Despite the cool title, this post is not about entering dragons.
It’s about entering dojos.
Dragons sound cooler though. Or are they the same…?
Yesterday I went to a new dojo. It’s really hard to describe the feeling of going to a new dojo, but I will try anyway. The background for this is that currently I only train Kobudo, but I didn’t fly around half of the earth to just train Kobudo two times a week, right? So yesterday it was time to enter a Karate dojo. They really don’t like that you run around between different dojos, so if you do this you should keep it discreet.
The story starts at the secret meeting place.
I had only had brief contact with one of the Senpai (assistant instructor) of the dojo, and she told me to meet a ‘Karate-boy’ at this secret spot. Who it was, I don’t know. I had been sitting there for about 20 minutes when a sweaty Japanese guy showed up from nowhere. He was around 20 years old. I recognized him, but he didn’t recognize me.
“You Jesse-san? Let’s go”
“Umm… okay… I guess.” I managed to say, as he waved to a “takushii”. That’s Japanese for taxi. It was getting dark outside. Apparently, this dojo I was going to had really late training sessions. I didn’t mind though, I can’t sleep anyway. My body has not adapted to the Okinawan time zone I guess.
Anyway, back to the story. After giving a 20 minutes private lesson in English (involuntarily of course) we had reached our destination. To say we were in the middle of nowhere would be an understatement. I tried to look for some signs to find out the name of the area, and I concluded that we are in the middle of nowhere of somewhere (?)! I just hoped that the ambulance would find there if the training proved to be as hard as I expected. Not that they would get through these narrow alleys anyway…
But where is the dojo? I don’t see a sign anywhere! Only small dark alleys. It’s a trap! I’ve been set up! They think I know too much for a foreigner so they need to get rid of me! I knew this was going to happen!
I looked at the boy.
They say the eyes are the windows of your soul.
His eyes were black.
“Naah, he looks too kind to be a bad guy.” I thought.
“Come” the boy said. “Hey, where did he pick up English?!” I thought as I followed him into an anonymous building that looked like a small theater or something. A bunch of shoes just inside the door told me this was not an abandoned building after all. Perhaps I was just being paranoid…
We went up some stairs. There was an empty corridor.
I could hear kids somewhere in the building.
“Change, desu yo!” he said.
“What did you say? Change what?” I wanted to say. But I had barely said the words before he was standing in his underwear in front of me. (Red with dark stripes on if you want to know).“Aah, change clothes… I see…” I said. Trying to imitate his ninja-like quickness I changed into my gi too. Suddenly he sat down. “Tape” he said. Or at least that’s what it sounded like.
He picked up some sports tape from his bag, along with small pieces of foam.
He wrapped it around his soles.
“Konbanwa!” someone screamed. From nowhere a bunch of other boys in Karate clothes appeared behind me. I have to learn these ninja tricks someday I though as I responded to their hello. After a while, more people came. It was obvious they weren’t used to foreigners. We tried to chat a little. It was mostly grunts and sign language I’m afraid.
Suddenly a door in the end of the corridor suddenly flew open. Out ran a gazillion kids! “What the…” was all I managed to say before I was almost trampeled by the kids! After the antilopes, sorry I mean kids, had passed us we went in.
There stood the sensei.
I bowed, gave him a gift, and talked a little. I could join the training he said. At least I think so, because he didn’t throw me out. I’m glad I was wearing a white belt. Because when you enter a new dojo you must always have the mind of a beginner. This is called shoshin – “beginners mind”.
Shoshin means having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, in this case Karate. Just like a beginner, or child, who doesn’t know what to expect, so everything is taken equally serious. This can be really hard for some people, because their belt gives them some kind of identity that they are afraid of losing when putting on the white belt.
For me it’s easy, because it’s not about the belt. It’s about the mental attitude. You have to empty your cup before you can fill it with something new right? You are in Okinawa now, and it’s their rules.
The training proved to be exciting.
I’ll tell you about that in the next post.