What is a Dojo?
Many of you are already practicing martial arts, some of you perhaps for a couple of years. Most people go to a martial arts school or take classes at a community center. Some people practice in the park, and quite a few train in their own backyard or living room. Wherever you are when you study a martial art can be made a special place.
A dojo is a place where you decide to learn and practice rather than just play. In Japanese dojo means “a place to learn and do.” Korean martial artists call this a dojang, and those who study the Chinese traditions train in a kwon. You might call it a recreation center or a gym, which is short for the Greek word gymnasium.
Some people like to practice their martial art outdoors. In the forest or at the seashore, in a grassy field or on a rocky ledge you can create a dojo. Places where there is clean air and enough quiet to feel comfortable are especially good for learning. You may climb to a third floor of a building or down to its basement. It can be very plain and simple, and sometimes you may even have to imagine its boundaries.
The most important attitude in a dojo is respect. It is this respect that makes any dojo a special place. You must have respect for the space itself by deciding to make it important to you. If your dojo is indoors, it is important to keep it clean and neat. If your dojo is outdoors, you will be careful to not damage it or leave anything behind to mark it. You should respect the other people with you in the dojo.
Remember that your teachers work hard to teach you what they know and to keep you safe. Respect them because they are looking out for you and wish you well. Have respect for what you are learning because many smart and talented people have learned from good teachers and then passed it around the circle to you. Say thanks to those who have gone down the path before you, those who travel with you, and, of course, the students who come after you.
Don’t be confused if you meet other people who have different customs, uniforms, and names for things. It may be that their school has a slightly different history than yours. There is a lot of variety in the martial arts and that is part of what makes them so interesting. All martial arts have something to offer.
Don’t worry about which might be better, they are just different. Make sure that you are a good representative of your school or style so that others will respect you as you, in turn, respect what they are doing.