Saturday, 30 March 2013

Dojo Update - Pt5

The way to the dojo, through a formal garden, is just beginning to emerge
Apologies for not getting back to this sooner...life has been a little hectic recently! For all those who have been dropping me notes asking for an update, here it is. The dojo is still not yet finished 'completely', but this will be my final update; if you want to see the finished dojo, you'll have to visit. As I've mentioned a few times now, the thought of grabbing the camera whenever I go to the dojo, never seems to enter my head...

The inside walls finished off, and with the wooden panels in place
This shot, as with the previous one, is some months old now, but in the interest of continuity I've posted them anyway. It continues to surprise me how the lens never seems to capture the inside of the dojo in quite the same way my eyes do when I'm in there. Still, I have more room then I actually need to do all my kata, karate and kobudo, so this should give you some idea of the space.

The gravel in the garden is not yet complete, but hint's at what is to come  
The pathways have been laid out and the gravel and rocks are in place. All that remains is to plant the trees and shrubs that are ready to go in the ground once the season turns; some protection will be needed for them at first, otherwise the local fauna will think I've laid on a party for them.

Stepping through the door into the genkan, the kanji over the changing room doorway reminds visitors why they are there; "Sen Ren Shin" - Polish your Spirit!
I've placed a number of examples of my 'Shodo'- the way of writing, in the new dojo. I've long appreciated the link between shodo and karate; to do either, well, requires practise and patience over a long period of time. Each art is an expression of the depth of your feeling for that which you are engaged in. Also, the idea of "Mu", clear thought, is required to bring forth the essence of both karate and shodo...fill your head with 'technique' and you're already moving further away from progress than you can imagine.

A place to put your shoes, a bin to put your rubbish, and a wall full of inspiration
A dojo is not a gym, it's not a 'club-house', but nor is it a temple either. The best definition I've ever heard of a dojo came from the late Shoshin Nagamine sensei when he wrote, " The dojo is a special place where guts are fostered and superior human natures are bred through the ecstasy of sweating in hard work.......a sacred place where the human spirit is polished."

The Shinseidokan shomen - simple, respectful, inspirational
As the focal point in any dojo the shomen should reflect its purpose, and link the activity going on there to the tradition the dojo is a part of by offering images of inspiration. In this case, ideas to ponder: Seven falls, Eight rises - The Way - One heart, One mind : Shisa to ward off the demons of laziness, pride, delusion, and complacency. Images of my teacher, his teacher, and his teacher before him, and at the centre of it all a statue of Daruma; for without him, the karate I love so much may never have developed.

The weapons used in my kobudo training
As well as karate, I find great pleasure in my kobudo training. As a student of Hiroshi Akamine sensei of the Shimbukan dojo in Okinawa, I keep my limited skills polished in order to maintain the trust he placed in me when he accepted me into his dojo. What you see here is not the full range of weapons taught by Akamine sensei, just those I use, and have placed on the wall for easy access.

Two students and a visitor (centre) training in sanchin kata
This past Summer (in the southern hemisphere), has been long and hot; it has also seen a record number of visitors to the dojo, about half of whom have trained at the Shinseidokan before. It's heartening to know there are more and more people searching for something in karate beyond punching & kicking; they're looking for depth, a connection to something of value, in short: authenticity. The Shinseidokan dojo is by no means the only place where such things are found, far from it; but karate dojo outside Okinawa are rare these days, regardless of the marketing done by groups and individuals that would have you believe otherwise.

Thank you to everyone who has expressed an interest in the new dojo, it has been a real test for me (on many levels) to see the building of it through to where it is now. Even so, without the generosity of the Shinseidokan students who gave so freely of their time, skills, and labour, the dojo would not have become the home for our karate that it is today. As inadequate as words are at times....."Domo arrigato gozaimashita!