In this series of articles, we examine parts of Master Yoshio Sugino’s seminal book Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Budo Kyohan (A Textbook of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Martial Training), published in Japan in 1941.
In this passage, Sugino Sensei points out some important points about the dojo.
“From old time, the dojo was named the place to learn the law of BUDDHA, etc…, but gradually the BUJUTSU learning place was also called dojo. To polish technique has deep meaning, the place to develop personality it is.
In the dojo’s high seat place, in the king’s seat is the god’s place made. Students train in the martial way in front of it. Therefore, from entering to leaving the dojo, all sitting, movement forward or backward, posture and attitude is made with etiquette as the base.
Rules must be obeyed, words must be spoken with the proper language, always must the dojo be cleaned and put in order. You must pay attention. It has been a while since various things have been observed seriously.
Also practice sufficiently and meet with enough seriousness. Show that heart and technique match without fail. To reach the original purpose is possible.
Even if outside, in this case also the same. Heaven and earth and nature are to be considered a great dojo. Consider the proper direction: for the palace or Shinto building for the high place. Decide and use etiquette as a base seriously. You must study seriously. In old times, the gods’ park was a mountain top, at there was studying done.
No matter where, there is sacred studying DOJO. Every place is sacred.”
The 16thYear of Shōwa
Chiba-ken, Katori-gun, Katori-cho
Sugino Yoshio & Ito Kikue (1941). Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Budo Kyohan.
A lot of interesting little issues in this passage but they really are useful and important issues to think about.“From old time, the dojo was named the place to learn the law of BUDDHA, etc…,”
If you recall from my interview with Såzen Sensei, he talked about this issue of the origins of dojos, namely as classrooms within a monastery which specialized in the studying of a particular subject matter. But regardless of the subject matter, the dojo is a place for learning.
“To polish technique has deep meaning, the place to develop personality it is.”
Ah, here we truly see the purpose of budo training. Training in budo is not about learning how to kill a lot of people or learning 20-30 different ways to kill someone with a sword. Yes, we do learn that over time in the course of our training. But really it is not the original purpose for training in budo.
According to Sugino Sensei, the dojo is the place to develop personality. Let’s stop and think about that for a while. What does he mean?
Well, we could look at it from the opposite perspective. If we go to the dojo simply focused on learning more and more techniques to kill someone, where does it end? So we know 20 million ways to kill someone, so what? It’s overkill. Musashi said of this very issue:
“I think it is held in other schools that there are many methods of using the long sword in order to gain the admiration of beginners. This is selling the Way. It is a vile spirit in strategy.
The reason for this is that to deliberate over many ways to cutting down a man is an error. To start with, killing is not the Way of mankind. Killing is the same for people who know about fighting and for those who do not. It is the same for women and children, and there are not many different methods.
Anyway, cutting down the enemy is the Way of strategy, and there is no need for many refinements of it.”
“Other Schools with Many Methods of Using the Long Sword”
The Wind Book
The Book of Five Rings
I like what Musashi said. Killing is not the Way of mankind. So why do we go to a dojo? Obviously, to learn something. But what are we going there to learn?
How to kill people? No. You don’t need to go to a dojo to learn that.
Some cool moves with a sword? And when you have exhausted all the cool moves, what then?
So, why do we go to a dojo? Ah, it’s an interesting question. I could say the answer but then, it’s only my opinion and further, it wouldn’t be much fun. So I will leave our readers to ponder on it.
“Rules must be obeyed, words must be spoken with the proper language, always must the dojo be cleaned and put in order. You must pay attention. It has been a while since various things have been observed seriously.”
I want to focus on the issue of “words must be spoken with the proper language”. This is actually a very important issue. I have seen some teachers in the West be very chummy with their students, to the point in some cases where the teacher is swearing in the dojo, or even just outside the dojo, in the presence of the students. While it is good to be friendly with your students, the teacher is still the teacher, not one of the boys, so to speak. Authority comes with a barrier. The status/class level is not the same, unfortunately. If the teacher is too chummy, the students lose that sense of awe, and with it the respect.
I know with martial artists, there comes the tough talking. And we all want to fit in with our peer group. But the teacher needs to set the example. Not the tough-talking, beer-drinking type of example. The teacher in martial arts needs to set the example for martial virtues. Correct behaviour, correct manners, correct attitude.
As regards students, in a similar way, we want to fit in with our peers.But again, the dojo is not a pool hall or a bar. It is a school, like any other place of learning. Elementary schools, high schools,colleges, universities. They are all the same. The atmosphere is the same. The expectations are the same. The objectives are the same.
So again we come back to the original question:
Why do we go to a dojo? Or in this broader case, why do we go to___________?
You can substitute any of the following: elementary school, high school,college, university. It really makes little difference.
Why do we go to high school? Just to get enough credits to graduate and get a job?
Why do we go to college? Just to get enough credits to graduate and get a job?
Why do we go to university? Just to get enough credits to graduate and get a job?
If that is why you go to school, it’s a pretty shallow existence.A purely utilitarian motive. It’s like: Why do you go to a dojo? To learn enough moves to kill a guy.
So if we follow that train of thought, once you learn enough of the fancy moves, then we can dispense with the dojo.
I did some online research into this question, the purpose of going to university. While there were many sites extolling the necessity for going to university in terms of career opportunities, fundamentally it is not solely about learning skills. One site said, “The point of a university education is not academics. It is about the future of the whole person.”
The future of the whole person… And I do not believe this author was talking about the person’s future in a monetary sense. While he did discuss the good benefits of developing the mind at university, he also talked the need for developing the “heart” of a person. Heart and mind.
Sugino Sensei said: “…the place to develop personality it is.” Personality; in other words, character. The dojo is a place to build character.
Heart and soul.
If you recall my interview with Sasamori Sensei of Ono-ha Itto Ryu, I asked him what he tried to teach his students ultimately. He replied, “I hope that they become a better person.”
Heart and soul.
So why is the phrase “words must be spoken with the proper language” so important? Because it is about character…
“Also practice sufficiently and meet with enough seriousness. Show that heart and technique match without fail.”
Heart and technique. Character and skills. We must cultivate both. If we have only skills but no moral character, we are killers. If we have heart but no skills, we are weak. We need both. This reminds me of that famous Japanese budo axiom in martial arts:
“Bun Bu Ichi”
Literary arts and martial arts as one. Pen and sword together. Character and skills.
But I like how Sugino Sensei put it. It is inspiring. So I will leave you with his great words:
“Show that heart and technique match without fail.”
Mr. Tong can be contacted via email at: email@example.com
Mr. Tong also writes many articles on teaching martial arts. You can read them at: Physical Training: Fitness for Combatives Electronic Journal