I have seen dojangs and dojos with lists of rules that go on for multiple pages, and that bothers me. Partially because they feel like they need to lay out all the details and foibles. Attorneys do not belong in the martial arts because of their need to create complexity where simplicity is better. As Albert Einstein said, things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.
Based upon this principle I really have Four Rules that my children and students are taught, because they can apply them in all situations that they encounter. They are not immutable laws like physics, but guiding ideals to use whenever they need help in figuring out what to do and what not to do.
The first is simply “Listen”. Obviously with a toddler it is tough, but if they learn to listen it really can prevent bad things from happening. It is also fundamental to building relationships whether on a personal or business level. And it definitely applies to a martial arts classroom.
The second is “Obey”. Maybe it comes from my Catholic and military upbringing, but every martial arts student needs to learn to follow orders from their higher ranks. And as individuals climb ranks they learn to accept the burden and responsibility of power over lower ranks.
Third is “Do Good”. This covers everything from teaching three year olds that “hands are for helping, not for hurting” to assisting old ladies across the street. Almost every major religion in the world has this component prominently in it, so it makes sense to have the moral principles reinforced early and often in children and beginning students. Modeling this behavior is critical to maintaining respect in the training hall and outside of it.
Last is “Practice”. This really should go without explanation for the martial arts, but it goes beyond the dojo’s walls. Practice your math and spelling as a child so you can get good at it. Practice your presentations in a business setting. Practice doing good by just keeping an eye out for others that are struggling in some way. Practice listening to your spouse, and obeying the moral teachings of whomever you follow. Continuously work at being a better everything and you will do so, and if you are being guided by the other principles then your practice will really drive you to success however you care to measure it.
I do have these rules written on the wall of my training hall. They are also on the wall of my office, to continuously reinforce the basic principles for excellence in all things. And if I ever forget I have a three year old to remind me “Dai, do good today!”
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