Dojo is a word synonymous with martial arts and is the name given to the hall in which a student is taught a Japanese martial art - such as Jiu Jitsu.  It may be a custom built training facility, you local village hall, a squash court in a sports centre or even a common room at a university.  Irrespective of the venue the purpose and layout are universal.

It usually has a single or main entrance through which all students are expected to enter and in the some cases a matted area.  Since safety is paramount in Jitsu and there is a god deal of throwing and ground based grappling techniques it is almost essential to have at least some matted area in a Jitsu dojo.

The dojo should be treated with respect, and the state of the dojo is the responsibility of the students and the instructor.  It is specifically the instructor's duty to ensure that the dojo is in a suitable state to train in - although senior grades should of course attend to issues where they can.  Examples of an instructor's responsibilities in this area are:

  • The dojo is at a reasonable temperature to train in. If the dojo is too cold, then unnecessary strains or injuries may occur. If the dojo is too hot and stuffy, then students could dehydrate too quickly or in an extreme case pass out from the heat.  This can be particularly true in dojos located in humid climates.
  • Any mats are clean and safe to train on.  If mats are poorly laid out, they can move apart too easily - creating gaps that toes and fingers can slip down leading to injury.
  • The dojo should be free of rubbish and hazards.  For example low hanging lights are not suitable for any session where throwing or techniques involving long weapons such as swords.
  • The fire exits should be clearly marked and accessible. Equipment required by jitsuka should never be in the path of an escape route.
  • A fully stocked first aid kit (and a qualified first-aider - of which the instructor should be one) should be readily available in case of accident.  It is actually quite a common occurrence for some clubs to run out of tape and plasters because students with piercings tend to raid first aid kits to cover their piercings.  Students should therefore be encouraged to bring their own coverings for attending to such matters of personal safety.

In many cases, instructors may laugh at some of the things outlined above and put it down to 'traditional' ways of training, and 'pushing the limits', but it is the instructor's responsibility every step of the way to keep the student's in as safe an environment as possible. If compassion is not enough to prompt an instructor to take note of this, then perhaps the potential threat of a lawsuit is....

The student's reposnsibilities are also numerous, and apply equally to an instructor:

  • Never eat or drink in the dojo. There are some notable exceptions to this:
    • Diabetic or other medical use.
    • Rehydration - sometimes water breaks are necessary, but in cases where it may be too frequent or far to go, the instructor may allow drinking water in the dojo, but as far as possible, the water should be kept away from the training area.
  • Students with a medical condition should have any treatment (pills, inhaler, etc.) readily to hand and have explained to the instructor the relevant details for their condition and medication.
  • No jitsuka feeling the effects of alcohol should enter the dojo. This is as a sign of respect as well as safety (alcohol is clinically proven to slow reaction time).