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Guest Post: Not Just in the Dojo

This Guest Post is by my friend, Mark Tankosich, who has dan rankings in both Sho-ha Shorin-ryu karate and Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei jodo. Along with the martial arts, his passions include the Japanese language. He currently lives and teaches in Hiroshima, Japan.

Mark is the author of Karate Ni Sente Nashi: What the Masters Had to Say and Japanese Ego Negation and the Achievement of Self, which are hosted at the Hawaii Karate Seinenkai website. He has also published English translations of Japanese Karate articles, including Practice Kata Correctly, by Kenwa Mabuni.

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Not Just in the Dojo

As Goodin Sensei has noted here, he and I seem to agree on a lot when it comes to karate. In fact, I had just recently decided to do some writing about a certain topic, and before I knew it, he touched on it in a post!

Goodin Sensei referred to what he calls "big karate" and "small karate." The former, he says, is karate which addresses your entire life, while the latter is just about techniques and other physical things. This distinction, I think, is mainly what the famous Gichin Funakoshi was referring to in the eighth of his 20 guiding principles of karate. Funakoshi Sensei wrote (in Japanese): "Dojo nomi no karate to omou na." Everyone reading this knows the meaning of the words "dojo" and "karate," but what about the rest of the words that make up this saying?

Briefly, "nomi" means "only," "no" is "of," and "to omou na" means "Don't think (something)!" Put it all together, and we get a translation of "Do not think that karate is only in the dojo!" This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite Japanese (karate) sayings.

In my opinion, Gichin Funakoshi was referring to what can seem like two different things, but which are actually one and the same. First, I think that he was telling us that we need to be alert, to be capable of using our karate techniques, of defending ourselves, etc., outside of the dojo, too, just as we do inside of it. Karate that only works in the training hall, with one's dojomates, is really pretty useless, after all.

More importantly, though, I believe that the second part of what Funakoshi Sensei was pointing out is that we should live our ENTIRE lives as we practice in the dojo; that karate training really should be a blueprint for a way of living.

Are you polite in the dojo? Are you careful about the effects of your actions and words? Do you do your best to concentrate completely on what you are doing? Do you work hard? Are you constantly trying to improve yourself? THIS is the way we, as karate-ka, should also strive to live our lives. This is the way that we should be at school, at home, and at work.

I believe that, in essence, Funakoshi Sensei was saying, "Use in your everyday life what you've learned in the dojo, be it techniques to defend yourself, or the proper way to talk to others, achieve goals or deal with difficulties."

Mark Tankosich