What is a dojo anyway? To some it sounds like an Asian snack food! Actually, the word dojo is Japanese and literally means “finding the way”. It was a hall or room where Judo, Akitsu and Karate were taught. Today it has become more of a universal term for any place you can learn and practice a martial art - a martial arts school.
Martial arts tend to include a particular lifestyle and way of thinking. It is not simply about getting physically fit or learning to defend yourself (or attack someone else). At the core of almost every martial art is the concept of honour and respect. You need to submit yourself to the practice in an unselfish manner. If this isn’t your thing, then you should consider just hitting the regular gym and joining a boekatae class, boxing/kickboxing club or by simply using a training bag. These methods will give you a much quicker “action-hero” body!
A dojo is a place to learn about a disciplined way of linking mind, spirit and body. A dojo is a place to practice an art. In these cases a master instructor is incredibly valuable and of course so are the facilities themselves.
Before we begin, let’s examine the name of the place you are considering. A serious dojo will usually have a serious name. Names that are totally un-related to the martial arts is not normally a good sign. Think of something like “Muscle City Gym”; it doesn’t seem like a place where you will be learning from a Wu-tang monk! On the other hand, don’t fall for a name just cause it sounds like the latest Jet Li movie either! The “Asian Deadly Ninja Academy” or “School of Dragons and Serpents” may also be just a gimmick. A name should be sober and responsible in nature. It shouldn’t be trying to promote an image in a fake or stereotypical way. That said, it is OK for it to be somewhat commercial in attempting to attract new students. Does it have a good website, a flyer or catalogue?
Second and perhaps most importantly, how does it look? What quality is the interior? What kind of facilities are there available? How clean is the place? In essence you want to ask yourself the same questions that you would ask when choosing a gym. If all of these things look in order, then you know that the place earns a good living from this practice and are committed to quality instruction and a good experience for students.
Finally, you should take a introductory course or proefles [NL], if they are offered. Not all dojo’s will offer this free try-out, especially if they are always fully booked. If they do offer a proefles, this will allow you to check out the facilities, the students and the instructors before making a commitment.
As you are coming to a dojo to learn, a great instructor will shape your experience. But how do you choose a good teacher for you without getting enrolled? As we mentioned, there are not always free introductions. In fact, if there are no free intro courses offered then the instructor may be VERY serious about his skills and track record, having no need to offer a trial session to “hook you”. If this is the case, it is essential to go and at least watch the class as he teaches it! This way you can get a feel for his general style and if it will mesh with your preferred way to learn. Stick around until the end of the class and ask the students their opinions and experiences.
After you get home, make yourself the following list:
You can learn a lot from the students. Are they motivated, capable, educated and accomplished in their pursuit? Do they have a lot to say about their experience with the dojo?
How much speaking was going on? To master a martial art, the mind and body must be repetitively trained with movements that repeat over and over. If each lesson is filled with the instructor’s words, then there is a lot less time for focusing on repetition. Short, powerful, humorous and often memorable instructions and anecdotes seem to be the best way to learn for many martial arts students.
Speaking of speaking, exactly how does the instructor talk to the class? Softly like an old Buddhist wise man, or screaming at you like a drill sergeant set on whipping you into shape? Both styles can be found, so the choice is up to you as to which motivates you the best!
How much personal attention is given by the instructor? Will he come close to you to control or adjust your movements? Will he take time to give you better instruction in areas where you need help?
How long does the lesson last? Generally speaking, a good 90 minutes is necessary to get the most out of a lesson. You will need time to warm up, practice old techniques and learn new ones.
How much time in each lesson is spent on fitness, like push-ups, sit-ups and cardio? Around 15 minutes or so is usually enough for most people. An effective instructor will often find a way to work in a lot of the fitness into a good warm-up or training drill.
How is the atmosphere? Do you like the facilities? Are the instructor and your fellow students friendly and supportive? You will be spending lots of time with these people, so a good rapport with them is essential. You must feel good and excited to learn.
Location, location, location. Just like anything else you do, the closer the dojo is to your work, study or home, the more likely you are to train there. A good dojo should be as close as possible and easy to reach by public transit for those rainy winter days when you really don’t feel like biking to class.
Price. Unfortunately, a good dojo is gonna cost good money! If you are a truly dedicated student but the price to study is just out of reach, consider discussing this with your instructor in private. Occasionally a solution can be reached to suit everyone.
If you have gone over this list and most things check out properly, then you have found a dojo to give a go! Have fun and make sure you give your reviews back on www.inlivin.com