As a Martial Artist, you should always strive to improve yourself and your skills. Martial Arts is a diverse and broad set of teachings which seek to improve the Martial Artist as a whole. When setting yourself to learning anything, your teacher or master is vital to how you experience and acquire those skills. I have learnt that a Martial Arts centre is the direct result of its master and the master’s perceptions. The Martial Arts centre is a manifestation of the vision and intentions of its master. So, what should you be looking out for in a Martial Arts centre so that you can maximise your skills and reach your full potential?
The Japanese word Dojo can be translated to “Place of the Way”. This is where you would go to learn, understand and practice a Martial Art. What then makes a good Dojo? How do you know that this Martial Arts centre will help make you a quality Martial Artist?
The Aim of the Martial Arts Centre
Intention, for me, is a powerful word. Everything begins and ends with intention. What is the aim of the Martial Arts centre? To make money? To build a group of vicious and violent fighters? To pass on a legacy of self-improvement through rigorous training? To teach virtuous values such as respect, duty and discipline? The aim of the Martial Arts centre is extremely important as it will form the framework under which you will assimilate and learn. It will influence your character and principles and have a far-bearing consequence for the type of person and Martial Artist you will become.
The Standard of the Martial Artists within the Dojo
A really good indicator of a Martial Arts centre is the quality of its average student. How good is the technique? Very often in poor quality Martial Arts centres, belts are handed out to the highest bidder. You may find that practitioners who are senior look sloppy, awkward and clumsy. This is a direct result of a Martial Arts centre that was contrived on the basis of commercialism. This environment is filled with favouritism, toxicity and advancement based on monetary gain. This is an extremely dangerous place for people beginning their Martial Arts journey. These poor people are lulled into a false sense of security. They believe that they are receiving true Martial Arts. Such a person will be unable to defend themselves in a threatening situation and will probably acquire many injuries due to training with improper technique.
What does the energy and spirit of the dojo feel like? Are students being challenged and working hard? Does the instructor care about the execution of technique? A good training session should leave you with a feeling of achievement and the motivation to keep working hard to improve on whatever you have learned. A great instructor will motivate and inspire students. He or she will be able to extract the best out of their student. The student will hunger to devour more knowledge and skill, working and reworking their technique even outside of the Martial Arts centre.
All Martial Arts, old or new, is a direct result of the growth of a body of knowledge rooted in self-improvement and self-defence. Old Martial Arts is the result of continuing a tradition of martial training from one generation to the next. New Martial Arts is the adaptation of an existing Martial Art to better suit its practitioner or purpose. Be cautious of Martial Arts centres that have sprung-up with no real roots and masters that boast 10th degree black-belts in multiple styles of Martial Arts. Do your research on the different types of Martial Arts and seek to understand the origins of the Martial Art you are about to learn. Gain an understanding of its authenticity and its affiliations.
More than just the Physical
A true Martial Arts centre is more than the sum of its parts. It is a place that embodies respect, self-improvement and righteousness. Japanese Martial Arts refer to this as Bushido – “the way of Warriors”, a person that is both gentle and able to protect themselves and others. This Martial Arts centre will strive to teach you more than just the execution of fighting techniques. It will focus on the improvement of character, the exercising of self-control and internal mastery as well.
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