We often hear the Sensei pick up on people entering a dojo with shoes on or even putting shoes on before they leave. Why are they so worried about shoes in the Dojo? Especially when the spectators are all wearing shoes and anyone else using the hall is wearing trainers. Here is a few reasons why it’s so important.
In Japan it is seen as basic etiquette to leave your shoes by the door and put on as pair of slippers specifically for indoor use. With the shoes you leave the outside dirt and as simple as that sounds that is the reason why you must not have your shoes on in the Dojo.
Is that the only reason? Well, yes and no there must be more to it…
I decided to search deep into my experiences to explain how important this is for Karateka to follow.
I’ll start with my first Dojo experience…
Imagine walking into a small cold hut in Cuckfield with cracks in the wall so big I could fit my fingers in them. The roof was made up of, what I can only describe as pieces of roof and the windows all bricked up. The floor however, was immaculate… wooden and smooth with that freshly sanded feel. A little bouncy in some corners but the surface was clearly cared for and respected. The walls were white and there was a large red sun at the far end with Kanji and a picture either side – how a dojo should be.
Before we started we were each handed a well used rag that was dunked and rinsed just enough so there wasn’t any access water dripping off. In the winter we had to crack the ice of the rags before we could rinse them, to give you an idea how cold it could get… the cracks in the wall didn’t help!
At this early point of the session – when you can’t feel your toes – we would run up and down the Dojo a few times pushing the rag down on the floor with our hands to make sure every inch was clean. This was repeated at the end of the session too, even though anyone using the dojo afterwards would have to go through the process AGAIN.
The Dojo was always well respected.
This brings me onto the Dojo it’s self and what it means to me. The word “dojo” 道場 is actually two words. “Do” which means “the way” or “the path” and “jo” which means “the place.” When the two words are combined it means “the place where the way is studied.” Where ever your Dojo IS, you will begin to understand that is becomes an important and sacred place. The size, structure, decoration or cracks in the wall are not important because the Dojo represents YOU…“the place where the way is studied.”
My Dojo location has changed many times from the old hut in Cuckfield, 34 years ago to the large professional sports complex infused with badminton sounds in Burgess Hill. However, my attitude has never changed – shoes off before you walk in….formal rei (bow) when you enter and leave…look for dirt and spillages…. clean, clear and tidy the space….ensure the area is safe to train.
How does this represents you? – “the place where the way is studied” – this is within you and everywhere you go.
- Shoes off – get ready to train – leave the outside dirt outside – clear your thoughts and focus on this moment in the Dojo.
- Rei (bow) before you enter and when you leave – the rei signifies your promise to give yourself to the training.
- Clean, tidy and safe – this is related to your training.
- Clean – your thoughts (focus)
- Tidy – body (perfect techniques)
- Safe – spirit (train with heart)
Karate is a complex study with messages and secrets intwined in all the aspects of the experience, including the Dojo and your shoes. Sometimes you may have to look deeper than what you see with your eyes and open your heart to the lessons Karate-Do has for you.
This is just one of the inspiring values I picked up from my teacher Kyoshi Peter Connolly, I hope you enjoyed it.
See you in the Dojo – Shihan Piero Barba.