Looking up the definition of “dojo” in a translation dictionary, one may find “place for practice or tournament (martial arts).” The literal translation has been “do”=”way or path” and “jo”=”place”. “Place of the Way/Path” In all the arts that have “do” at the end: Aikido, Kyudo, Jodo, Kendo, Iaido, Judo,…. there is a differentiation between the “technical” or “justu” and the elevated, transcendent, lifelong, “do”. One could be proficient in Iaijutsu, but miss the higher, unexplainable Iaido. This differentiation is the essential component of a dojo.
The path is a solo journey. There may be others near by, but the path is an individual’s to take. There will be times when there are many people around and going in the same direction, but there will also be those times when there is no one to be found, except ourselves. It is ourselves that we must confront. It is ourselves that we must accept. It is ourselves that we must inspire and love. And it is ourselves that we must transcend. This is the “way”, “path”, or “do”.
A dojo is a place for the practice of that journey so that when we confront the world we can accept the problems, inspire solutions, love the work, and transcend.
The teacher’s role in a dojo is not to just teach the jutsu, it is also to create an experience that invites the student to walk the path. It is not idle, friendly chit-chat. Creating the experience can be direct instruction, observation, and/or modeling. It is never empty.
The student’s role in a dojo is to steal as much as possible. Squeeze as much knowledge out of every moment. Analyze every movement, word, and intent; then do it again to interpret it from another perspective, then another, and another. To be a student is to never stop thinking about the lessons so that learning is infinite. Then, the world is the dojo. O’ negai shimasu?