Q:What is the application process to join your dojo? A: Prospective students are asked to observe a class to see if traditional martial arts are for them. Many commercial martial art schools have high fees and require various contracts and clubs to join for additional costs. We prefer to put the politics away and practice; Traditional martial arts are meant to develop people and defense skills, therefore, some form of commitment to your training is required. While we don't require contracts, you will not learn the art(s) coming in every once in a while or a couple of times a month. Traditional martial arts can be for everyone, but finding the right school or teacher can be very difficult.
Q: Do you teach children? A: At the present time, we do not teach children, but our dojo host, USA Shotokai headed by Toyotaro Miyazaki Sensei does offer karate for children starting at 4 years. Prospective students for Jujutsu and iaido should be a minimum of 16 years old.
Q: Are there any religious aspects to training at your dojo? A: No! There is no religious doctrine that we follow at our dojo, however, due to the fact that we teach traditional Japanese martial arts, there are certain aspects of the Japanese culture that are taught. Customary actions such as bowing before and after class, when entering and leaving the dojo etc., are inherent and practiced in all traditional Japanese art dojo's around the world. They only signify reishiki or etiquette to each other and the art(s) in which we practice. There is no religious significance to this action.
Q: How long does it take to get a black belt? A: Each respective art has their own curriculum, but let's first talk about what a "black belt" really is. When you say black belt, we say shodan or 1st grade holder. Shodan is equivalent to something like graduating high school. In traditional martial arts from Japan, there is no "black belt" rank. A dan or grade holder is signified by wearing a black belt or in some other schools by the wearing of a hakama or pleated split trouser traditionally worn for special occasions or historically for use on horseback. Each subsequent grade is granted based on ability, initiation into certain techniques and time in rank until one is granted permission to teach in which someone is granted a "Menkyo" or teaching license. Any one who is below a shodan level is considered mudansha or ungraded, which itself is signified traditionally by a white belt and kyu grade. The American society has elevated the "black belt" to expert status in the arts, but it means the exact opposite in reality. Shodan is earned by someone who has thoroughly learned the basics and can perform those techniques at an acceptable level. With this being said, the shodan rankis not considered to be a very high rank and not enough to teach on ones' own. It is generally thought of as a seriously minded student ready to learn the art in which they practice. Many factors go into reaching shodan, such as natural ability, skill level, frequency of training and the ability to grow as leader to the more junior students. Try to empty you cup and as they say, just practice. Everything comes when the student is ready.
Q: Are you affiliated with any Japanese organizations? A: Yes! Links and heritage in Japanese martial arts are important to learn and understand. The Dentokan arts are recognized in Omiya, Japan from the KoKoDo Jujutsu Renmei and the Goju Ryu Okinawakan Karate-do Kyokai on Okinawa. The Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iaijutsu under the KNBK is affiliated with the Dai Nippon Butokukai (Japan's Oldest Martial Arts Organization based in Kyoto) and our practice of OnoHa Itto Ryu Kenjutsu is authorized by the current Soke, Sasamori Takemi Sensei in Japan. There are yearly opportunities to study in Japan and on Okinawa with our teachers if one wishes to go, however, you don't need a Japanese organization to learn "real, authentic" techniques, but culture is infused in our training and going to Japan or training with those who have been there will improve your budo and understanding of the art in which you study.
Q: Do you teach how to use weapons other than the katana? A: Yes, we do. Outside of our traditional sword arts study, the practice of jujutsu and aiki jujutsu will teach the necessary body mechanics to use anything as a weapon. Formally, you will learn to use the katana, wakizashi, tanto, jo and hanbo, some of the traditional weapons of feudal Japan. On the flip side, you will also learn to defend yourself against these weapons and modern ones as well, such as the gun, stick and knife.