How to Find your Perfect Dojo
remember when I first started Karate nineteen years ago. I was young, martial arts obsessed and desperate to learn. I spent months trying to find somewhere to train, well I was nine years old so me finding somewhere to train was me asking my parents to do it for me. The only problem was neither me nor my parents had any clue what we were looking for. The only reason I ended up at the right Dojo was a mix of luck and timing. We ended up driving past a Dojo in my home town and that was it. I was in...
Many years later and I now know what makes a good Dojo and how to find one. So below are my top tips for finding your perfect Dojo and what questions to ask when making the big decision.
How to find a Dojo
What to look out for
What style of Karate does the Dojo Practice?
You can think of Karate styles like different flavours of ice cream. They are all made from the same ingredients, just with chocolate sauce or sprinkles mixed in. Styles have been formed over the years when students branch out from their masters or a Sensei has added in his or her own techniques and skills. This has caused many different styles to pop up all with their own strengths and weaknesses. Usually, whatever style you start out in is the one you stick to for most of your life. People tend to get pretty loyal to their style and want to defend it till the cows come home But I encourage you not to be like that. Try a few different styles and see which one resonates with you. Shotokan, Goju-Ryu and Kyokushin are three of the more popular styles. Dojo's usually advertise their style freely so you should be able to find out and do some research. Black Belt Wiki has a great page that lists all of the styles and gives you more info on the lineage of each one.
Are they registered with the right governing bodies?
Does the Dojo have its own space?
More often than not, when a Dojo is just getting started they will rent a space in a school hall or community centre. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this but it's definitely something to keep in mind.
Are they competition focused or more traditional?
Is the Sensei reputable?
Lets talk about McDojos for a minute. In the last twenty years or so there has been an increase in less than reputable Dojos popping up around the world that are teaching their own blend of made up techniques and vague tradition. Usually characterised by multi coloured belts, excessive shouting and spinning sticks around in no conceivable pattern. Be aware!
If you are ever unsure about whether a Dojo is reputable or not, try and ask someone thats experienced in Karate for their opinion.
Please get in touch if you have any questions about a prospective Dojo, we can check it out for you.
Is the Dojo insured?
Karate is a contact sport and there is always the chance that you may get hurt. Sports and recreation organisations MUST have adequate insurance to protect their students in case of injury. The policy should cover the students during recognised competition and club approved training. When you sign up at a Dojo, you will have to pay a yearly premium, usually around $50 although some clubs may vary depending on the policy they have chosen. If you enrol at a Dojo and you didn't have to pay an insurance premium, it's a good idea to ask your Sensei if you are covered by their insurance.
Kata or Kumite?
Do you feel welcome?
Joining a Dojo can feel pretty intimidating and you shouldn't be made to feel unwelcome. Unless your local club happens to be a Cobra Kai branch, the Sensei should welcome you into the Dojo with open arms and make you feel like a part of the family. The Sensei's job is to create an open, safe space to learn and grow and I think sometimes this is replaced with an environment full of clashing egos and intimidation, in this case, run for the hills.