Looking at a class from outside the dojo or even through the windows can be intimidating. What are all those people doing and why are they all bowing to each other? Sometimes, it reminds people of a secret, religious organization.
Relax, it’s not that wacky. Because we practice a traditional form of karate, we do some things that are common in Japanese culture, such as bowing and wearing a white gi and belts which identify levels of achievement. We count in Japanese and even say some other phrases in Japanese.
Shotokan karate was started in Okinawa, which is currently part of Japan, and brought to Tokyo in the 1920s by the founder, Ginchin Funakoshi. The white uniform (gi) and belt colors were adopted from judo, already a Japanese sport, and the respect and deference to higher ranks and senior people is all part of the culture.
When we bow in at the beginning of class, for instance, there is a certain way of sitting at attention and we say, “Please teach me” (onegaishimasu, which is pronounced “O-nee-gash-ee-mas”) as we bow towards the teacher. At the end of class we say, “Thank you for teaching me” (domo arigato gozaimashita, which is pronounced “Domo or-ee-gato-go-zar-ee-mash-tah”).
One of the great things about karate is that anyone can practice it and receive its benefits. You don’t even have to be particularly good at sports. The founder, Sensei Funakoshi, wanted it to be taught in school in order to reach the largest number of people possible. Karate gives things to people that other sports do not. If you are not coordinated, it can increase your coordination, if you are timid, it can make you feel more competent, if you are stiff, the exercises we do help you stretch and feel better. You can use the program to lose weight, increase your endurance and even stave off mental deterioration of aging (like Sudoku, just more fun).
When you come to your first class, come in loose clothes (shorts and t-shirt or track suit-like). We will show you a few moves and let you experience some of the exercises we do. Don’t worry, no one is looking at you – they are all busy with their own workout. Plus, it’s a guarantee that every single one of THEM started as a white belt at some point in their life.
If you like the class, we can set you up with a gi and tell you when your classes are. We are a month-to-month school, which means, there is no contract to sign. It’s that simple, a road to better health and life!
Oh, and moms and dads can come and watch all the classes they want (they can take classes too – hint, hint). You can see everything that is going on, either from the balcony, or downstairs through the viewing windows. So come on by and find out if karate is for you!