the meaning of this “do” or what it stands for. This is the very key point. I will further explain as I feel all the karateka should know this.
First, I must say that it can mean various different ways depending on the persons if they are in martial arts, other arts or religion. However, if we say “karate-do”, the word of do must bring some new meaning. It typically add the element of budo to karate.
To find it one must excel in karate not only in the physical aspect but also in the mental and spiritual ways which may be as important if not more.
One good idea was shown by one of the principles of Funakoshi Niju kun.
Dojo nomino karate to omouna
“Karate goes beyond the dojo”
The translation here can be expanded a little though most of the readers understand what this kun means. Some may misunderstand that the meaning of this kun is limited only to the self-defense and danger outside of the dojo. Of course, it is included but his kun covers much more. He wanted to tell us that we have to apply all the virtues (that I mentioned above) and the self-discipline must be applied to our daily life.
Many people have asked me where I have my own dojo. Today I am answering the question.
My quick answer is that I do not have a karate studio or school in the city I reside which is an outskirt of Sacramento, the capital of California. I used to have such a facility when I lived in San Jose till 2014 before I moved. It was located in Japan-town and I was teaching there for nearly fifteen years. I had to move to the suburb of Sacramento in 2015. Since then I have not started a karate club.
Though I do not have a karate stuido or school, I still say I have my own dojo. This dojo follows me where-ever I am or go. In other words, I can practice karate both physically and mentally no matter where I may be. I spend 4 to 6 hours daily for the physical self-training. It happens in the morning starting around 7am and lasts till noon or 1pm depending on my condition. And my dojo in this situation is in the living room. When I walk at home or outside the house such as shops, side-roads, stairs, hallway, etc. I pay much attention to how I walk (balance, posture, safety in all aspects). Therefore, all the places where I walk are my dojo. When I drive (though not too often) I pay attention to beyond the cars around me. I am not just talking about the police cars behind me or hiding behind a tree, but more importantly (at least to me) I pay attention to my breathing and mind calmness. If I am not driving then I still pay attention to the surroundings as well as the breathing and my posturing. Thus, the car I drive or ride becomes my dojo. I wrote an essay about this and it is included in one of my books, Shotokan Transcendence. The title is Jidosha Dojo (Automobile Dojo). I also read the books, articles, etc. for my research in the area of budo almost daily. Therefore, my study room is indeed my dojo.
Now that you have found what I think of a dojo, I would like to to ask what does a dojo mean to you?