Frequently Asked Questions for the New Student
1) Why do we bow?
Bowing in the Dojo represents and is a sign of respect and tradition.
2) Why do we meditate before and after class?
Upon hearing the instruction “Zazen”, which means to assume the correct Zen posture and “Mokuso”, which means to begin meditating, we begin our meditation practice. Through the posture and breathing method we center ourselves, clear our mind of distractions, and focus on the present, preparing to give a full 100% effort for the duration of the class. Through the relaxation and tension of the abdominal muscles, which Japanese call the “Hara Tanden”, we learn to increase our energy, alertness and focus. In traditional terms by concentration on the center (Hara) and alternating tensing and relaxing the muscles correctly in co-ordination with the breathing, we are learning a method to build more spirit and energy. Meditation is one of the methods we use to acquire knowledge and understanding of ourselves and subsequently knowledge and understanding of others.
After class we need to acknowledge that class is over and we begin to return to a normal, calm, peaceful state. We often use this time to simply sit and breathe without thought and just absorb the moment. We may also use this time to re-affirm an objective. The trick is to use the concentration on the breath exclusively as a method to rid the mind of unnecessary thoughts that intrude upon our practice. We develop the mental discipline through this practice, which takes time, and we learn that becoming empty is actually fully absorbed. Empty, but full. The practice at the Dojo, due to time constraints, is introductory and can be developed more with discipline and extra practice. For a fighter, learning to control their thinking and emotions is a critical component in their champion quest.
3) Why do we say “Osu”?
Saying “Osu” is one of the practices at the Dojo that builds spirit and community. The translation of the Japanese term indicates its purpose. Literally, “Osu” translates to mean acknowledgement and yes, figuratively it means accepting the spirit of challenge. Of course in martial arts and life there are many challenges and we, as practitioners of this art, understand this and acknowledge that fact. “Osu”, is often said at the appropriate time with sincerity and spirit. Often it is said at the beginning and ending of class. The competitive fighter often uses this word as a mental cue to prepare for battle before the fight. It switches the spirit on.
4) How and when do we bow?
These are the basics. We bow prior to entering the Dojo, before class, after class, prior to engaging a partner, after engaging a partner. Bowing styles vary and what is more important than technique is the spirit of the move. The style of salutation varies slightly with the class and the material being taught. In the weapons class, for instance, since the material being taught has a Filipino origin, the bow is of traditional Filipino style that is common in weapons based systems. In Muay Thai the bow starts with the traditional Thai style and ends with the Japanese bow that finishes in the “ready stance”. This style of salutation is unique to our tradition and roots. In the Pankration and Submission Wrestling classes, in respect to this arts Japanese roots and pioneering method, we use the traditional Japanese style bow. Upon entering the Dojo, we bow with the Thai and Japanese method which finishes the ready stance. Again, if someone came from a different background, perhaps visiting, and preformed their method until our style became ingrained, then that is fine. The Thai and Japanese style bow is coincidently the same style that GSP (Georges St-Pierre) currently uses in his UFC entrances, and this method represents the respect he shows to his style’s roots.
5) Where do I put my personal belongings at the Dojo?
Shoes can be put in the shoe-rack or in the changing rooms. All other personal belongings, including gear, should be kept in the changing rooms. If you must keep your sparring gear handy, then store it in your bag in the Dojo underneath a chair. The chairs are for visitors to sit on. There should not be items scattered around the floor and on the chairs. A little attention to cleanliness is required. The best place for your items is, naturally, in the changing rooms.
6) Why do we use attendance cards?
Upon enrollment all student are asked if they can practice a minimum of 2-3 times per week and do some review or home practice on their off days. This is a basic requirement that will ensure progress. We do offer classes 6 days a week in the day and evening. We also have an upstairs training facility that is frequently available for extra practice. Uniquely we provide a lot of training options so people can fit the martial arts practice into their lives effectively. If people practice as instructed, then the results are strong, which is the goal. The benefits of practice are many and varied and worth the effort. Some people have extenuating circumstances which are discussed individually but the basic requirement is the standard. Some very motivated students train multiple times in a day. We use the unlimited method to help people fit the practice in their busy schedule and to help the serious student get excellent results.
7) What are the initial student evaluations?
At about the 3 month mark, on average, a student typically would be ready for an evaluation. For Pankration the white belt pre-test should be done and prepares the student for the complete test. For Muay Thai the white and yellow evaluation prepares the student for understanding the basics and prepares the student for sparring and the full test subsequently. For Cardio Muay Thai Kickboxing the Level 1 evaluation is done and this prepares the student for good training habits and continuous progress. All of these initial evaluations prepare the student to have a good foundation, develop skills and make progress. Setting goals is important in starting martial arts and lifestyle improvements. Once goals are achieved, then new goals are added to build greater accomplishments.
*Questions and answers recently developed and shared with the students at Kel Lee’s Academy of Martial Arts and Posener’s Pankration, Vancouver, BC. (June/2010.)