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Old 01-09-2017, 11:21 AM   #1
Peter Boylan
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 291
Training In Japan

I'm finally catching up with my writing after the busy month of travel and training in Japan in November and holidays in December. What's it like training in a traditional dojo in Japan? It is and it isn't what you expect. There isn't nearly as much external discipline as most people imagine, and there are a lot more smiles. My new blog post is my take on it.


Have you had a different experience in Japan? What was it like?

Peter Boylan
Mugendo Budogu LLC
Budo Books, Videos, Equipment from Japan
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Old 01-09-2017, 05:04 PM   #2
Peter Goldsbury
Peter Goldsbury's Avatar
Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 2,243
Re: Training In Japan

Hello Peter,

Happy New Year!

The only arts I have practiced outside aikido are iaido and naginata, the first as a supplement to aikido and the second only in Hiroshima. I think the differences you point to are a matter of degree.

I think the physical dimensions of the dojo have some influence, as well as the numbers of students. When I first started aikido in the UK, there were only six students and that really meant three pairs of two, except when we all did exercises together. The dojo was the university gymnasium and the mats were laid in one corner, put down and taken up after practice. This activity certainly added to group 'bonding'. When I was a student in London I trained in two large dojo, with the mats permanently laid and here there was a greater tendency for people to come, change, practice, and go away again. However, the proximity of a pub right next to one of the dojos, but no pub anywhere near the other, also had an influence on what happened or did not happen after practice.

Here in Hiroshima, there are no pubs and the only place where any after-practice activity took place was the curry house nearby, where we would occasionally gather for a meal. In the other dojo, which is in a large general culture centre attached to a vast multi-storeyed shopping mall, the mats are laid and taken up and there is much greater sense of 'everyone in it together': a large semi-structured group, with some whole families training, over which I am expected to preside benevolently as an example of aikido virtue, especially for the kids and younger members.

Probably having a large dedicated dojo, with tatami permanently laid, makes a big difference. It has certainly done so in my experience.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
Kokusai Dojo,
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Old 01-10-2017, 09:49 AM   #3
Ethan Weisgard
Dojo: Copenhagen Aiki Shuren Dojo
Location: Copenhagen
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 177
Re: Training In Japan

Hello Peter Boylan,

Thanks for the link to your blog. It was a good article.
My experience is based on 32 years of training as uchi deshi and soto deshi at the Iwama Dojo (know called Ibaraki Shibu Dojo).

This is a very traditional Japanese dojo, indeed! The atmosphere was, and is, very much dependant upon the Sensei that is teaching, but the reigi or decorum of the dojo stays the same. The atmosphere is always great! There is good energy, focused attention and exuberance during training. Again, everyone basically know what to do, regarding the pattern of the training, and then it is up to you to immerse yourself in your training, without losing your connection to your partner while working on your waza.

Even during some quite severe training sessions in the old days, there were smiles. Actually sometimes even more, when the going got tough!

The training now is less severe, but just as concentrated. And there are lots of smiles. I don't miss the severity - I think you learn more from a less rough and tumble training environment. Saito Sensei made the point that if you wanted to train that way, you could do so with your partner on your own time. The classes are for working on the waza.

The rituals of pre-keiko dojo preparation, and after-keiko cleaning are wonderful in the Iwama Dojo. It's a beautiful and historic place, so it feels very nice to be a part of the caretaking. As always in Japan, there are certain ways for doing all the chores, and the regulars are alsways helpful in explaining the correct "kata". These activities are really a kind of spiritual training, as well.

And the Iwama Dojo has it's famous Shokudo (the Mess Hall), where the uchi deshi go after cleaning and closing the dojo, to prepare dinner, and enjoy after-keiko refreshments. Oftentimes the regular students will stay on, and join you for refreshments and possibly a meal, too. The time spent after keiko is very special - there is a kind of bond between those who have trained together, and the afterglow from the training is very special. The Iwama Dojo is in a very rural seting, so the quiet evening atmosphere after keiko is really wonderful.

I hope as many as possible will be able to have a chance to go there and savor the experience. The Iwama Dojo is very easily accessable, and is willing to receive visitors for training throughout the year.

So I hope this gives a little glimpse of what one traditional Japanese Dojo has to offer in terms of training atmosphere, ambience and such.

In aiki,

Last edited by Ethan Weisgard : 01-10-2017 at 09:59 AM.
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