In the world of martial arts Dojo is a common word and is usually seen as the place where you train. However, in Japanese the term Dojo is literally translated as “place of the way”, or a place of the path you chose to follow. In the past, Dojos were annexed to temples and were mainly being used as meditation rooms.
A Dojo is a place where you go to find enlightenment or connect with your inner self via training in a certain field, regarding we are speaking about Karate, Aikido or dancing for example.
Dojo does not makes reference to a certain “structure”, but rather to a place where we are practicing to improve ourselves or to find enlightenment. If we will broaden the meaning instead of narrowing it down every place can be a Dojo. The home where you live, your garage or even the street can be a Dojo, as long as we train or meditate about something we want to improve.
Entering the Dojo means passing into another world where principles as “Tsuki no kokoro” (Spirit of the moon) have a special meaning and Bushido code must by our daily guide.
Most of the traditional Dojos follow a certain pattern being organized by their front and back axle (Kamiza-Shimoza) and the two sides (Joseki-Shimoseki). Each place in the room has its own significance.
The terms described below do not define the walls of a room, but the space bounded by practical sides of each Dojo.
The place of honor (or place of the gods). On this side it is generally found a portrait of the grandmaster (founder of the style), the emblem of the Dojo, flower arrangement (ikebana), Dojo Kun or even a Shinto shrine (神道). During the ceremonial greeting at the beginning and the end of the lesson, the instructor and the students face to Kamiza and they show respect for ancestors, to masters who are no longer alive.
Shimo term is another way of reading the Shita ideogram and it means below or lower. This is the part of the Dojo reserved for students bowing at the beginning and end of the class, being as well used for explanations and demonstrations.
Literally translated as top seat. Another way of reading it translates as above, upper or best quality. It is located to the right of Kamiza, this place being reserved for guests and higher grades. During bowing at the beginning and at the end of the class, students line up on Shimoza leaving the places closer to Joseki free for the Sempai and higher grades.
Literally translated as the lower seat this is situated in the left of Kamiza. Is the less important space in the Dojo and is reserved for lower grades during line up bows.
The Hombu Dojo is the main training hall of a particular martial arts school. The Hombu Dojo also servers as an administrative center, being the headquarter of the organization and the place were all the afiliate clubs and ranks are registered.
Some of the most popular Dojo in Japan are the following:
- Kudokan – the headquarters of the worldwide Judo community. Kudokan Institute or a place for the study of the way was founded in 1882 by Jigaro Kano who is also the founder of Judo.
- Aikikai Hombu Dojo – found around 1940 my Morihei Ueshiba is the headquarter of the Aikido international federation
- Noma Dojo – build in 1925, his Kendo main Dojo was demolished in 2007 and replaced with a new one.
- Heya Doho – headquarters of Japan Sumo association.