Sep 062011

In light of my last post, I figured I’d bring up a really old martial arts tradition, that of Dojo Yaburi, or as we know it, challenging a dojo.

I am sure that you are like me, being raised on a strict diet of martial arts programing that showed martial artists blocking swords, throwing fireballs, flying, punching through brick walls, and challenging other martial arts and taking their signs with them as trophies. I can’t speak to the first bit, but as for the second bit, challenging a dojo, that was a very real and traditional part of martial arts in the past. It sounds like something the ‘roided’ up guys from the local MMA gym, or at the very least a few ’80’s Cobra kai karate dudes would do, but it was a part of traditional martial arts.

Doesn’t sound like your average traditional karate school action does it? Well the practice goes loosely like this. Challenger enters dojo and asks for a match with the sensei or master. Normally at this point, the dojo will be cleared to make room for the match, and some sort of agreement will be signed. At this point the challenger will be paired against a senior student. This is supposed to make sure that the challenger is qualified to fight the instructor, so the instructor does not waste his time, but I’ve always felt it was so the instructor would get a chance to see how the challenger fought. If the challenger won his match with the senior student, the instructor would fight him. Now in movies, the challenger would take the dojo’s sign with him, and that did happen, but it wasn’t a rule. Normally the purse for winning was simply the loss of face for the dojo, but many schools offered a cash prize if anyone managed to win, for example Helio Gracie and his Gracie challenge.

Now, to all you young martial artists out there, please don’t get up from your computer and go down to your local tae kwon do school and challenge their instructor during their kid’s class. There is another side to this. First, the school had to accept your challenge, and that doesn’t mean that they would accept your challenge right then. I don’t care if your instructor is here or not! I demand to fight him! Any reasonable excuse could postpone the match for a short term. Many schools would charge a fee for accepting your challenge. We’d love to fight you, please sign here and here and we will need $500 cash, thanks. After all, if you beat them, the school loses face, and maybe students, if they win, what do they get? Oh, and that fee was non refundable even if you won. Lastly they ask you about your credentials. It says here that you have a black belt in guitar hero. Umm..Is that your mom waiting in the car?  A dojo is not obligated to fight any hobo who sneaks in the door.

Failure to meet any of these rather reasonable demands would result in the dojo not viewing your challenge as such and instead as a crime. This means that the dojo would feel totally justified to send everyone in the school after you at one time, or call the police and have your arrested for starting trouble in their place of business.

Its also good to remind everyone that although dojo yaburi is very rooted in tradition, it has never been considered polite or proper behavior. Do expect any accepting sensei to do his level best to make sure you leave in a horizontal position.

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