More a temple than a gym, the dojo (do-way/jo-hall) is the martial artist’s sanctuary for training, meditation, and self-realization. The dojo can consist of nothing more than a room with smooth floor. It is the place where one trains in karate. The value of the dojo is reflected in the spirit of its students and their instructor and not in the dojo’s fixtures. If the sensei (instructor or teacher) by example encourages hard training and enthusiasm, the sensei’s efforts are reflected in the excellence of the students. The sensei accepts nothing less than the full development of each student’s potential; otherwise, the quality of the student’s performance will suffer. The student, however, retains the ultimate responsibility for progress in karate.
When first entering the dojo one should bow. Bowing is a ritual in which one shows respect for the dojo and humbles in a spirit of emptiness and openness. After changing into the karate gi (uniform) students clean the dojo voluntarily and then begin to limber up or practice techniques until the lesson begins.
The training session begins with the students sitting or standing in formal posture aligned in neat rows with higher rank students towards the front. The sensei sits or stands in the front center alone facing the class. First, everyone meditates silently, emptying his or her minds to permit total concentration on training. Then, the instructor and students bow to each other and the lesson begins. The first exercises are calisthenics to limber, stretch, and strengthen all body muscles. After the first exercises, beginners spend most of their time learning basic techniques while advanced students practice kata and limited kumite (sparring).
The student must concentrate in order to get the most out of training. If the student allows his mind to wander, the student’s attention will be divided and the value of the training will decrease accordingly; but, if the student maintains concentration on the training, even strenuous workouts leave the student refreshed and revitalized. The power of mind and body harmony can only be achieved through conscious effort.
Admiration is the foundation of a good dojo: the junior’s admiration for senior students; the senior student’s admiration for the junior’s effort, and their mutual devotion and admiration for their teacher. The teacher inspires much of the training of a student. If admiration for the teacher is not present or is lost, the student cannot hope to learn much karate.
Without mutual admiration in a dojo, a current of distrust and dislike may affect all and obtaining respect from anyone would be difficult. If not corrected, the dojo may die in a short time. A dojo has a life of its own during a class and unfortunately is as strong as its weakest link. The teacher must therefore always be on guard so the dojo ‘s total life will be strong. The teacher fosters admiration among the lower ranks by giving senior students the admiration in class that they deserve. The head Instructor should assure that such respect does not disintegrate at any level.