Life Lessons from the Dojo

Dan Boyle, DC
January 07, 2008
Written by Dan Boyle, DC
The martial arts as a metaphor for living.
I approach the edge of the mats and look to the front of the training hall where the pictures of our founders hang on the wall.  Bringing all of my attention to the purpose of being here, I then offer a bow of respect to those who have helped to make it possible.  I step onto the mats where the world is reduced to 98 square metres of surface area as the rest of my life fades into the background for a couple of hours.

Martial arts have been part of my life for over 20 years, starting in 1985 when I studied karate at the YMCA in Toronto.  In 1994, the same year I graduated from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, I also received my first-degree black belt.  For the past five years, I have additionally been studying aikido, earning my first-degree black belt in that discipline last December.

Aikido and karate share common characteristics, notably the aim of inspiring individuals to develop a strong character in order to respond to life’s problems in the most appropriate way.  A martial arts practitioner never goes looking for trouble but instead always seeks ways to avoid trouble with the least amount of effort possible.  One of the primary tenets is to lead a virtuous life.

Some great metaphors for life can be found in a dojo.  The basis of training is that you must first find your centre, and learn to move while always keeping your balance.  Then you need to develop the ability to feel where your attacker’s balance is so that you can subdue that person, either steering them out of harm’s way, or disabling them completely.

This approach has universal application.  We must be centred in who we are and how we see the world, if we want to be successful.  In practice, for example, we ought to ensure that the founding principles of chiropractic are at the centre of our being.  This will allow us to effectively bring our healing gifts to our community, and it will also enable us to effortlessly stop all detractors in their tracks.

Another important lesson that I have learned in the dojo is that advanced technique will always win over brute force.  If you find that a particular direction you are heading in life is not working for you, using the same tactic with more force is not the answer.  There is always a path of much less resistance and much greater results.  We need to focus on advancing our skills to find these paths.

One of my favourite martial arts expressions is “Bleed in the dojo. Laugh on the battlefield.”  Through disciplined effort and focused training in the dojo, we improve our strength, sharpen our skills, and forge our resolve to face any situation with certainty and flawless execution.

Currently, I operate a karate dojo for students of all ages.  My plan is to expand this club to eventually offer aikido instruction.

In many respects, it feels as if my training in martial arts has only just begun.  Seeing what the masters of the art are capable of, it is apparent that I can anticipate many challenging rewards ahead. This will be a lifelong pursuit.•

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