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Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Dojo Creed and Life An Essay


My oldest two children and I have been Training at Foley's Family Karate for a year and a half now. I wrote a review last year about our experience. All three of us have progressed from white belt to yellow belt to orange belt. For each belt advancement there are two stripe requirements and then the belt testing. The first requirement for the green belt is an essay. This is mine.



The Creed and Life an Essay

By Steven R. McEvoy
For Sensei Steve Foley
Foley’s Family Karate
February 2018

The Dojo creed is central to our study, and if we are serious students it will become central to our life. We recite it at the end of most classes. We have t-shirts imprinted with it. But what does it really mean. In this work we will approach the understanding of the creed in two distinct ways. First what each of the 5 phrases or precepts of the creed mean to me personally, and secondly, we will reflect upon what the world would look like if everyone were to live by this moto. 

But before we begin close your eyes and picture in your mind a gathering of students(deshi), senior students (sempai) and teachers (sensei). The group can be 10, 20, 100 and picture them repeating the following in sync. They are loud, but clear and precise. You can hear the intention in their unified voice as the students repeat it back. 

1) We shall strive to build and perfect our character;
2) We shall be faithful and sincere in our study;
3) We shall endeavor to excel, putting maximum effort into all that we do;
4) We shall respect others and display courtesy;
5) We shall develop self-control, in order to refrain from violence and uncontrolled behavior.

There is a lot to ponder in those 51 words, and 304 characters with the spaces. I want to look at the creed, as a whole, before we begin looking at the pieces. We have two copies of this up in our house. The first is in my son’s room, and the second on the side of the fridge. He was suffering with outbursts. We printed out the creed so that when he got upset he could go and read it and remind himself of his dedication to the study and practice of karate. I found that I started using it also, when I was becoming frustrated or upset I would read it to myself before speaking or reacting. Both copies we have up at home have the numbers. But I put up a copy on my desk at work. If I glance to the right of my monitors it is there. I like reflecting upon it as a single statement. And I have highlighted in bold characters the words that often stick out to me:

We shall strive to build and perfect our character. We shall be faithful and sincere in our study. We shall endeavor to excel, putting maximum effort into all that we do. We shall respect others and display courtesy. We shall develop self-control, in order to refrain from violence and uncontrolled behavior.

Those are the words or phrases we will be looking at as we examine each of the points. 

We shall strive to build and perfect our character.

For me the two most important words in this precept are strive and character. First our character is all that we have. If we are known to lack character, it will be incredibly hard to change that opinion. But if we are known as a person of good character it goes a long way in life. But character is not a once and done sort of thing. It is something we are always working to improve. So we strive, we struggle, we persist in pursuing perfect character. Even if we will never achieve it and always have room for improvement. 

We shall be faithful and sincere in our study.

I have come to realize that this is a corner story of my practice. When I started I started because my children were hesitant. But I have come to practice for myself. My study is for me, to help me develop discipline, focus, to become healthier. So that I can be a better son, husband, father, and a better man. I need to give it my all. And even if old injuries or age slow me down, I should continue to be faithful, determined and dedicated. 

We shall endeavor to excel, putting maximum effort into all that we do.

Every time we say this phrase I picture Dead Pool, ‘Maximum effort’ is one of his mantra’s. And it is something I have taken from Karate and been trying to apply in all areas of my life. I need to give 100% in everything, shoveling snow, doing laundry, caring for my wife and children. Everything worth doing deserves that maximum effort. Like Vincent in the movie Gattaca it is about not saving anything for the return trip. To go and go and go. But not just to do but to do to the best of my ability.  

We shall respect others and display courtesy.

This is one of the corner stones of our practice. We need to show respect at all times to those of a higher belt, those with a lower belt, and those with the same belt. We are all here to learn. We are all here to practice. And It begins with basic courtesy. This includes bowing to partners who are giving of their time and effort. Listening when others are speaking. And paying attention and focusing on the tasks at hand. Basic things that we learn in kindergarten but often slowly forget as we get older. 

We shall develop self-control, in order to refrain from violence and uncontrolled behavior.

Uncontrolled behavior is an epidemic in our day and age. This is seen by examples of road rage on the news. Rampant divorce rates. And so many other symptoms in our culture today. Self-control both developed in class will carry over into other areas of our life. Personally, my uncontrolled anger, comes out in raising my voice with my children, with shouting. With getting upset often over things that an hour or a day latter won’t matter. And self-control will help is live and applied the other 4 precepts of the creed. 

Now that we have examined what the 5 precepts mean to me we will look at the question of what the world would look like if everyone lived these principles. I have been reflecting on this question for a number of weeks now. The simple answer is that the world would be a much better place. But in many ways that would be a copout. But if everyone lived by these 5 precepts the world would be safer. I think about rising crime rates in Europe and specifically the flood of attacks on new year's ever and other public celebrations. If all humans lived by these rules, respecting others would prevent those events. By living a self-controlled life there would be far less crime. There would be less personal conflict and through that less conflict between nations and peoples.  

If all people strived to perfect their character we would be focusing on improving ourselves, and not comparing ourselves to others. We would be working on the plank in our own eye and not making a big deal about the speck in someone else’s eye. We would extend more grace, and we would be more gracious.


So even thought it might be trite to say, if everyone lived by the creed the world would truly be a much better place. For I know that from the impact on my life and the lives of my children that is the case.

Note: You can read my review of Foley's Family Karate here.


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