MuDoKai System

August 2016

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A few years ago, I wrote an article about how martial arts, specifically the Mu Do Kai system, was a valuable contribution to your life at any age. All of the content rings true today, but through conversations with students, staff, fellow instructors, and parents, I’ve learned that I missed something. The Mu Do Kai system isn’t just the techniques we do. It’s so much more!

Let’s journey through a typical student’s experience at the dojo, leaving out the part where they do all that karate stuff. Instead, we’re focusing on what happens upon arrival and after they are dismissed from class by the Sensei. What does happen? I mean, isn’t it just a free-for-all that somehow works itself out in the end?

Not quite. Most junior students are dropped off by a parent or guardian (some do pitch a chair and observe from outside, which is completely fine). The student enters the office on their own, immediately moving to the attendance boxes. There, they determine which box (“1" if they haven’t been in that week, “2" if they have), find their card (they are alphabetized), and circle the date (current date is always shown between boxes). With card in hand, the student walks to the appropriate dojo and inserts the card into the “In" box. Then, they take off their shoes, place them on the rack (neatly!), and sit until Sensei instructs them to enter. They may talk with other students as long as it remains at conversation volume. (Some of the most insightful things I’ve heard in my life have come from these free time chats.) When Sensei opens the door, they bow upon entering, and begin warm ups.


August 2016 Newsltter 001


Fast-forward to the end of class. The Sensei has dismissed them with a bow. The students often congregate around the water cooler (which is uniquely designed for their shorter stature), rehydrating after a strenuous workout. They know water which roams away from the cooler often ends up on the floor, so, they drink it there. Then, they find their shoes, put them on, and wait for their parents to arrive at the door, or, for older students, check outside for them in the parking lot. No younger students may leave without a Sensei or staff member confirming their parent or guardian is visible.

Why offer a rundown of the experience? Because it is a proven process, in place and unchanged for over 30 years. It’s an under-appreciated, but important, aspect of the Mu Do Kai system. I’ve watched it build independence and confidence in numerous students. One, who struggled early on to find their card and circle the date, is now able to do it all, then help new students do the same. They are leading with no coaxing from us. Another liked to toss their shoes where ever they stopped. I watched as mom told the student to put their shoes away neatly, to no avail. After, I asked the student where others put their shoes. “They are all on the rack.” Bingo. I followed-up, “so where do you think your shoes should go?” “On the rack.” Those shoes aren’t a tripping hazard anymore.

No matter your thought process, having a predictable and consistent series of steps is comforting. It gives students of any age the chance to “be their own boss” and relish the knowledge that they “got it all right”. I’ve also worked with individuals challenged by OCD. It is easy for them to get caught in a loop, never finishing any one task, and becoming frustrated in themselves. Watching them settle into our predictable process, you can see their satisfaction as step 1, 2, 3, and 4 are all completed. What took them 5 minutes to complete when they first started training is now done in less than one. And their parents have commented how that confidence carried into other areas of their life.

When you hear someone talk about “personal growth” and “learning responsibility”, this is that principle in action. Inside the dojo, students learn physical discipline (getting their body to move in efficient and powerful ways) and emotional focus (emptying their mind of distractions to pay attention to the task at hand). Outside the dojo, these ideas are reinforced through actions you can easily replicate in school, work, or anywhere. You may not do Pinan Nidan (Gold belt kata) when at work or school, but might you need to locate a sheet of paper and place it in a specific box, or organize an item of clothing where someone else wants it?

The skills you gain at the University Karate Center are life-changing, and I’m not
exaggerating. So come on in, learn the process, and enjoy a class!

© 2016 Sensei Joseph Winn