There are plenty of times we throw words around without really understanding what they actually mean. This is true for the word attached to our training area, “DOJO.”
While the word does refer to a training hall, or practice area, DOJO is actually made up of two Japanese kanji that shed light on a greater purpose for KARATE.
First of all, while we Westerners refer to the art as simply KARATE, the proper term is KARATEDO; three kanji that communicate EMPTY (KARA) HAND (TE) WAY (DO).
It is the term DO that forms the first character in DOJO. DO can be translated as way, path, or road, essentially a route to get where you want to go. In the case of martial arts training, we want to head towards a stronger version of ourselves, a better understanding of the world around us, a deeper connection to the way of nature and/or the ideal way to live one’s life.
So how do we get to this enlightened place? In our case, it is through the dedicated and rigorous practice of KARATE. However, a DO can be almost anything that you truly connect to on a technical, physical, mental, and even spiritual level; something that is bigger than you, and brings meaning into your life. Something that YOU believe is profoundly important.
So that brings us to the second word JO, which means a place. So DOJO means WAY PLACE. Therefore, our KARATEDOJO is an Empty Hand Way Place; a special area where we seek understanding by practicing our chosen art.
A dojo does not have to have mats, or special uniforms, or Japanese signs, it could literally be anywhere you designate as your place of the way. However, it does need to be special to you. It is this mindfulness about placing importance on your practice that makes it more than just kicking and punching. It is the epic journey of your life.
This is why our Cambridge dojo is a special place and the people who train there are special people. It is because we have designated it as our place to find the way and our fellow travelers help teach us lessons about who we want to become and who we want to avoid becoming (both are necessary).
Therefore, we show how important our place is by our outward actions of respect (check out this KaratebyJesse Blog on etiquette). Yes, we bow when we enter, and we clean up after ourselves but also, as you grow in your understanding of the way, you will find unique and personal ways of showing your respect and appreciation. All the little details about our dojo, small gifts, simple additions, repairs and upgrades have all been contributed by students who have found an individual way of showing respect.
In time, you will find your way too. Until then, show up, train hard, and follow the path.
See you in the dojo!