How living by the rules can help you break all your boundaries

Tonight at training at dojo dai san,  we discussed the Dojo Kun; this was excellent timing for me since I didn’t actually know the kun for this dojo and, since (a) I have been officially welcomed to the club, having trained there a few months, and (b) I am grading there in a week, I probably should have some idea!

Sensei (dai san) asked: “What is a dojo kun?”

I replied: “It’s the rules of the dojo.”

Although, literally (ie in Japanese) it does mean the rules (kun) of the training hall (dojo), “rules” feels like an oversimplification. The dojo kun are rules, but in practice they (should ideally) function more like a code of ethics, a set of group norms or a values structure. More importantly they aren’t supposed to only apply just for those times when you are in the dojo, but for always, throughout your every day; a guide for the way to live your life.

When I first learned about dojo kun (from Sensei dai Ichi and Sensei dai Ni {who I believe has one set on his skin….that is one way to remember them!!}), the biggest thing I remember was that all the rules are equally important. When you say them, you should typically refer to them all as rule number one (hitotsu).

The rules of my first dojo are as follows:

1. NO INJURIES

1. RESPECT

1. TRAIN HARD

We don’t go through them every class but Sensei dai Ichi does quiz us on them pretty regularly. I have tried pretty hard to stick to these rules (I think I have slipped up on the no injuries one a few times but accidents can happen unfortunately).

I am not sure what my second dojo kun is…..I think I should probably ask one of the Sempai next week. Oops…..

So, what are dojo dai san’s dojo kun?

1. PRIDE

1. PATIENCE

1. COURTESY

1. SPIRIT

As you may be able to see, there is a fair amount of overlap between the 2 sets of kun above. Looking at a few examples of dojo kun  on the internet, there are recurring themes which are not style specific or dojo specific; a matter of common ethos of budo? Probably.

So whilst training at 3 dojo concurrently, working towards 2 sets of grading criteria / tournament kata and potentially 3 slightly different approaches to kumite, might be both physically and cognitively challenging, 3 sets of dojo kun are unlikely to cause me any sort of cognitive dissonance or confusion.

Really the 3 rules and 4 rules listed above could be further summarised into 2 rules.

1. TRAIN HARD

(ie Have PATIENCE with yourself and others and take PRIDE in what you do. Train RESPECTing your own body and others’ bodies so there are NO INJURIES and always train with the right mindset (SPIRIT))

1. RESPECT (ie RESPECT yourself and others and always show COURTESY.)

Both of these rules can be used as a basis not only for training but for living.

TRAIN HARD – doesn’t have to mean actual physical (or mental) training inside the dojo but trying your best at everything you do whilst respecting yourself and others so that no one is harmed (mentally or physically) but conversely, is enriched by the experience (see RESPECT below).

RESPECT – is fairly self explanatory both inside and outside the dojo. Respect facilitates the best performance in all things. It fosters confidence and self worth. If you show yourself respect, others will respect you, and if you show respect to others, they are more likely to respect themselves. Inside the dojo, respect, has made a huge difference for me. If people laughed at me every time I made a mistake over the last year or so, I would have been pretty demoralised (and low on self respect) and probably eventually would have called it quits. Instead people have been patient with me, encouraged me and shown me how to improve in a very respectful way. This has helped me build confidence in my karate practise but also in general. Moreover it has given me a deeper understanding of what a powerful influence my respect can have on others.

Overcoming boundaries while living by the rules:

Being a fairly “rules-oriented” type of person, having another set (or 2 or 3) of them is something I am pretty comfortable with (bordering on reassured by!). What has surprised me though is how this set of “simple” rules has helped me break down many boundaries I had set up around myself.

Twelve months ago I was not the person I am today. I was stationary. I had become “stuck” in a routine. I had fixed ideas and a somewhat stagnant mind.

I have moved forward a lot since I started training. I am not talking about progress in my kata or kihon here, although I feel I have improved in that also. What I mean is things like:

1. I am no longer afraid to push myself. I don’t make excuses.

1. If I find I am getting comfortable, I know it is time to move out of that comfort zone and push myself to take the extra step.

1. If I want something, I have to make it happen rather than sit around waiting and hoping.

1. Only I can decide how to react to a situation and how it will make me feel.

1. My respect can benefit others significantly.

I hasten a guess that in 12 months time, having continued on my life’s journey, with those 2 simple principles (my own version of a kun, if you will), I will have made further inroads and discoveries. I look forward to reflecting on my progress.

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7 thoughts on “How living by the rules can help you break all your boundaries

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  6. Wow, some fantastic thoughts here! We recite our dojo kun at the beginning and end of each class, so it really sinks in:

    Be humble and polite.
    Be loyal to Karate-do.
    Strive to reach your limits.
    Be patient and not discouraged.
    Work to develop a healthy mind and body.

    Loads of parallels, here, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Certainly. As I noticed on a very rough search, dojo kun seem to be based on 2 main principles: training hard, respect. Your dojo’s are no exception and could all be related back. The first 2 fit in the respect category and the second three more in the second category but on the Venn diagram in my head they fit into both.

      Liked by 1 person

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