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Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture
Dojo atmosphere

Hi all

Reading more about the difference between Okinawan and Japanese way of running the dojo, I was wondering how do you run yours?  Are you strict, military like Japanese system or maybe friendly and relaxed?

I run my dojo in a relaxed manner, but not overly relaxed. There are rules, ceremonies and order. Drawback of this is that sometimes people take kindness as weakness; benefits are that it is more like a family and have great support between members.  

Students coming from other systems sometimes find difficult to get used to our way, especially from Shotokan.

Kind regards

Les 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

We aim to encourage personal discipline as opposed to it coming from the instructors. I think there are problems with that as discussed in this podcast:

https://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/discipline-and-defiance-practical-karate-podcast

Encouraging people to kowtow to authority figures, and those with perceived physical advantages, can be detrimental to self-defence. It encourages subservience and not the required defiance. They key needs to be personal empowerment so they want to work hard for their own benefit.

Once you have a room full of hardworking people, anyone new to that environment tends to get carried along by it. We like a joke, and even some friendly micky-taking (always done as a form of endearment). Encouragement is given and enthusiastic praise, when earned, is also forthcoming. A loud “Good job!” goes a long way when people are engaged in a difficult and demanding drill.

In some ways, we are way more “relaxed” than most. In other ways, we would be way more intense than most.

All the best,

Iain

Mark B
Mark B's picture

My reply would be pretty much the same as Iains. I also dispense with the need to be addressed as Sensei. I have no need for titles. Mark will do

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Mark B wrote:
I also dispense with the need to be addressed as Sensei.

Same here. I don’t think it really works in our part of the world. Requesting to be called “sensei” can come over as aloof. That’s not to say that those groups who make use of it are being aloof, and it’s not to say it’s the same the world over (I know it’s definitely not). In other parts of the world using such titles works and has no such connotations. But in the north of England, I feel it is not culturally appropriate. None of my main teachers ever asked to be called "sensei" either.

All the best,

Iain

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Thanks Iain for the great podcast, I dont like when people address me Sensei, actually on today's seminar I was constantly telling people to call me Les not sensei :).

Kind regards 

Les

Anf
Anf's picture

Just to throw in a point of view from a middle aged dad who is older than his instructor and whose instructor also teaches his young son and other young kids in the same class....

In out club, we do have a bit of light banter, but we respect all formalities like bowing to black belts, addressing instructors formally etc. In the corridor I will banter with our instructors as ordinary lads, when there are no kids around. When kids are around, it's all formal.

Us adults know that respect is implicit. We know that the man up front has vastly more martial arts skill than we do, and we pay him to teach us. We wouldn't pay him to teach us if we thought he was no good. So the very fact we are there should be enough to prove our respect. But kids don't have that much life experience, and they are not paying to be taught. Kids also naturally don't have the life experience to know where a joke ends, and then there's the old saying, familiarity breeds contempt.

Our instructors need to maintain an air of authority. They don't just teach us skills, they also have the experience to spot when we're in danger of injuring ourselves, for example by repeatedly throwing a kick badly and each time tugging away at a tendon, or injuring others, for example in partnered work maybe not paying full attention or using too much force.

I like to know, when my young son is training across the hall from me, that I can concentrate on what I'm doing, safe in the knowledge that our all seeing instructors will promptly bark if they see something dangerous developing, and that because he's 'not a mate' his bark will be enough to immediately stop the dangerous behaviour or lack of attention. So in front of kids, we all kind of portray our instructors as some kind of god like beings, to be obeyed at all times. Then when there's no kids about, our instructors are just good lads and lasses that we can banter with as mates.

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Anf

Valid point, I dont teach children, but yes for them it have to be more structure. Relax does not mean unsafe, we have formalities too just not as strict as some. But safety is a prioryty 

Kind regards 

Les

Anf
Anf's picture

Les Bubka wrote:
Valid point, I dont teach children, but yes for them it have to be more structure. Relax does not mean unsafe, we have formalities too just not as strict as some. But safety is a prioryty

Sorry. I didn't mean to suggest that a less formal environment is any less safe or anything than a formal one. My point was just that I think it almost has to depend on the make up of the class. I think for the very young it almost goes the other way. I used to be involved with a class where they took kids as young as 4. There there was very little that looked like martial arts. Formality was minimal and all the emphasis was on fun. There was virtually no combat techniques and certainly none against a partner, other than kid throws instructor, instructor makes great theatrical show of falling down. But as the class was mostly about rolling onto mats, general physical activity and tai sabaki at that stage, there was little need for the instructors to be too scary and detached. That's a bit different though to slightly older kids throwing kicks towards each other or even against think air, where familiarity might lead to young minds with short attention spans drifting into dangerous territory. And that's different again to a hall full of adults, who are mature enough to know their limits, understand and minimise risks, and recognise the value of what they are doing for themselves without needing to be barked at.

Paul_L
Paul_L's picture

It’s quite relaxed at our club too. We don’t call our instructor Sensei and we tend to have some light banter. All that is asked is that you try to constantly improve yourself and that you don’t give up and carry on when doing the more physically challenging stuff. My personal thought is that this is where our instructor thinks that the discipline should be. 

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Anf wrote:
Kids also naturally don't have the life experience to know where a joke ends, and then there's the old saying, familiarity breeds contempt. Our instructors need to maintain an air of authority.

Les Bubka wrote:
Valid point, I don’t teach children, but yes for them it have to be more structure.

Like Les, I don’t teach children these days. I also agree Anf’s point is a good one for those that do. The atmosphere of the group needs to fit those that make up that group. More formality and structure would be beneficial for kids. Treating adults like children through enforced subservience is not good. Equally, treating children like adults is not good either. “Horses for courses” would be a seem to be an apt phrase.

All the best,

Iain

Neil Babbage
Neil Babbage's picture

Respect without formality sums it up. Whoever is teaching is listened to politely, people concentrate and work hard. No need for anything else.