Karate Thoughts Blog

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1700+ Posts... and Counting

Guest Post -- More on Dojo Cleaning

In response to my post, Dojo Cleaning, 2011, my good friend, Sensei Jim Alexander (of Belleville, Illinois) wrote:

I was once told that the exercise of cleaning the dojo (which in the old days meant washing down the deck on hands and knees with damp rags before each class) was a lesson in "the value of meaningless work". That term threw me at first, but it is meant as a reflecting surface, of the individual's ego or self value at its lowest level. Every black belt scrubbed floors, until and unless a lower rank student volunteered to replace them. Likewise sensei was always doing something, even if it was only dusting...Mirrors needed to be spotless, bathrooms cleaned, lockers emptied unless in use, trash taken out...everything. The value came in the teamwork and the idea that no one was too good to clean, to care and preserve the condition of the dojo and our traditions.
No detail is too small if the mind is dedicated to the premise of constant improvement...kaizen. If one can make important even the most menial of tasks then the big things will automatically receive the importance they require. Problems in life arise when tasks go undone that anyone could do, that everyone should do but no one does. To paraphrase the "Hagakure - the Book of the Samurai" by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, "Matters of small concern should be treated seriously", if one accepts this as the laying of their foundation, as preparation, then, "Matters of great concern should be treated lightly", can become the basis for your own action.
Perhaps, putting it in current terms one could say, don't sweat the small stuff....and its all small stuff...if you have prepared your mind. O-sensei Shoshin Nagamine wrote in his Ethics of the Dojo; "First , prepare the mind."
Amazing how simply cleaning the dojo becomes a metaphor for the study of karate in general!