On today’s episode, Jeremy talks about the place and venue that martial artists go to most of the time, the Dojos and Dojangs.
Dojos and Dojangs – Episode 313
As martial artists whether practitioner or instructor, we all go to one place to train, hone our skills, or improve our character. A place that is home to most of us, the dojos and dojangs. However, there seems to be a question that needs an answer, how much do we know about the origin of the place we train? On this episode, Jeremy talks about the history of the dojos and dojangs and how it became the place that it is today. We retrace the origins and the significance of the place in the history of martial arts. Listen to learn more!
You can read the transcript here or download here.
Hello and welcome to whistlekick martial arts radio episode 313 today, were talking about the terms, the places, dojo, dojang, where they come from, what they mean and all kinds of other stuff. This is gonna be a little bit of a history lesson cultural discussion and some other stuff it’s not gonna be just rattling off definitions. But before we get to that, my name is Jeremy Lesniak I’m the founder here whistlekick, I’m your host for this show and you can find all our other episodes at whistlekick martial arts radio.com. You find everything we do from our projects to our products at whistlekick.com, were on Amazon, we might even be in your dojo or dojang cause we do offer wholesale accounts and we have customers buy stuff because they are kind enough, they see what we’re doing, they value this movement that we’re trying to usher in to bring traditional martial arts to its proper place in the world and they support us financially. You can support us financially but you can also support us by sharing this show, I don’t talk about that often. If you help other traditional martial artist find the show gives us a bigger platform and with a bigger platform we can attract bigger guest, we can have bigger conversations and we can continue our movement to bring traditional martial arts to everyone because as I’ve said before there is nothing else that you can do for say six months they will have as big of an impact on your life as traditional martial arts.
With these Thursday shows I do try to mix it up and today we have this wonderful write up from one of our team members on the dojo and the dojang. Give you a little bit of knowledge history we could test you with the end, this would this would feel like a good, kinda a book report project but that’s not where gonna do. There is no price of admission, there is no test, it’s just for sharing knowledge.
The Japanese term dojo or place of the way is commonly known as a specialized place of training especially in martial arts. Traditionally, this is the place where people enhance their skills and train seriously with discipline the term is also used by some meditation practitioners including Zen Buddhists though a more specific term, zendo is more commonly used. In Japan the term dojo is used for any facility that is dedicated for physical training of any discipline. In Western countries dojo is used solely for Japanese martial arts judo, karate, kendo etc. A dojo is not just an ordinary facility, etiquette is important like kneeling, bowing and the way we move around in the dojo. There are quite a few house rules that differ slightly from one martial art to another or dojo dojo. For example one of the common practices is to make a standing bow when entering or leaving dojo as a sign of respect and humility, unnecessary talking during practice is generally prohibited this is not a place for socializing, so staying on the matter or the floor without practicing is often prohibited. In many schools the students have the responsibility of cleaning the dojo whenever the train overall the rules incorporate discipline and respect towards each other however the implementation of these rules differs from one dojo to another. Some modern dojos don’t strictly implement the rules and the original practices are often neglected. A dojo is not just a place for enhancing physical abilities and techniques since the traditional use of dojo is for training Japanese martial arts, the principles of these martial arts are carried over to the definition of dojo. For example judo teaches courtesy and gentleness and Shotokan karate teaches that practitioners should be quote constantly mindful, diligent and resourceful in your pursuit of the way and that is a quote of course from the founder Shotokan, Gichin Funakoshi. Therefore it can be said that a dojo is a place where we diligently improve ourselves to be a better person and to be beneficial to society not as a place to be an expert martial artist it’s a place where morality and good manners are practiced and honed there are no design rules and constructing a dojo, so dojo appearances vary from one another in terms of layout however traditional dodos have shoman, which means front and may have different entrances based on rank. There is also the kamiza, place of honor that is reserved for the most prominent people. The kamiza is located farthest from the entrance, the opposite of kamiza is shimza, bottom seat where the students enter. There is also kamidana, God shelf that is located at the back of the kamiza that contains the Shinto kami, the spirits the kamidana is always set up above the eye level and should not be located above an entrance. The weapons rack if any is also placed as part of the kamidana. On the right side facing forward, is where joseki is located. This is where the more senior students and instructors bow in opposite the joseki, is the shimoseki where the lowering students bow in. There’s also a place for putting shoes it is located near the entrance typical custom in that part of the world. Now of course your martial arts school might be laid out different even if you practice karate or judo, you may have a very different layout. I’ll be very honest most of the martial art schools I’ve trained in, the Japanese schools, do not follow these rules in fact I’m going to guess that most traditional Japanese schools in the US don’t know about these formalities. And that’s okay, if you do that’s great. If you follow these practices, I think that’s really cool as we are putting this together I learned something and that’s part of why we’re doing these episodes hopefully you learn something.
Modern dojos, on the other hand offer more features for the convenience of the students for example lockers for shoes close and personal belongings, drinking water and cups, some even offer shower rooms. And hot weather is an issue because the entire dojo might be air-conditioned. Now features aside, it is important that there is ample space for moving and the ceiling has to be high enough to avoid damaging the flooring can have Mats that will serve as a cushion to avoid serious injuries or it can be just wooden floor which is my preference. Some martial arts such as judo require thicker mats of course because the entire body is thrown down. Traditional dojos, have only to Tommy flooring the bamboo straw mats but most modern dojos, use mats made of foam or rubber to provide more cushion and shock absorption. Let’s compare and contrast dojo with dojang. In Korea the counterpart of the Japanese dojo is dojang. Do means the way just as just as it does in Japanese, while jang, means a place. So it can be translated to place of the way just like dojo. A dojang, is also a training hall were Korean martial arts are practiced including taekwondo, hapkido, taekyong. Etiquette is also observed in a dojang, and examples can include at the beginning of the class the sins will line up according to rank as in most Japanese martial arts high-strength student will give series of commands from dorei meaning face the flags to mokyum meaning meditate, students are prohibited for making unnecessary noise like talking unless they are instructed, shoes food and drink are also prohibited inside the training area. And to maintain order proper chain of command must be observed. Lowering students must first ask their immediate senior and not approach the head instructor directly. You know, here’s a sidebar that’s a rule that I remember from my early days of karate that was not enforced but we were made aware of it and it’s one that I have to say I haven’t observed in tae kwon do. That feels like one of the the rules that has likely faded the most the idea that you’re not prohibited to approach the instructor and less you’re one of the few that are directly ranked under them that you’re supposed to look to your immediate seniors for help. And I can see both sides as to the benefit there but anyway, all members must be addressed by their last names including children. That something obscene and a lot of tae kwon do school it was weird when I first taught. Advanced techniques must not be asked unless a student has already mastered the patterns of the techniques that he or she is currently working on, uniforms must be kept clean and pressed and just like a dojo, a dojang must be kept clean because it is a sacred place for learning the “way” of the martial arts. Now I suspect if you are a practitioner of Korean martial arts you were nodding along as we talked about the dojo, the Japanese stuff at the beginning. If you’re a Japanese martial arts practitioner you are likely nodding along as were talking about dojang, the two places and practices are pretty similar of course it’s no surprise because of the history of tae kwon do and its origins in karate. The term dojang must not be used interchangeably for gym however. The gym in korean is called cheokwon where all sorts of sports can be played. If the gym has a dojang, in a way that place were martial arts practice can be called a dojang. Now of course terminology the way we use words, to me the intent matters more than anything else. I know plenty of folks who refer to their tae kwon do training space as a gym because it’s a term that is understood here in the United States. If we start calling things a dojang, that’s a term that not everyone knows and it’s okay, it’s not necessarily meant with disrespect and to me as long as something is said with the intention of disrespect or at least, the lack of disrespect it’s all good.
Some martial arts styles have their own headquarters usually located where they were initially founded. It’s also called Hon bu dojo, because the headquarters also serves as a central training facility. Some of the honbu dojos in Japan include the aikido world headquarters or aiki kai hombu dojo which was established by the founder of aikido morihei ueshiba in April 1931 it’s a five-story building located in Shinjuku Ku, Tokyo and it has around 250 mats. The kotokan judo Institute which we talked about a little bit during our episode on Jigoro Kano was established by Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo in May 1882 it’s an eight story building located in Bonkyo Ku Tokyo with 1200 mats. The Japan karate Association JKA or Nihon karate kyokai I was established by Gichin Funakoshi, iso obata, masitoshi nakiyama, and hidetaka nishiyama, and it’s a four story building located in the same town, bonkyu ku, Tokyo. Actually I’ll be honest I don’t know if that’s town or province, I neglected to look that up. Nomo dojo which is the Hendo Honbu, was established by Nomo Seiji in 1925 and located same place Bonkyu Ku, Tokyo. There we go, looks like a town in Tokyo or section of Tokyo? I apologize this feels disrespectful a lack of research on my part but were gonna move on because it was not intended as disrespect. According to the website dojos.info there more than 20,000 dojos in the US as of 2014, the state the most is California with more than 10% of that 2600 and the state with the highest density the most dojos per capita is South Carolina with 33,786 people per dojo. You know what, I strongly question that number I think wave got far more people former dojos per person in most states, certainly not more than that in Vermont. Can you tell I don’t do the research myself? I get report and I look through and I edit it and I report it to you and so I’m learning almost at the same time you are and I think that’s from we’re the same page were in this together. Couple trivia factory did you know the first karate dojo in United States was opened in 1945 by here’s a name you’ve heard for the show Robert Trias, as a martial arts pioneer for short and one of the first American black belts. The oldest judo dojo in the United States is in Seattle, Washington and that was established before 1907’s sop we’re going ways back and was pioneered by Itaro Kano.
I hope you learned something today I hope that your knowledge of Japanese, of Korean martial arts was enhanced even just a little bit for those of you that practice martial arts from other countries. I bet you saw a lot of similar stuff the practice, the discipline, the militarism that is rooted in traditional martial arts carries through to pretty much every martial art the world over. There are a few exceptions, couple being the major one but there are still practices of discipline and respect and that’s one of the things that I love about traditional martial arts is one of the things that we can all share is our love for that personal practice, that leads to growth. If you want to read the transcript of this or check out the show notes or photos or any of the other episodes head on over to whistlekickmartialartsradio.com. If you never have before I would love for you check out the site and if you have why don’t you head over and leave a review whether that’s at iTunes or stitcher or somewhere else. Did you know that we have an app for both iOS and android? They’re free, little bit customized experience, its gonna make downloading watching listening everything that we do a little bit cleaner, a little easier than the general podcast apps you may be using if you’re on the road. So go ahead check those out, Its just whistlekickmartialartsradio on the Google play store or in the iTunes Store. That’s all I got for today until next time, train hard, smile and have a great day.