Community Service at The Dojo

No, I’m not talking about the legal system.  I remain intrigued with this notion of dojo or sangha as a community – especially since I don’t think it’s something that many of us think about when we begin to practice.  Rather, it seems to present itself when we realize that we are somewhat intimately connected to a group of people in ways we might not fully understand or appreciate.

Regardless of how we get there, I believe that all of those who stay share a common bond.  People who stay and are open to being changed by the practice are seekers.  But that’s not something that comes up in conversation when we first arrive or even in the locker room when we know one another a bit better.  We rarely discuss the considerable number of “unspoken aspects of practice” that are part of the journey.  No matter how silent and subtle, these “pieces” may where the real growth and learning take place.

Not long ago, two students who were preparing for their kyu tests stayed to work with our Sensei following the regular class.  Practicing techniques requires ukes and Sensei expected two more senior students, to stay and uke. Serving as uke for students who are testing is a one way street. They throw, you roll. Over and over again you get to take ukemi!

What does this have to do with community, service or community service?  Staying after a rigorous class to serve as uke for less experience students is a not only a cultural norm in the dojo, it’s an opportunity to pay forward.  When the time comes for the senior students to test they can assume, with a fair degree of safety, that there will be plenty of uke to go around when it is their turn to test.  It might not be the same people but there will be people willing and able to meet their needs.

We might not all be close personal friends outside the dojo but we share a practice that, from time-to-time, forces us to see that we are all in this together. We serve each other and we witness others’ journeys along their paths.

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