A dōjō is a martial arts school or training hall, which is much more than a regular gym. A dōjō (literally: “Way-place”) is where one can study the Way.
The dōjō is not a place to escape from life’s rigors; it is the arena where they are confronted. The dōjō is a forge of the spirit, where students are constantly being pushed to their limits. This process can cause tempers to flare; to ensure safety, a certain degree of etiquette and formality must be maintained at all times.
“Any place can be a dōjō.” Ideally, the dōjō décor will exhibit the wabi-sabi aesthetic (literally: “poverty and loneliness”) which regards contrived, superficial, and materialistic things to be worthless. Wabi-sabi accepts and prefers the ordinary, simple, rustic, hand-crafted, well-worn, untouched, imperfect, and old. A dōjō should have an unpretentious character, like a dive bar that serves good chicken wings. Anything else will distract students with reputation, ego, and classism -- all of which will ultimately result in a poor experience, just like ordering chicken wings at a TGI Friday’s. That’s why many dōjō are tucked away in forgettable strip malls or disused racquetball courts -- because they aren’t supposed to be nice.
While “any place can be a dōjō,” an ideal dōjō has the following characteristics:
- A large, open space, free of obstructions (e.g., trees, furniture, load-bearing columns, etc.)
- Matted floors, to allow for tumbling and takedowns.
- A slightly higher-than-average ceiling.
- Bright lighting.
- Plain white walls, except for some tasteful art (e.g., a portrait of the joseki, or some calligraphy) on the front wall. Typically, this is the wall is opposite of the main entrance.
Please bear in mind that protocol can vary greatly between dōjō; the rules of other dōjōs may not apply to us, and our rules may not necessarily apply to other dōjōs. Failure to comply with most of these rules results in a verbal warning and/or being assigned push-ups by the head instructor. Afterwards, there will be no grudges; the offender will have a clean slate. Please be mindful of the following in a dōjō:
- Wearing shoes is forbidden inside of a dōjō, since the dirt and grime on shoes can contaminate the mats, turning them into a disease vector for impetigo, herpes, scabies, staph/MRSA, and athlete’s foot/ringworm. For this reason, the students must clean all mats and pads after every use, as part of their responsibility to provide all of the dōjō’s upkeep and maintenance.
- Because of this, the Japanese consider a dōjō to be a sanctified “pure” place. A dōjō cannot be "impure," even with its occasional bloodspill because it’s being constantly, ritually cleaned.
- Do not make excuses.
- Formally address all black belts while inside the dōjō. (e.g., John Doe is “Mr. Doe.”)
- Treat all fellow students and instructors with respect, both inside and outside of the dōjō.
- Only the head instructor, or their designee, has the power to designate punishments.
- Although higher-ranked students are expected to set an example for the newer students by strictly adhering to the dōjō rules, senior students have no authority to punish others for rule violations. Seniors can only inform the offenders of the rules.
- No foul language is permitted in any part of the dōjō at any time.
- Always stand in a ready stance, unless told to do otherwise.
- Students are expected to be on-time to class; this is considered part of your training.
- If a student is late, they are to wait at the edge of the training area for the instructor’s permission to join the class.
- Students must inform the instructor if they must leave class early.
- Please inform the head instructor if you decide to quit or take a leave of absence.
- Instructing junior students is part of the training process. Higher ranked students should expect to be paired up with newer students during class.
- Unless it's an emergency (or if you have a question), do not interrupt the instructor.
- Whenever you are told move to another location within the dōjō, RUN!
- Be sure to bow:
- Before entering and exiting the dōjō.
- When stepping on or off the mat.
- After an instructor answers a question.
- Before and after practicing with another person.
- While transferring weapons.
- Only karate-related talking is allowed during class times.
- Do not smoke in the dōjō. Do not smoke anywhere near the dōjō. Do not smoke.
- Dues are to be promptly paid at the beginning of the month. If there problems regarding payment, talk to the head instructor directly.
- When visiting other dōjōs, students must comply with all of their rules.
- Do not use any equipment you have not received training on, or were specifically told not to use.
- This is more especially true for weapons.
- Stay hydrated.
- Report all injuries immediately.
- Do not come to class while suffering from contagious illnesses.
- Maintain good hygiene.
- Do not wear makeup or hair gel. As you sweat and work with others, it will smear and look funny, contaminate the mats and uniforms, and burn people's eyes.
Some rules are especially vital. Violating any of the rules typically results in eternal banishment:
- Do not take anything that is not your own from the dōjō.
- Do not lose control and injure another student. If a student is injured, the incident will be reviewed by the black belts to determine if the injury was caused by carelessness, by malice, or if it was just a freak accident. (Though exceedingly rare, accidents do happen.)
- Do not come to class while intoxicated. Do not drink any alcohol before class.
- Do not poison the dōjō with drama. Drama only hinders everyone’s training. If you have problems with another student, speak to the instructor or resolve your issues outside of class.
- Do not persistently disrespect any of the other students, even when outside of the dōjō.