Dojo Discipline

Dojo discipline, it would appear, is a touchy subject. Firstly on the existence of it, and secondly on how it is administered. Last year I was on a course which spent part of the afternoon training with a boken. Not everyone had a boken with them, but spares where on hand. The Sensei covered the basic weapon etiquette, during which he said, “always treat your weapon with respect.”

“It’s not my weapon,” snapped back a 2nd kyu.

A 2nd kyu? Acting like a small child? I don’t think I was alone with the uncomfortable feeling that this guy’s attitude had created. Frankly if Sensei had confiscated the boken and sent the guy off the mat I suspected there would have been some smirks from the rest of us.

Martial arts are dangerous. Ultimately you are preparing to incapacitate someone who has launched a serious attack at you. Discipline is required in order that we do not cause permanent damage to our ukes. Continuation of the determination to cause damage eventually results in a lack of training partners. If a 2nd kyu is prepared to be snide to a Sensei over a minor matter of weapon etiquette, I am left wondering if he will respond to a 6th kyu’s tapping out. Clearly the guy lacked respect for his seniors, so what chance do I, his junior, have?

Discipline extends to all levels. From basic etiquette for a dojo, on to listening to instructions from the teacher, through to controlling you ire when someone else has acted like an idiot. (On the later, I confess to sometimes struggling.)

JS2013_06The end of class line up is a small part of the whole in dojo discipline.

Let me assume that by training in a martial art you have chosen to do learn about that martial art. At all levels you remain a student. Yes, some of us are more new students than others. The joy of martial arts is the continual learning. So I ask this. At what point does listening to others, having respect for them and following dojo discipline cease to apply to you? Why do you have the right to argue with those teaching?

I am not advocating blind acceptance. If you have genuine concerns for your safety or your physical limitations, then raise them. It is possible that you have misunderstood a technique. It is possible that a technique can be adapted for you. And if you are still uneasy, just state quietly and politely that you wish to sit this one out. That action, rather than a large argument, is likely to earn a more positive response. I feel I could expand on this indefinitely, so I shall stop now.

You may feel a technique is ineffective. Quite possibly there is a stage where this is true. Only part the technique may be taught in order to build up to the full version. Or it could be that you have not reached the level where as uke you can respond safely. See earlier paragraph about damaged ukes. In aikido people don’t apply the full, fast kote gaeshi to me because they would break my wrists. I have yet to learn to effectively “jump out” the full application. That does not mean kote gaeshi is useless, in fact it is the most wonderful of wrist locks, it just means that the skill set has to be built up on both sides.


Kote gaeshi with full application.  Image:

So without dojo discipline we fail to learn, we fail progress, and we hurt each other. In Greek mythology Khaos was originally the Goddess who first emerged at the creation of the universe. The name literally means the space between heaven and earth. (It was later that chaos came to be associated with disorder.) Without discipline we remain formless, we are neither in once place or another and we fail to assimilate what we have chosen to set out to do, train in a martial art.

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