In martial arts traditional training, many rituals that a white belt might not understand are performed. You are asked to remove your shoes and bow at the door before entering the dojo (and before going in or out of any other door in the dojo). You are asked to take your turn at sweeping or vacuuming the floor before practice and you are asked to bow to a shrine dedicated to the founders of your style.
True, when you signed up for martial arts traditional training you didn't sign up to be housekeeper for the dojo, but as with any martial arts traditional training, there is always a deeper meaning to any action or request.
Let's take a look at the act of bowing. When you enter a dojo (martial arts school), you are asked to bow. In general, bowing is a sign of respect. It is like shaking hands or saying "thank you."
You bow to the shrine to show respect to the founders of your particular style and you bow to your Sensei, instructors and fellow students to show respect as well. It isn't just harassing the new white belt student; there's actual meaning and respect behind the action.
As a white belt, you are expected to do what your instructors tell you to do and do it without question (within reason, of course). When your instructors first started their martial arts traditional training, they had to do their fair share of sweeping floors and dusting trophy shelves.
The obvious reason for this is to show pride in your dojo and keep it clean. The second is a little more philosophical. Each day before class starts, the floor is swept. Each person to arrive takes their turn at sweeping before they stretch and get ready for that day's class.
Sweeping is a reminder that we must also clear the debris from our minds before we practice. Now is not the time to be thinking about deadlines, tomorrow's report or yesterday's supplies that should have been ordered. You need "mushin" -- an empty mind.
But the things you learn as a white belt -- and beyond -- aren't meant to stay in the dojo. Martial arts history and tradition are meant for everyday life as well. The combative arts aren't simply another exercise program. They never have been.
The things you learn as a student of the martial arts will aid you throughout your life and help you achieve goals you had previously only dreamt. It's not easy, but it is satisfying.
The simple things may seem simple, but if you can get past that and truly master each lesson learnt as a white belt, you will be on your way to being a true martial artist. Never simply assume that you know enough, either.
Any of the martial arts traditional teachings will tell you that life is a lesson that never ends. So look forward to earning your next belt, because with it, comes all new lessons.
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