Monday, June 18, 2012

Does training for practical application require a Dojo?

I have  been asked several times are traditional martial arts a waste of time?  Or do you feel you have  wasted years of your life training in traditional martial arts? 

No, and here is why.  If I use the metaphor of a tree with solid, efficient, practical application combative measures as the end product or the fruit of the tree if you will.  Then traditional martial arts training is the root system of that tree.  The deeper better developed the roots are, the stronger the tree, the better, and more fruit the tree can yield.

Every tree will need a pruning process

Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth.

If you seek wisdom, seek the destruction of the illusions you hold as true more than you seek new truths.

-Karl Ludwig Börne

Cut all that is unnecessary, contradictory and unproductive.  Nurture and refine what is left.

My goal as an Instructor is to get my students to yield quality fruit of their own through a process that is more streamlined / outcome based than the path I took.

However, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water.  There are many great aspects of traditional martial arts training I strive to maintain while streamlining the process.

One of those things that I enjoy is the sense of esprit de core of a Dojo.  There is nothing quit like sweating, and bleeding on each other while you hit, crank joints, and slam folks into the planet to bring people together.  People who go through that  process and stick around for more earn their place at the Dojo and become tight like family

I am very fortunate to have the Dojo family that I have.  Due to the nature of what I teach, and how I teach it (would you believe there are people out there that do not enjoy hard work or sweating, and bleeding on each other while getting hit, getting your joints cranked on ,or getting slammed into the planet?) I will never have a large commercial Dojo.  There just isn’t a market for it.  That is fine by me.  I’ll take my 10 – 20 quality students over the hundreds of the type of students that flocks to belt factories that tend to be commercially successful.

As I said, those 10 – 20 become tight.  There is a saying:

Friends will help you move
Best friends will help you move…..a body

It was those best friend bonds that were forged through mutually survived hardships (mostly self imposed) at the Dojo that made building a new Dojo possible.  There is no way I could have done it alone.

Last Saturday we had a Dojo opening seminar and party.  Great class, and a fun time!  This is how we got there

In April (this will sound hokey) I started feeling the need to find a new place to train.  I felt it so strongly that I was even having dreams about it.  As mentioned it is very unlikely I will ever make enough money teaching what and how I like to teach, to rent a place big enough for me to teach in.  So I started looking into possibilities of using space in places that would be willing to help Law Enforcement and Military receive more (and better) training.

I called the Elk River American Legion and spoke to Gloria.  I told her what I was looking for and trying to accomplish.  She told me they had a meeting room in the basement I could use.  I was very excited and drove over there right after work.  She showed me the meeting room straight out of 1972.  But I figured this could work we can take the tables down, lay down the mats, put the mats away and put the tables back every class.  I’ve done that before, it is not super fun, but no big deal.  Gloria showed me a closet where we could store the mats.  She thought it might be a little cramped and suggested we might store the mats behind this other door.  The other door looked just like the closet door she just showed me so I assumed it was just another closet.  Instead it was this very large open space that had been filled with odds and ends over the years.  I asked if it would be possible if we just moved some of the stuff around to train in this room.  Gloria shot me a look.  

I figured great, that was a deal breaker, I just stepped on my dick.  Gloria said, well – we would have to move all of this junk and put up some fresh paint.  It’s just me, the maintenance guy, and my husband doing all that work.  I said I have at least 10 friends with strong backs that could get that work done if you would let us help.  Gloria pitched the idea to her boss and the gears started turning.  

Apparently Gloria has been attempting to do something productive with that room for 20 some odd years and it wasn’t until the fates put us together did it happen.

So start the 80’s clean up montage music in your head here is the before and after

The feeling of family is something I will always strife to maintain at the Dojo

I’ll end this blog with an example of that bond

This picture is of the Dojo membership wall.  I am not overly concerned with the rank of my students.  However, I really like this rank board because you have to earn your place on it through blood and sweat.  

The other reason I like this rank board and why it is an example of this bond, this particular rank board was a gift from my Sensei, Alvin McClure.  This rank board hung in his Dojo before I ever met him.  I won’t go into detail of what happened to that Dojo, but for the point of this blog it is suffice to say that the rank board was kept in storage until it had a place to hang again.

I am very proud that McClure Sensei gave it to me.  I am happy that it can be used as a visual representation of the family that the Dojo has forged

So I'll return to the original question of this blog - 
Does training for practical application require a Dojo?  The world is your Dojo you can train anywhere.  But you can only get so far training by yourself.  The people you sweat and bleed on - they are the Dojo.
With that definition - hell yes practical training is dependent on a Dojo.

I am very blessed to have built mine - go build yours.

Train hard, Train Smart, Be safe - Take time to appreciate those who are willing to spend their time and effort to train with you


  1. It's an honor and a pleasure to sweat and bleed with you (well let's face it, I do most of the bleeding).
    You are an amazing Sensei.

  2. Excellent post. I've had the extreme fortune to always happen to be training where it was a "we're a family" kind of place. And now that I've got a few years behind me I can safely say I'd never train where that attitude wasn't present - no matter how good the training.

  3. Nice pictures.Loved your interior decoration.Very nicely decorated.Thanks for sharing this!!!!!

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  4. Greetings! Glad to see your new space! I've been trying to track down your dojo info with no luck (sent an email via the webpage and called the phone number there). I think what you're doing is awesome-I've long been a fan of Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller's stuff, and I just read your essay in the Campfire Tales book; good work! Is there a way to get in touch with you about classes and what have you? That is, if you're open to the public :) Hope all is well!

  5. I went through the same process as you two years ago. I found a little warehouse, rented it and turned into a dojo. I love it. It's like my second home. I'll take it over a larger commercial dojo anyday.

    I also came to the same understanding as you as regards the commercial appeal of such a dojo. I teach classical Jujitsu and Combatives. The training is hard and blood is often shed on the mats. But that is how I like. Its why the students we have come back for more each week. Not too many people are into that kind of training or lifestyle.

  6. You nailed it with 'the people are the dojo'. So true. Congratulations, by the way on the new space. Looks sharp.

  7. I'm sorry for any complications in contacting me. The web site is being reformatted.

    I can be contacted at
    or 763 360 7200

    I hope to hear from you soon

  8. No problem; thanks for the reply! I'll shoot you an email soon.