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  • D. Branchaud

Supporting Your Dojo Community


In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it's easy to overlook the importance of local institutions that foster community, discipline, and personal growth. Among these, the traditional martial arts dojo stands as a beacon of tradition, camaraderie, and self-improvement. Yet, as commercial gyms and online fitness programs proliferate, and many sports have become year-round activities in giant indoor facilities, dojos struggle to survive competing against these and other forms of recreation. Many local schools have disappeared in recent years. In this blog post, we'll explore why supporting your local dojo is vital and discuss practical ways you can contribute to its longevity and success.


We all dislike the idea of martial arts being commercialized but let’s look at the reality of things. There are tens of thousands of baseball, soccer, football and basketball courts in schools, colleges and parks throughout the country. These are typically built and maintained with tax dollars. Even the facility hosting this years Super Bowl, selling tickets for over $10,000 each, received 750 million dollars in tax subsidies (and millions in annual tax breaks).


Now imagine that these facilities did not exist and there were no ball fields for your kids to play on. Any coach wanting to get started would have to create and fund their own facility complete with parking, rest rooms, maintenance, training, utility bills, snow removal, equipment, advertising, etc… Little League would not be the same, yet that is the reality for martial arts instructors. Your Dojo is competing against taxpayer subsidized recreation.


While countries like Japan have amazing public buildings devoted to martial arts, American martial arts teachers must go the commercial route. The American Dojo has to make ends meet by getting people in the doors. Continuously rising commercial real estate rates and commercial utility rates take a massive percentage of any schools income. Dojo’s that cannot keep up with escalating costs, close.




The multistoried 'Budokan', Naha, Okinawa.

Click through the slideshow.

One of many public martial art facilities on an island 1/3 the size of our state!




The Importance of the Dojo

1. Community Hub:

The dojo isn't merely a place to practice martial arts; it's a community hub where individuals from diverse backgrounds come together with a shared goal of self-improvement. It fosters a sense of belonging, friendship, and mutual respect, which are invaluable in today's fragmented society. A Dojo brings people together.


2. Character Development:

Unlike conventional gyms, a Dojo emphasize not only physical fitness but also mental discipline, respect, and perseverance. Students learn to push past their limits, overcome challenges, and cultivate traits like patience and humility—qualities that serve them well beyond the training mat and out in the larger community.


3. Preservation of Tradition:

Martial arts are steeped in rich cultural heritage and centuries-old traditions. By supporting your local dojo, you contribute to the preservation of these traditions, ensuring that future generations have access to this invaluable aspect of human history. In the case of Palace Hand there are less than a dozen schools teaching this art in the entire world and several have closed in recent years due to instructors dying or retiring. There is a good chance that it will not be available for the next generation to learn.


How You Can Help


1. Attend Classes Regularly:

The most straightforward way to support your local dojo is by attending classes regularly. Not only does this demonstrate your commitment to your own progress, but you develop greater skill and serve as an example of what the school has to offer. With more people in each class your instructor can more accurately arrange for mutually beneficial training partners during practice.


2. Spread the Word:

Word-of-mouth remains one of the most powerful forms of advertising. Share your positive experiences at the dojo with friends, family, and colleagues. Post reviews online in as many places as you can. If you posted years ago, provide a new post with an update. Like and share postings from your schools social media account. Your endorsement could make all the difference in attracting new members.


3. Volunteer Your Time:

Dojos often rely on the support of volunteers to mentor younger students and help newcomers. Participate in demonstrations and seminars if asked. Willingness to lend a hand can lighten the load for instructors, form new relationships, strengthen the dojo community, and help with your own growth.


4. Provide Financial Support:

Pay your dues on time or before they are due. Chasing people for dues is frustrating and time consuming. We have been told, many times, ‘I can’t pay you now because I'm going to Disney’. ‘We can’t pay now because we just bought a new car’. ‘I’ll take this item now and pay you later.’ Now we certainly understand that there are times when it is difficult to make ends meet and we are happy to work with those who need some time or help. But, the Dojo also has bills and many habitually pay a week or two late. Imagine walking out of Stop and Shop with a weeks worth of groceries and telling them you’ll pay later! Or leaving a restaurant saying you’ll pay for your food later because you are saving your money for a vacation! Of course you wouldn’t do that, so don’t do that at your dojo. And if your dojo charges monthly dues pay for the month rather than haggling for a discount, even if you can’t attend every single class. Dojo fees assume that you will be attending year round, if you miss a month it would be very helpful to pay those dues if you can.


5. Be an Ambassador:

Represent your dojo proudly both inside and outside the training facility. Think about what someone watching classes might see in you. Show up on time. Insure that your uniform is clean and worn properly. Work with seriousness. Control your body odor. All of these things can matter when someone watching is thinking about joining. You represent your dojo, your martial art style and your teacher.


Conclusion

In an era defined by fleeting trends and superficial connections, the traditional martial arts dojo stands as a bastion of timeless values and authentic human connection. By supporting your local dojo, you not only invest in your own personal development but also contribute to the well-being of your community and the preservation of a cultural heritage. Many times we have received calls from distraught individuals, sometimes crying, because the school that meant so much to them has closed and they now have to find another place to begin again. Don’t take your dojo for granted!

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