After a brief hiatus (the month of August and September, we had a spectacular summer program!), I was eager to get back to this blog, especially at the prodding of the many people who faithfully read these pages. I wanted to spend some time on our dojo kun.
So the most obvious question is what is a Kun (pronounced coon)? According to Wikipedia Dojo kun is a Japanese martial artsterm literally meaning dojo rules. They are generally posted at the entrance to training halls or at the "front" of the dojo; and outline behavior expected and disallowed. In some styles of martial arts they are recited at the end of a class.
A better definition for me would be the code of conduct that governs a school or training hall. It means that it governs behavior inside and outside of the school. For each student it is the guiding principle of their practice. Do I think it’s important? Absolutely. When a school lacks a kun, written or otherwise its very much like a large ship without a rudder, large, powerful and directionless. New students can look to the kun and see if the seniors embody it. Seniors can look to it and see if they are upholding its ideals, using it as a mirror. When schools lack a code of conduct, it means that any behavior is hypothetically acceptable. It gives room to ego and behavior inappropriate to a dojo.
As schools are made up of people, and people are flawed, it underscores the importance of the code of conduct. We all make mistakes, but when we do rather than try and save face or overcompensate for being embarrassed, we can allow our code of conduct to dictate our response. It allows us to maintain grace under pressure, to push ourselves when we would rather give up. It calls us to be supportive and selfless rather egocentric. Can this occur without a kun in place? I would like to think that it can, but I also know that our default way of being can be rather unpleasant.
A dojo is not a gym or a social club it is a special place where we go to train, grow and confront our flaws and shortcomings. As such it requires that we behave in a manner reflective of the vulnerability this entails. This is what a dojo kun enables. It sets the parameters for the behavior that is appropriate to the dojo. The next time your school recites the kun, really listen to the words and reflect if you are living the ideals it is stating.
strong spirit-strong mind-strong body