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Relaxed Okinawan Atmosphere

I have a new student who is a very nice young man. After one of our classes, I noticed that he was trying his best to be very polite (a very good trait for any student). I said:

"Loosen up. This is an Okinawan class. It's OK to smile."

Our style of Karate is Kishaba Juku Shorin-Ryu. Our main dojo is in Yonabaru, Okinawa. My Sensei in Okinawa teaches on the second floor of his home. My Hawaii Sensei is Okinawan and also learned in Okinawa. He taught at a Catholic church.

Even though we train at a gymasium (at Halawa District Park), I want our class to feel like it is in a home. Even if we one day have a separate dojo in our own building, I would want it to feel like a home rather than a formal building or temple.

In the old days, the very close students would train at the sensei's home or the sensei's family's hakka (tomb). One of these old time students recently told me that they always had to be careful when they trained at the hakka. I asked if it was because of little pebbles (they naturally trained barefoot). He said that the main problem was broken glass. Ouch!

We are lucky to have nice floors, high ceilings, and even mirrors on the wall. But we have to remember that training at the sensei's home or family hakka was special -- training at a school, college, or other outside location was for more casual students.

The atmosphere in Okinawan dojo tends to be less formal that their mainland Japanese counterparts. Students come into and leave the dojo with less formalities. Sometimes it may seem a bit too relaxed.

My Sensei in Okinawa told me this when I first met him:

"I enjoy practicing Karate. I practice at the home. If students also enjoy practicing Karate, they are welcome to practice with me."

The basis for his training was enjoyment. How refreshing.

It is OK to smile in our dojo. The only thing I am strict about is safety and paying attention. But it is OK to smile. It is OK to laugh. It is OK to make mistakes -- I have made far many more than you. Just try your best, learn as much as possible, and help your fellow students.

If you enjoy practicing Karate then your Karate life will be a pleasure rather than torture. Let's make our dojo feel like a home.


Charles C. Goodin