Sunday, January 10, 2016

Is It a Good Dojo?

Good dojo are very hard to find. The best dojo are usually found in dusty corners of community centers, taught in the gyms of college campuses by volunteers and in people's backyards or garages. They are taught by those whose motivation is other than monetary and just love teaching and their art. I wish I could tell you how to reliably find these places, but sometimes the information you need is on a piece of paper pinned to a bulletin board somewhere that says "Karate classes 8:00 pm $10.00."

This post is about how to tell a good school from a bad school. Good schools may be hard to find, but it's easy to tell if you've got yourself a good one and possibly a great one. It's not from certificates, belts, junk on the walls or the equipment that they have. (Beautiful equipment is unused equipment) All you have to do is ask one simple question: What are you going to teach me?

The answer you should get is very simple. The simplier the answer usually the better, but not always. It depends on how much the instructor likes to talk. Here's an example of a good exchange.

Future student: "What are you going to teach me?"

Karate instructor: "Karate."

Sounds a little weird doesn't it. What about fighting, self defense, discipline, honor, humility, fitness, confidence and all the other stuff painted on glass windows on almost every dojo? Well, all of that is just marketing.

All of those nice things that martial arts are supposed to "give" you is all just junk to get you in the door. It's a sales pitch, so the dojo owner can keep the lights on. Is it a bad thing to market? No. Is it a bad thing to lie? Yes. Any martial art is not going to give you or instill any of these things. These are qualities you either already have, or find within yourself. You already own them.

Learning a martial art is about exploring a system of combat from a snap shot in time. This snap shot in time can be very different or very similar to where you live now. Unarmed conflict in 19th century Okinawa has the potential to help you out now, in certain limited circumstances. Medieval Japanese battlefield arts will be less helpful.

This is a good rule for finding a good dojo, but finding a good place to learn self defense is much more complicated. If you want to figure out that I'll refer you to the experts.

Google these names and you'll hit the ground running. They're not the end all be all of self defense, but they know way more than most and they'll lay down a lot of ground work for research.

Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller. Google them, read them and then explore.