What's in a Dojo (by Blake Turnbull)

Although the term ‘dojo’ is often translated as a ‘training hall’ used in the practice of martial arts, the term literally translates to a ‘place of the way’, in which one trains for personal enlightenment. But what is a dojo? And is there a difference between what we perceive to be a karate dojo, and what we think of as a karate club?

It is often said that karate training can be done without the need for physical movement. That is, contemplating a kata in your mind, imagining each movement and technique, and seeing yourself perform it. If we were to follow such a conceptual mentality, we could resign to the fact that we don’t need space to train. In 1934, Miyagi Chojun Sensei wrote a selection of eight Special Merits of Karate. Five of these merits are of interest to this situation: (1) a large space is not required; (2) karate can be practiced alone; (3) its practice does not require much time; (4) proper kata can be selected and practiced at one's own discretion, and; (5) one can practice with empty hands or the use of simple equipment can also be employed without much expense. In summary, karate can be trained alone in no space with no time, equipment or money.

So, returning to the original question in review of Miyagi-sensei’s Merits: what is a dojo? It seems that, if a club can consist of as few as just one person so long as that person is training, be it physically or mentally, then a dojo can be literally anywhere: a bedroom, a shed, a kitchen, a hall, or even a broom cupboard - it doesn't matter so long as some form of training is taking place. And wherever there is a dojo with one or more people training, there is a club. A club can thus be viewed as one or more individuals training in pursuit of a similar target; that target being to discover and understand a path of self-defence, discipline, and on a larger scale, a way of living to further enhance their life. Karate is, in fact, as much a pursuit of ‘the way’ as it is the learning of self-defence, and it is the pursuit of this ‘way’ that (literally translated) forms the fundamental criteria of what a dojo is.

I review this notion now, just one week out before I venture to Japan to complete a 3 year degree at Kyoto University, and leave behind the karate club that I’ve trained with for the past 20 years of my life. Despite knowing that I will one day return, walking away from what I consider to be my dojo was not an easy decision. But, in light of the above information, I’ve come to realise that, in actual fact, I’m not walking away from my dojo. My dojo is built within me, ready to train in where ever I go. I write this now as a means of encouragement both to myself, and to others in similar positions. One of my favourite quotes of all time is: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” (Henry Ford). I’ve always thought this applies well not only to life in general, but also to karate training. However, when watching Kung Fu Panda 3 recently, I heard a more suitable rendition, which I would like to share with you too: “If you only do what you can do, you'll never be better than what you are” (Master Shifu). Change is inevitable, both in life and most definitely in our pursuit of the way of karate. What’s important is to keep looking forward and to stay hungry for more. Karate will be with you where ever you so choose to be, and so long as you have the mindset and spirit ready to train yourself, both mentally and physically, know that your dojo will be there too.

One Photograph

One photograph is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, but is that really the case?

Recently a number of pictures posted on our web site were copied and used on a closed blog site questioning not only the quality of the students photographed, but also myself as one of five senior instructors who had passed them for promotion. While I am not going to attempt to defend myself here, it does beg the question; do we really profess to know the background, history, knowledge, personality etc. of anyone from just one photograph? Surely a photograph is but a moment captured in time and more possibly a reflection of the photographer’s style, rather than the competence of the person being photographed?

Without any background or personal knowledge of those we are criticising for their perceived lack of knowledge, aren’t we just being kind of arrogant and self-opinionated. Once upon a time weren’t we just starting out on that same journey every karate student takes when we become shodan (literally meaning beginning degree)?

I remember when I first became shodan and how little I knew compared to others more experienced around me and aspired to be like. What has happened that senior karate instructors no longer consider being humble a good thing?

Jundokan New Zealand Incorporated  (JNZ) is a non-profit organisation founded on the basis of like-minded people wishing to further their experience and knowledge of traditional Okinawa Goju-Ryu karate, particularly Jundokan (Miyazato Eiichi hanshi). If one were to take the time to look up incorporated societies on the company’s website http://www.societies.govt.nz/cms/incorporated-societies and search for JNZ, you would be able to see the annual financial accounts. They are transparent for all to see and not, as some like to think, making anyone rich. In fact all JNZ instructors are unpaid for their time teaching (this is a requirement).

A wise Father told me when I was young; if you can’t say anything good about someone, then don’t say anything!


Jundokan New Zealand Masters Seminar 2014 (Blake Turnbull)

Last weekend Richmond, Nelson, played host to the Jundokan New Zealand (JNZ) Masters Seminar for 2014 (December 13th-15th), hosting Okinawan Jundokan Honbu 9th dans Gima Tetsu-sensei, Kinjo Tsuneo-sensei, and Yurio Nakada-sensei, for a 3 day seminar of traditional Goju Ryu kata and bunkai. It was the first time New Zealand had played host to the now Alaskan-based Nakada-sensei, and 7 years since both Gima-sensei and Kinjo-sensei had last visited in 2007, but it was clear from the get-go they were happy to be back, this time beneath the beautiful sun and warmth that Nelson had to offer

The seminar itself was a truly fantastic event that could only be described as enlightening (if not a little mind-boggling at times!). Beginning with Gekisai and Saifa on day 1, moving on to Seiyunchin and Shisoshin on day 2, and finishing with Sanseru and Seipai on day 3, those who participated in the 3-day event received invaluable tips, advice, and demonstrations on kata from the Okinawan masters. Following each kata, we began looking in-depth at the bunkai, both kihon (as is laid out in the kata itself) as well as more advanced techniques that built on the basic kata foundations. One thing that was stressed to us time and time again was that, although the masters could teach and/or show us what they know, at the end of the day, it was up to us to take those techniques and concepts that we liked and those that worked best for us, and assimilate them into our own style of bunkai. It hardly need be said that having 3 surprisingly different styles and techniques from each of the 3 masters themselves certainly gave us a lot to work with, and the knowledge that everyone received is something truly special and an incredibly unique experience that I am sure everyone involved took a lot away from. A grading was also held on the final day for Hayden Wilmott, Glen Morgan, Richard Dickens and Jack Carter. Congratulations to you all and an outstanding effort and performance.

What I believe we can take away from the seminar is that (certainly in my eyes, at least) JNZ is on the right track in terms of where we want to be in our own studies of karate, and where we sit in the eyes of the Jundokan masters. It was a truly fantastic seminar in which all those involved were simply there to train and to learn from the masters themselves. No egos, no flashy performances, no attitudes of self-importance - simply a bunch of like-minded people there to learn from the best of the best. And I believe this was reflected in the overall success of the seminar as a whole, and also in the views of the masters themselves, who seemed more than happy with how it all played out.

I would like to say a huge thank you and congratulations to Paul Allot-sensei for all of the time and effort he invested in to making the seminar such a resounding success. He is simply an inspirational leader for Jundokan New Zealand, and I believe there is no one better and more suited to be leading this ever-strong organisation in our journey to continue learning about the art of Goju Ryu. I also believe this was reflected in the mutual respect shown by the Okinawan masters towards Paul-sensei, and it is clear that with him at the helm, JNZ will continue to be a strong, close-bound organisation for many years to come. It is also clear to me that the ties between JNZ and the Jundokan Honbu Dojo in Okinawa have never been stronger, nor have the bonds between the members of the JNZ family. I believe that the mutual respect between JNZ and the Jundokan Honbu will long continue hereafter, and I look forward to the next chance in which we are all able to train under their watchful eye in the near future. Until then, let us continue our own training, incorporating all that we learnt over a simply outstanding seminar, as we continue to grow and advance our karate together as members of Jundokan New Zealand.

I'm Tired

Yup , that’s right , tired.
I'm not saying my enthusiasm has waned at all, far from it, its just that work life balance is a very hard thing to come by, actually, balancing act would be a better term.
We decided halfway through this year to train “at the Dojo” once a week and try to spend a bit of time together “just breathing” (To quote Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam) on the other scheduled night.
Well, panting would be a better word than breathing because yes, I’m tired.
Funny, in the time we have had this year, we converted the garage to 20 square metres of Dojo space complete with two “Kung Fu style Wooden Men” as training aids.
So has the training stopped?, no, has it slowed down?, no, although renovations have gotten in the way a bit. 
We own a 108 year old Villa so that keeps us busy in its self. 
In our wisdom we decided to replace the kitchen, yes, by ourselves, after all , how hard can it be?
Well, that lead to re lining, re batting, re wiring, re fitting and ,pretty much re building the whole corner of the house. All of these re’s, as yet have not lead to re gretting taking this on, as the first feed from the new oven was sublime.
During this time we have balanced Children, Work, and training, and of course each other.
Whats my point here ?
Simple, Thank God for Goju !
If not for my training ( and my Wife) I would not have the patience ( yes I know, I don’t have a lot of it) to take on all of the above.
We use our Garage Dojo when we can, and its proven to be a good space, and having a good space such as this has helped us be,(yes you guessed it), in a good space.
But the fact remains, I'm Tired.
As the year draws to a close, I think as Kiwis, we all get a bit focused on Christmas, and of course the Holidays, I can’t wait ! That will cure the tiredness……or will it ?

Family first, then Work, Then Karate !

If its not that way for you, then I urge you to change it. 
You only get the one chance at life, so remember to take time to breath.
A favourite saying of a late friend of mine was, “don’t just do something, Sit there “ , wise words indeed.
 How many of us actually do this ?
In 29 years of training, I have put the Last 15 into running our Dojo here in Dunedin.
My focus has always been on my students, but hang on a minute, we are all students, and as such we all need guidance and inspiration.
But does that have to come from your training partners or your Sensei ?
No of course not, your Wife, Husband and family should be enough inspiration you  need to be the best you can be at whatever you do.

As for the Dunedin Dojo,
I am lucky to have a good crew of Black Belts who have stepped up and take the classes that I cannot.
We are away to work before 7am and often not home until 630pm, then off to Karate by 7pm……….Keep doing that and something will give ! 
As I said earlier I have done this for the last 15 years, and now I have help, I can focus a bit on my own training, at least that’s my intention anyway, lets see where that goes.

Ok that’s enough about the tired thing, I remain as enthusiastic as ever and my inspiration to continue comes from my Wife and three of the kids who train with us, so even though I say family first, we train together anyway,  so in that, I am a lucky man.

Remember Family first.

Train as best you can, Only you can decide how much you put into it.
Listen to your teachers’, hopefully they know what they are doing.
Strive to learn, but walk before you run.
Practice, then practice some more.
Don’t practice bad techniques though, you will get good at them
Don’t forget that basics are your foundation.
Be Patient. Apparently it’s a virtue.
Push your mind, maybe your body will follow. (with a bit of luck)
Remember that who you are is relevant, but be the best you can be given who you are.
Age is important, we don’t bounce like we used to.

Mike Dalton