When I am not training at the dojo, I am training at the dojo.
That is to say, when I am not training, I work as a volunteer at the dojo. I have a career in Communications, but when I volunteer my time, I do whatever is needed–from developing marketing strategies to cleaning restrooms or taking phone calls. You have probably seen me around, working behind the desk or vacuuming. You may be surprised to know my volunteer time is (gasp!) unpaid and (double gasp!) highly rewarding. How can that be?
I consider volunteering to help around the school as just part of my training, like learning self-defense or kata. Through volunteering, I practice the philosophy behind the martial arts I have learned.
Martial Arts is about Discipline and Self-control.
I demonstrate both self-control and discipline by focusing on the needs of the dojo and keeping my commitment to make my dojo the best school around. Because it is volunteer work (not paid), it is my choice (not my job), with no outside incentive to push me to do it. That means I have to rely on myself to keep my word. I must truly practice discipline and self-control to honor my commitment to be there.
Martial Arts is about Responsibility.
By volunteering, I take responsibility for my training. I take responsibility for the success of my dojo also. I understand my dojo is a reflection of me. That means when guests or family visit, they are not only observing Sensei and the walls. They also watch and judge my ability and my seriousness about training when I am on the mat. Visitors observe how seriously we students take our training on and off the mat, and they notice the dojo’s appearance and cleanliness.
A potential student considers the students currently in class and the general conduct of the dojo (including my conduct). When I think of that, I have to remember it is my dojo; it is where I train; it is up to me to make it great. My dojo and my training are my responsibility.
Martial Arts is about Hard Work and Skill.
Nothing happens without effort and this is certainly true in martial arts. It takes practice, practice, practice. Then it takes more practice, and as with any skill, you get out of it what you put into it.
If all someone hopes to achieve with martial arts training is to know how to intimidate others or beat people up, then I would tell that person they can save a lot of money by going to a schoolyard and watching how bullies do it.
If you want to be something more than a bully, I recommend volunteering as much time helping your dojo as you spend training there. Volunteering is an opportunity to build other martial arts skills. Even things that seem small are an opportunity to show respect to your training area. Washing the windows and helping to clean floors honor your dojo as much as developing a strong counter-attack (perhaps more so because these things also require humility and teamwork).
It may sound crazy, but volunteering allows a chance to put as much effort into perfecting your window-washing and floor-cleaning skills as you put into perfecting your side-kicks and punches.
Through volunteering, you learn how a dojo is actually run. You can build or refresh your business skills. You can become better at working with teams or, if you are a career manager like me, you can seize the opportunity to re-connect with the work you normally direct others to do.
That is why I say, when I am not training at my dojo, I am training at my dojo (as a volunteer).
When you commit time to helping your dojo, you train yourself not only to be a better fighter, but also to be a better person.
It is my honor to train with Shihan (Master) Montise Peterson at his highly esteemed school, Mizudo Academy of Martial Arts in Dearborn, Michigan.