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The Dojo Culture

Culture is a big buzzword in the corporate world these days. Everyone is looking to build a great workplace culture. It can keep employees happy and productive while also attracting the best talent. A negative culture can have the opposite effect. Culture can make or break a business.

Working on the dojo culture

Working on the dojo culture

But is a good culture only important only at work? What about in the martial arts world and at the dojo? In his Effective Coaching class at the 2014 Texas Kenpo Conference, Mr. Bob White suggested karate schools should have a culture of coaching. Every student from white belt all the way up should be helping their fellow students strive for greatness through positive encouragement.

Culture is made from a combination of goals, attitudes, work ethics, actions, and personalities. Like minded people attract like minded people. The martial arts school owner sets the tone for the culture, but the students bring it to life and help pass it down to the next class of enrollment.

What makes up your dojo culture?

Strict discipline vs. relaxed atmosphere?
Hot, sweaty classes vs. hardly raising the heart rate
Traditional customs vs. new ideas
Long time between ranks and testing vs. powering through quickly
Hard hitting vs. light contact
Predominantly shadow boxing vs. working on a body
Lesson plan vs. No plan
Work with other schools vs. secluded, isolated island-ish
“Yes Sir/Yes Ma’am” vs. “yeah”
Teach at the front of class vs. teaching in middle of the students
Address people by “Mr./Ms. [Last Name]” vs. only the “[First Name]”
Wear Gi’s vs. wear whatever
Only concerned about your curriculum vs helping other students with theirs
Open dialogue for questions vs. one-sided lectures
Well lit, clean studio vs. dark, dingy studio

The answers to these questions are just some of the characteristics which will make up your dojo culture. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. It’s unique to each school, and can certainly shift over time. New students and instructors, new attitudes, and a concerted effort to work at it can change the culture in a martial arts school.

What you teach is certainly important in martial arts training. But you can’t overlook how you teach it, the environment it’s taught in, and the attitudes of those learning it. All of those factors determine the dojo culture and in turn, could determine the success of the students. People may find the martial arts studio due to advertising, but the dojo culture will play a huge part in getting them to remain students while becoming the best martial arts they can be.

Sam Bowley
Bowley Kenpo Karate in McKinney, TX

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The Dojo Culture
The Dojo Culture
Which martial art is taught may not be as important in developing a dojo culture as much as how it's taught and the attitude of those learning it.

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