“When we walk into the Dojo, we’re white belts again.”

This is a statement often reiterated in my Dojo and it makes sense.

WhitebeltThe Dojo is a place of structure and respect. In there, becoming a white belt again has a number of realities. In Kihon (basics) we need to practice the way we did as white belts: long, low stances, FULL sets and big movements. Why? For strengthening and muscle memory; the fact is, if we can get fairly efficient and quick in doing traditional, full techniques, in time our techniques in combat or Kumite will be shorter, faster and more effective.

In listening and copying we need to always be white belts, because the fact of the matter is, our learning doesn’t end, and there is only one true way to listen: with an empty mind: with no preconceived notions or judgments. There is no place in a Shotokan Dojo for attitudes of I know this, or I’ve heard that before. Shunryu Suzuki said that there are few possibilities in the mind of an expert, but many in the mind of a beginner.

Not the least important in the concept of always being a white belt is this: respect. Typically, a white belt in the Dojo exhibits characteristics of such things as always being attentive, responsiveness and an eagerness to learn. This should never change. So, the next time you’re in the Dojo and Shugo is called, run to the line, look prepared and aware and become a sponge, because the next hour or so will be filled with Karate golden nuggets…That is, if you listen.