Monday, 8 December 2014

Socialising off the mat.

The budo world is a weird place. People from different races, religions and professions don traditional Japanese clothing and walk onto a matted space to practice antiquated martial techniques. We put our safety into each others' hands and then we bow, walk off the mat and continue with our lives as normal.

What happens when training is over?

At times I find it a surreal experience. We leave behind our contemporary world and enter one of etiquette, respect and controlled violence. What are we thinking?

In some dojo this is the extent of the relationship between the practitioners. However, another part of the culture can be the socialising that occurs between members at other times.

There are the seminar get-togethers. Usually a high ranking guest is in town and effort is put into booking a venue to gather after a day's training. This is often a restaurant close to the training venue. People get to talk to sensei off the mat, hear the budo stories and get to know one another a little better. It is an atmosphere that appears informal but due to the number of people quite often people are still reserved and respectful, despite the jokes being thrown around.

Then there are the talks after class. These often involve discussing organisational issues and making plans for upcoming events at the dojo. "We need to get that leak fixed." or "How do you think that new guy went today?" I will include in this events where members get together to clean the dojo or repair a part of the building. The relationships between people are more authentic than the seminar events. Usually everyone knows everyone else, at least by name and there is a feeling of camaraderie as the members work towards a common goal.

In some cases, the relationship with other members of the dojo become true friendships. They become people you can hang out with any time. The dojo may still be the focal point for many of your meetings and get-togethers but it is much more likely that you might go around to each other's house or end up getting to know each others children.

I have trained and been a member of dojo that had people mostly interact on the mat then leave. I have also been part of a dojo where each member will look out for you and catch up off the mat as well. Both were/are filled with good people.

People come to train at a dojo for many reasons. Some for fitness, some for self-defence and so on. They get out of it as much as they put in, including the relationships they form with other members. The three situations I described above allow different people to interact with others at different levels and in my opinion, that is a good thing.

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