Dojo Harmony
August 14, 2009 · 10:35am EST · Posted by Fujiyama Dojo
Fujiyama Dojo
P.O. Box 20003
Thorold, ON, Canada
L2V 5B3
(905) 680-6389
The structure of any koryu dojo is not based only on levels of hierarchy according to rank or skill, dedication or seniority, but on the five principles of wa (harmony). The downfall of many ancient ryu was prompted by allowing negative spirited students who undermined the foundations of its structure to train. Ryu, dojos and even clans were decimated when they allowed treacherous attitudes in such as: selfishness which created arrogance, envy and disloyalty; ambition that twisted right goals; or laxity that created mediocre students incapable of true dedication. All of these can result in divisions and conflicts, the polar opposite of the five principles of dojo harmony: respect, unity, co-operation, obedience and loyalty. These principles are a necessary condition for a dojo to prosper and grow. They are not subject to debate or conditions. A student, if he or she is to stay as part of the dojo, must understand and abide by these principles. Their simplicity does not diminish their importance.

Respect is a strong word with firm connotations. It implies respect of the art, the teachers, one's self, and very emphatically, other members of the dojo. Extreme care must be exercised not to offend anyone, even jokingly. A joke that might cause pain is not a joke at all, and must be considered as an offense. Self -censorship is better than any apology. An old scroll states, "He who cannot control his tongue in time should ask others to do it for him, at sword point, so he may learn or have it cut off. In any case, the results are favorable."

Unity requires each member of the dojo must feel an integral part of it, and every other member as worthy as himself of belonging, or even more so. Although differences of characters may isolate some members, this does not justify any hint of alienation for any student. Politeness and fellowship must be present, since, regardless of the differences, all are aiki students and they should watch out for another, in and out of the dojo walls.

Co-operation is the duty of every student to help those with difficulties in class, and try to contribute to everyone's progress. This attitude is owed for the privilege of learning an art that by right of birth is not part of their lives. They must compensate for this by improving their attitude and helping the art to remain strong. A sempai's duty is divided between learning and teaching, if one lacks, the other shall be reduced proportionately, teaching being the proper measure of his dedication. But all kohai should strive to act the same way, for the art and dojo's sake, and the honor of the teachers. "Benevolence", said Takuan Soho, "can be found only in the bravest warriors."

Obedience does not mean blind submission, but absolute respect for the precepts of Aiki. Without this, a student would disregard the principles of his art and disgrace the name of the dojo by indulging in negative practices or attitudes. A proper student brings honor to this art at all times, leaving no openings for criticism. A student's failure to comply with a task given by a Sensei in relation to the art or the dojo, or done half-heartedly without giving of his very best, shows where his heart truly lies. An unreliable student would never make an acceptable teacher.

Loyalty is the ultimate of the principles, and encompasses all the others. It needs no explanation since its true definition is already stated, and the connotations are obvious. A student may find excuses to break it, but even then the action would be self-defining. From a word to a decision, loyalty is an inherent virtue which cannot be enforced if it is to be real. It has to come from within, and that is why it tells all about who we are. A student would need no correction at this level. He might listen or not, he might laugh or learn. In either case, only he himself stands to lose. Yagyu Munenori said, "What you chose not to hear from my words today you may be taught later by the sound of an oncoming blade cutting the air as it gets closer to your head. But then you will have so much less time to learn."

These principles are not an unreasonable law or request. They are conceived to make a dojo a pleasant place to be and belong, a place without clashing egos, without quarrels, without rivalries; a place to be welcome and welcome others in good spirit. Without that, no koryu has anything of true value to offer. The art we practice may not be the best, or the worst, it just is, and its value in us is directly proportionate to the value that we allow ourselves to be.


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