Much of our dojo etiquette and tradition exists to foster both safety and a sense that the dojo is a sacred place. Notifying the instructor when you need to leave the mat during class and waiting for him or her to “bow you off” improves safety. Refraining from using coarse language and removing your shoes at the entrance help preserve the sanctity of the dojo. Actions like these remind us the dojo is not just another building, but rather a place to toughen your body and polish your spirit. And I’m not talking about shiny banshees.
I’ve visited and trained in several schools, and all of them varied in their adherence to tradition and etiquette. Surprisingly (to me anyway), one of the strictest classes I’ve enjoyed was UNR’s Shotokan Karate class, where even smiling was frowned upon.
Mizu Shin Tao preserves many important traditions without being unduly strict (a style that suits me just fine). Several of the students in the children’s class insist on calling me “sir”. While I appreciate the respect this title conveys, I feel like flinching every time I’m addressed in such a manner, and I guarantee my kids would only say that to someone carrying a lance and a shield. My intention is not to demean those who choose to train in a more formal manner; I think training like that aids in developing a kind of gravity necessary to martial arts. It is the study of warfare, after all, and war is a serious matter.
I’ve been blessed with training partners who possess (or at least understand) my distaste for authority and adherence to dogmatic regimen. I feel we’ve been able to develop the “edge” necessary to martial training and still have fun doing it—smiling and everything. As with all things, balance is essential. Horseplay and incessant talking are deterrents to quality training, but I feel too much formality makes for a less effective learning environment. I’m certain much of this feeling stems from cultural differences—my distaste for authority, for instance, would probably have been cured one way or another had I been raised in an Asian country. Ah hem.
What do you think? Do you prefer a strict learning environment or a more relaxed one? Are there benefits I haven’t mentioned to employing one style over another? I look forward to hearing from either of the two people reading this. Whatever your style, I encourage you to work hard and have fun, even if you can only smile on the inside.
“Always practice the Art of Peace in a vibrant and joyful manner.”