Dojo

Excerpts from Samurai Zen, Chapter 8, entitled Dojo.

Dojo is the location where one studies “The Way.” In the modern era, a Dojo is commonly understood to be the place where martial arts classes are taught. The true spiritual understanding of dojo is, however, much more refined. The Japanese Zen Buddhists realized that, for individuals to grow in the path to enlightenment, they need a formalized center. Thus the Dojo was born.

Hodoki means the untying of hands. This was the period of apprenticeship when the students desiring to study the martial or meditative disciplines were evaluated by the headmaster of the Dojo. This period was not defined by a specific length of time. Instead, it was left solely to the discretion of the master whether or not a potential student was ready to participate in advanced physical or mental training. Hodoki is no longer practiced by the majority of modern martial arts schools because that tradition has given way to capitalism.

In the modern world, the martial arts dojo is oftentimes based on a competitive structure---students compete against one another to raise their level of fighting prowess. Thus, the atmosphere is not that of Haihei, profound peace, but is instead filled with misaligned, aggressive energy. The modern competitive dojo is in sharp contrast to the true ideal of the concept of Dojo.

The reason why modern martial arts Sensei do not embrace the true intent of Dojo is twofold. First, many martial arts practitioners are no longer trained in the path of true martial arts. They are only schooled in the physical aspects of the art, and the meditative understanding is never expounded upon. Second, modern individuals exist in the economy-based, fast-paced world, so much so that their only desire is to obtain a Shodan Black Belt and then go off and open their own martial arts studio.

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