The place where a martial art is formally taught is called a dojo ( dojang, wat, kwoon, heya, sasaran), the term dojo is translated from the Sanskrit bodhi-manda which is translated as "seat of wisdom". The word dojo is itself a Japanese term that literally means " place of the way" or " place of enlightenment".
It differs from a gym in that it is a place for perfecting the spirit. This is not to say that the perfection of spirit cannot occur in a gym, but that is not the focus of gyms. You don't go to a dojo to get a good sweat on, or to see how many reps you can pump out today. That is not the purpose of the dojo. The dojo, as a sacred place is where you go to confront yourself. The emphasis is always on improving the essence of self and aspiring towards the perfection of character. The pledge that is made is towards the collective good for the group, the community and the world.
You may think that by the above definition that a dojo is a room and you would be right and wrong. It is not just a room. It is not a particular style, or even centered around a particular group of people. The dojo while it can exist as a fixed place in time is also highly subjective. For example we can say the dojo is going to the park or beach this weekend to train, which does not mean we are moving our building to these respective sites.
So what does it mean?
If we take the above definition of a place to confront and improve yourself, then a dojo can be anywhere. It is an agreed upon place either by yourself or with a group consensus that serves the purpose for training, discipline, introspection, and the perfection of character. We bow in the dojo because we respect the location and what it provides us. It is a matter of respect. The same way we maintain and clean the dojo, not necessarily because the space is dirty, but because it is part of our training and it is
manifestation of respect towards the space, ourselves and those who may train
The next time you enter your dojo take a moment to really appreciate the space you are in whether it be an actual building or in the park. Remember to show gratitude and respect.
strong spirit-strong mind-strong body
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