A photo of “my Dojo” would show a small, over-crowded living room with barely any space to move, much less do katas. Should I dare call it “my Dojo” or just the space where I practice? No Kamidana or other Dojo trimmings. Truly a dojo of the mind, if not despair or need. Or just the way things are.
As I drifted from my last Dojo I used the terrace, a cement concoction outside my kitchen door and overlooking the street. Used it to practice for awhile when I still harbored the belief that this practicing solo was just a temporary solution; that somehow I would find my way back to a “real” Dojo. It was to be a complement to the dojo. When it became apparent that I would never definitely go back to a formal Dojo, I began to practice in the terrace more or less formally; mimicking or mirroring what my formal Dojo sessions were. The whole enchilada. But, of course, alone.
But the terrace proved a problem in more ways than one. Weather, peering neighbors, the accidental cement floor with its occasional pebbles, nails, and slipperiness were all factors in my abandoning it eventually, but the real clincher was something more intangible: energy. The old “chi” kicked in. I was beginning to hurt internally: dizziness, cramps out of the blue, palpitations, etc. I just could not harness the Chi, could not prevent it from dispersing into the night or boomeranging back into me like a wallop, a spiritual and physical thrashing of the senses.
Then I remembered what I heard about practicing solo and with a group. How the group can absorb the excess energy or carry you through a session. How practicing alone one runs the risk of not being able to manage the energy fields around you, especially if you practice as if you were in a full Dojo. So eventually I went indoors.
Mapping the space available was at first a challenge. Laying out the katas so I wouldn’t bump into everything took me a while. Learning how to practice also took a period of trial and error.
I recalled the anecdote of a former Sensei when he was forced to learn a kata from a Master in the confines on his tiny studio apartment, how they had to learn the kata in segments. I was not as confined or constricted but it also posed a problem that I resolved by designing a session suited to the space, my condition, and my age.
It has all been a process of continuous adjustments. I am now fully integrated to this sort of karate practice and Dojo practice is what seems foreign to me. There is nothing on the walls or floor that demarcates the area as my practice zone. I just move one piece of furniture. I dim the lights and put some instrumental mood music. I practice kata and some light stretching and breathing exercises. Sometimes I also include punching and kicking drills, but rarely. I usually only do katas.
What brought me to this was not choice but circumstance. It is not a door I walked through of my own volition. It is a last ditch effort, a foxhole carved out of what is available, a last stand.