I am a firm believer that children are the future, but to create a better future for our children we must educate them and aide their growth. I also believe the Japanese way of teaching and nurturing children through the martial arts aides in creating brighter futures for children. But you might wonder, “what is the Japanese way of teaching?” Here are a few outward examples of the Japanese way of teaching you will find at the Bujinkan Roselle Dojo.
- The dojo is cleaned and maintained by the students, regardless of rank and age.
What this entails is cleaning of the dojo after training and making sure everything is in its proper place. The Japanese term for this is called Souji (掃除), it basically means cleanliness. It is an important concept in Japanese culture and especially Japanese education and dojo culture. At Japanese schools in Japan, from teachers to students (principals on down) clean their respective areas with group leaders leading the cleaning process. At the dojo, this means cleaning the mats and putting away all materials used during the classes and maintaining a clean training environment. It goes beyond just the training area, but one’s own equipment and gear. Shoes are not worn beyond a certain point of the dojo to maintain a clean training environment. So, from age three up to age 99 all dojo members clean and maintain the dojo. Cleanliness in Japanese culture is believed to lead to a clear and peaceful mind, it also maintains a proper healthy habit. (Children should extend this concept of cleanliness at home as a part of training in the martial arts.)
- Courtesy and Respect
Japanese manners and courtesy is a bit different from Western cultures, but at the Dojo you will find them being maintained. Japanese culture as a general hierarchy to it, elders are respected, teachers are respected, senior students are respected and so on. At the dojo, we use a dojo hierarchy and titles in terms of demonstrating respect and using proper manners. Students will call teacher’s ‘sensei’ and their elder students sempai.
During our bow in ceremony you will hear the following phrases ‘sensei ni rei’, it means “bow to teacher” and “sempai ni rei” which means bow to senior students and “shomen ni rei” which means to bow to the front of the dojo. Outside the dojo, or to non-students of the dojo, children are encouraged to use sir and ma’am. They are expected to show respect to people entering the dojo and leaving the dojo. Students are expected to also show up on time, and if late to wait until the teacher acknowledges them to enter the dojo floor and to apologize for being late, same goes for leaving early.
Students are expected to bow before entering the dojo and bow again on entering the dojo mat area. In addition the students are expected to bow upon leaving the dojo mat area and the dojo. The dojo itself deserves respect similar to people.
When a teacher is speaking students should listen, if they have a question they should raise their hand or wait until the teacher is finished talking. They also should listen to sempai in a similar way as to a teacher and not interrupt. It is a proper way for communicating and listening intently. Courtesy and manners are expected to extend beyond the dojo, but bowing isn’t necessary outside the dojo for students unless it is in Japanese environments or meeting with Japanese people in general (demonstrating cultural understanding). Students are expected to be mindful of their own actions and how their actions affect other people given different environments. Think of others before thinking about self before deciding what is the best way to behave.
Students are expected to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when appropriate, at the dojo it should be done in Japanese and it is also a part of our bow in and out ceremony. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ are phrases that should extend beyond the dojo. Same thing with ‘excuse me’ and ‘may I’, getting and receiving permission is crucial in the martial arts, as well as asking for forgiveness. These aspects are important aspects that are expected in the dojo and outside of the dojo. Training in the martial arts doesn’t stop at the dojo it extends beyond the dojo walls.
Students are expected to encourage others to do their best. If a student struggles, others are expected to encourage that student to keep going and keep trying. Failure is a common thing in life, students will learn that it is natural to fail sometimes, but it is always important to keep trying and keep making effort. In Japanese there is a saying; “Fall seven times, get up eight”, it basically means no matter how many times you fail, keep getting up and trying. This extends beyond the dojo, to school work and work life. Giving up is not an option, trying, studying and self-improvement extends beyond the martial arts it is a life time attitude and habit.
Older students are expected to help lead, teach, and encourage younger students. Senior students also have a duty to ensure the dojo runs smoothly and that everyone is getting the most out of the martial arts. On a rotating basis, different students will lead warm up exercises and souji, also they will be asked to demonstrate and teach basics as well. Senior students are to be role models to younger students. Mutual respect is expected and encouraged. Having chances to lead also helps develop student’s ability to think about others and how to organize and interact in groups.
- Setting Goals
In the martial arts setting goals are important but setting practice goals are even more important. At the dojo we have a name plate board that has student names listed on placards in Japanese. Students will be taught how to write their names in Japanese and will put their name on the board when accepted as a student of the dojo. Their name plate will move up and down the board based on their practice and attendance as well as their ranks. While for adults we only have three color belts, white, green, and black, kids’ classes will have multiple belt colors until joining the adult class. This will both show their progress as well as a physical attainment of past goals and setting of future goals. This helps with both motivation and creating self-esteem and a sense of pride. Also other students are expected to help others with their goals.
- Class Structure
You will see senior students and junior students in the same class, you will see senior students helping junior students and teachers making sure class is running smoothly and everyone has progressing together. All students will receive personal instruction, encouragement, and critique from the teacher. The teacher will ask questions and expect answers from the students, the teacher will also share stories that encourage moral behavior, motivate students and their understanding of martial arts and life in general. Martial arts training is almost like a moving lecture on life.
- Unseen aspects of Japanese methods
You will see students slowly build on previous skills and knowledge, by improving coordination, balance, and adapting certain behaviors and manners. Students will have self-control, grit, and increased self-esteem and the ability to raise up other students’ self-esteem. You will see an increase in concentration and an attitude of being able to overcome obstacles. You will see students helping others and thinking about others well-being. Martial arts are for the benefit of both the individual and others, it will help secure a brighter future.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of examples of Japanese teaching methods, but it should provide some answers to what it entails. There are other aspects of the Japanese teaching methods in the martial arts, but some are not readily seen via examples. Such as correcting only behaviors only when they are detrimental to the student or tend to be bad, letting the student develop natural according to their own abilities and capacity. Pushing students towards excellence and taking on challenges. Teaching towards their individual strengths and eliminating their weaknesses. But, these aspects are not easily seen it is something that naturally arises in training and learning.