Growing up in a small village outside Kanazawa young Akira always knew his place in the world, of course this was so - he was Japanese. Born into a merchant family he was expected to take over the running of this business someday and to fight for its survival if required. Until then he had his lessons and a part of that was training in the martial arts of the Han (the extended family or clan). The day came when he was judged to be sufficiently old enough to train at the local dojo. As the master of the dojo was a family member (nearly everyone in the village could claim this) there was no need for formal introductions, though at some stage he would complete formal oaths to the school before the local Kami (gods of the village) as a kind of rite of passage.
Stepping into the dojo for the first time he was warmly greeted by people young and old that he knew from the village. He didn't know they practiced in the dojo, not because it was a secret, but more because it just wasn't talked about very much - it was just something you did as a part of every day life. Everyone knew that once he accepted the decision to step into the dojo that he would probably be practising there for a very long time. Everyone was pleased to pass onto him what they had learnt, this was their responsibility. Everyone knew the secret to the survival of the Han lay in helping each other to be the best they could be. Practice was sometimes tough especially when it was cold, but everyone knew dedication was a part of the learning process and it was the best preparation for the inevitable trouble with bandits or Ronin. Martial practice was tempered with awareness of each persons emerging abilities, so that while sometimes there were injuries, they were minor in nature.
Whilst a small country dojo is worlds away from the rented spaces of suburbia there is much to be learnt from Akira's fictional experiences and there is plenty to be learnt from this approach. It speaks of a life long dedication, understanding the reasons for practicing and the importance of understanding the method of practice. Far from being a social club or business the dojo provided a haven from daily life where the body could be trained, the ind sharpened and the spirit refined.
Somethings we do well and others not so well in the west but the feel of a small country dojo is something to strive for.
Blog 2010 >