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The Meaning and History Behind Karate Dojos

Anybody who has been to a modern day karate dojo has probably noticed some of the unique qualities they possess. But how many people know the reasons and traditions behind them?

“Dojo” is a Japanese term, which translates to “place of the way.” Throughout Japanese history, dojos were formal meeting places for students of any of the Japanese “do” arts. Now, dojos are primarily associated in the west with a variety of the Asian martial arts, such as karate, judo, and samurai.

Traditionally, dojos were supported and managed by the student body, not the instructional staff. This was designed to reinforce the importance of discipline in the martial arts, as well as instill a sense of respect for the art form in the students. Because of this, traditional training sessions would usually begin and end with a ritual cleaning of the dojo.

Dojos were, and are, considered special spaces that deserve the utmost care. This is the reason behind the practice of removing your shoes upon entering. In traditional schools, the dojo is reserved specifically for the most important events, with the actual training being performed outdoors in a less formal atmosphere.

Often, there is great thought put into how a dojo is laid out. Weapons and training gear are usually placed along the back wall and you will often see a Shinto shrine containing various artifacts located front and center. Additional artifacts, such as traditional armor and iconography relating to the martial arts, are placed throughout the dojo.

Dojos are spaces rooted in intense focus and hard work. Practice is rewarded over all else and distractions are kept to a minimum.  The student’s respect for the dojo is meant to reflect their respect for themselves, their fellow students, and for the art form itself.

If you’re interested in learning more about karate dojos, or in training with an experienced martial arts instructor, contact New York Martial Arts Academy today!

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