This year marks the 50-year Anniversary of Senaha Sensei opening his Dojo in Tomigushuku, Okinawa. Whilst of much lesser importance, 10 years since I built my home Dojo here in Ilfracombe, North Devon. So, in many ways it is kind of a milestone year. To my knowledge there will be no big celebrations, just Dojo members entering the Dojo and training hard and regularly as they always have, with no time for poor excuses or need for fame, praise, or external gratification from others.

Whilst in the confines of Sensei’s Dojo in Okinawa, I often wonder and visualise in my mind’s eye what training has gone on in there before me. The blood, the sweat, the tears, and even laughter through the constant work aimed towards personal progress that has taken place on this very floor. Yes, I have of course been witness to many memorable experiences myself too over the past decade or two. But nothing in comparison to the many fond and proud memories that Senaha Sensei must have, as the harvesting of students from this Ryusyokan Dojo is Sensei’s legacy for sure. And there are many… As I say, I often wonder on those early days when the Dojo first opened, in many ways wishing that I’d been there too. But through old photographs I can only imagine and try to emulate things in the present moment, as this is all we have.

The thing with a Karate Dojo, be it in Okinawa, England or wherever, is that it needs to be brought to life, as it needs energy and a soul. A Karate Dojo of worth does not just appear or come alive overnight, far from it in fact, so one should never be complacent in their thinking here. A Dojo of worth takes much time and patience, years in-fact, even though the ingredients are very simple one. All begins with a firm but caring Sensei who has knowledge and understanding in guiding students through the direction of regular hard training that is genuine, sincere and focussed. But more than that, and as Senaha Sensei often reminds us “The relationship between Sensei and Students is based on sincerity, through loyalty, honour and respect”.

Prior to moving down from the Midlands to North Devon I had a well-established Karate Dojo. One that took many years to build up. There was none of the comings and goings where students had options of training just when they felt like it, gradings that were given away easily, or any fun and needless banter in the Dojo going on either. All in attendance were adults who had to be serious about studying the Art of Karate, but most importantly they needed to be sincere in character. Because whom we share the Dojo floor with is always of the upper most importance. Refer to the analogy of getting in with the wrong crowd if you disagree with this…

The photograph above was taken after the final training session in my old Home Dojo back up in the Midlands. In attendance there were 2 green belts and 1 brown belts who are standing in the centre of the back row, with all others in attendance being Dan grades. And even though I could only fit 10 of us in my Home Dojo at one time, there was in fact another 20 or so members who all trained together regularly three Evenings per week. Attendance in my Home Dojo for extra training was on a rotational basis. After this photograph was taken I did often wonder if I would ever get to achieve or experience a Dojo of this quality feeling again. As building a new Dojo full of students that has little substance, can be done quickly and easily, especially so if you give people what they want, this way though would never be for me. Yes, the above Dojo still lives on under the direction of a few of the guys in the very photograph above.  

Moving on a decade or so later… After one of our regular training sessions together the other evening, with a post group of adult students in my Devon Home Dojo. That also includes a few Dan grades now too. Two of which recently graded in Okinawa under Senaha Sensei, on his 83rd birthday in-fact (A honour and achievement that is worth a blog post for another day). Anyway, after training with these guys I smiled to myself in reflection as I thought to myself. Ten years in the making it may have been, but this Dojo is now truly alive! With training taking place regularly with a group of sincere dedicated students all coming together and practicing in a way, just as I’d both built and been a part of all those years ago in the Midlands. In truth, Senaha Sensei had already set out the path for me to follow and see, and with devotion and dedication this outcome was never really in doubt. This though is not the end but the makings of a Dojo beginning with much work for us to do.

I will leave you with the words that my old dad would say to me often “Son, where there’s a will there’s a way”.