Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains answers to several of the most frequently asked questions about budō and the Jikishin-Kai International. Just click on the questions listed below to see the answers.  And if you can't find the answers you're looking for here, please e-mail us any questions you may have and we will be pleased to reply with the answer for you.

n How much do you charge?
n Do you offer free trial lessons?
n What is your class schedule?
n What styles do you teach?
n What age groups do you teach?
n What will you be teaching my children?
n Do I have to sign a long-term contract?
n How long will it take to reach Black Belt?
n How do students earn different belts or ranks?
n What is a "McDojo" and what makes your dojo different?
n Why do students have to wear uniforms and where can they get them?
n Are Jikishin-Kai members required to compete in tournaments?
n Do you teach self-defence classes or street-fighting techniques?
n Why do students have to bow, meditate, and use Japanese terminology in class?
n What kind of meditation is performed in your classes?
n Do you have students perform any religious rituals in class?
n What is budō and how is it different from martial arts?
n Do you offer any classes just for women?
n Do you offer any classes for people with disabilities or special needs?
n Why should I or my child learn an art or style that is centuries old and may no longer be practical?
n What if a student gets injured while training or competing?
n Why do I have to sign a waiver of liability in order to join the Jikishin-Kai?
n Do you have insurance to cover medical costs if I or my child get injured?
n What else?

How much do you charge?

The Jikishin-Kai International (JKI) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational and athletic organisation operated by volunteers from its Dōjō Members for the benefit of our members, so we charge only the lowest fees necessary to fund our basic operations, such as website hosting, printing and mailing of membership materials, maintenance and dissemination of curricula, instructor certification, and any direct travel expenses incurred in providing our member services.  By operating so frugally, we are able to charge only $75.00 per year in dues to our Dōjō Members and $25.00 for Individual Members..

Our Dōjō Members provide all direct instruction to our students other than special events held by the JKI, and it is those local dōjō that acquire and maintain the facilities and equipment used in student training.  Since costs can vary significantly by location, each member dōjō charges different fees for its instruction and other services.  Please contact the dōjō at which you intend to train for its current class offerings and fees.  A listing of our Dōjō Members is available here.

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Do you offer free trial lessons?

The JKI is a global governing organisation for Shimabukuro-Ha Shitō-Ryū karate-dō and several other forms of budō ("martial arts").  As such, we maintain and disseminate the official curricula and standards of these arts, certify instructors, and provide support services to our Dōjō Members.  We do not provide instruction directly to students, other than at special events, like gasshuku (training seminars).   All day-to-day instruction is provided at our local member dōjō

Some of our member dōjō do offer free trial lessons, so please contact your nearest JKI member dōjō to request information about class times, dues and fees, and trial lessons.  A listing of our Dōjō Members is available here.

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What is your class schedule?

The JKI is a global governing organisation for Shimabukuro-Ha Shitō-Ryū karate-dō and several other forms of budō ("martial arts").  As such, we maintain and disseminate the official curricula and standards of these arts, certify instructors, and provide support services to our Dōjō Members.  We do not provide instruction directly to students, other than at special events, like gasshuku (training seminars).   All day-to-day instruction is provided at our local member dōjō

The class schedule of our member dōjō is different, so please contact your nearest JKI member dōjō to request information about class times, dues and fees, and other questions about instruction.  A listing of our Dōjō Members is available here.

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What styles do you teach?

The Jikishin-Kai International (JKI) is the exclusive worldwide governing body for Shimabukuro-Ha Shitō-Ryū karate-dō (see description below).  In addition, we maintain a comprehensive curriculum and promotion standards for several other forms of budo, all but one of which are authentic classical (koryū) styles of Japanese budō.  Most of these arts can trace their origins back at least 400 years, and have been battlefield tested for centuries and proven effective for the purposes for which they were created.   These arts and styles include: 

n Shimabukuro-Ha Shitō-Ryū karate-dō: a distinctive branch of the most comprehensive and second-most widely practiced style of karate in Japan and the rest of the world. For detailed information on Shimabukuro-Ha Shitō-Ryū, please click here.
n Okinawa kobujutsu:  the use of various ancient weapons and tools, such as bō, sai, tonfa, kama, nunchaku, eku, kuwa, and nunte.  For detailed information on Okinawa Skobujutsu, please click here.
n Musō Jikiden Eishin-Ryū iaijutsu: the most widely practiced style of self-defence with the samurai sword in which the opponent's attack begins while the defender's sword is still sheathed.  For detailed information on Eishin-Ryu, please click here.
n Shindō Musō-Ryū jōjutsu: the use of a four-foot () stick in self-defence against a samurai sword.  For detailed information on Shindō Musō-Ryū, please click here.
n Shindō-Ryū kenjutsu: a simplified style of samurai sword combat developed to assist in training in Shindō Musō-Ryū Jōjutsu.  For detailed information on Shindō-Ryū, please click here.
n Ono-Ha Ittō-Ryū kenjutsu: a style considered by many to be the most effective form of samurai sword defensive dueling.  For detailed information on Ittō-Ryū, please click here.


Although all of these arts were developed for use in situations that people no longer encounter in their daily lives—even under the most unusual circumstances—their fundamentals and principles, as well as the strategies and tactics of defence and counter-attack employed in these arts, are as applicable today as they were centuries ago.  More importantly,  they are steeped in a philosophy of life and personal discipline that serve their practitioners every day of their lives.

PLEASE NOTE:  Not all of these arts are offered at every JKI dōjōThe curriculum of each member dōjō varies, so please contact your nearest JKI member dōjō for information on the arts and styles taught there.  A listing of our Dōjō Members is available here.


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What age groups do you teach?

Each JKI member dōjō is different.  Some dōjō may accept students as young as 4 and have no upper age limit.  Others may offer instruction only to more mature students.  So please  contact the local JKI member dōjō at which you wish to train for information on age ranges of students, class schedules, dues and other fees, and similar details.  A listing of our Dōjō Members is available here.


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What will you be teaching my children?

All instruction at JKI member dōjō have several things in common.  One of the most important of these commonalilties is the emphasis we place on teaching participants of all ages, especially children, good behaviour, self-control, respect, courtesy, and an age-appropriate level of personal discipline and responsibility

The class activities of blocking, evading, punching, kicking, grappling, etc. are just one means to that end by emphasising the difference between proper and improper use of force.  We also teach and apply the principles of Bushidō (please see our About Us page for more about Bushidō) at every age level, but with children we try to explain these concepts in terms they can understand. 

Teaching methods do vary between dōjō and instructors, so please  contact the local JKI member dōjō at which you wish to train for information on instructional methods, age ranges of students, class schedules, dues and other fees, and similar details.  A listing of our Dōjō Members is available here.

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Do I have to sign a long-term contract?

Each JKI member dōjō chooses it's own pricing and pricing strategies based upon its individual costs and the local conditions in which it operates.   Some find it necessary or desirable to use contracts and others do not.  Some offer a variety of incentives, such as free uniforms, for longer-term commitments; others do not.  These are matters you should discuss openly and in depth with the instructor at you local JKI dōjō .   A listing of our Dōjō Members is available here.

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How long will it take to reach Black Belt?

This is a difficult question to answer for several reasons. First, it implies that reaching Black Belt is a legitimate goal, which it should not be.  The Japanese word for Black Belt is yūdansha, which literally means "possessor of a step [or level]".  There are ten levels of dan ("Black Belt") ranking, the first of which is called shodan ("beginning level").  So, when a student reaches Black Belt as a shodan, all it really means is that he or she has attained sufficient ability in the fundamentals of the art to begin training in its more advanced techniques.  Therefore, shodan ("first level" black belt) is considered the beginning; not the goal.  In most practical respects reaching shodan can be viewed as roughly equivalent to completing elementary school.  Think how silly it would sound if someone interested in becoming a neuro-surgeon asked, "How long will it take me to complete elementary school?"

But, to answer the question, the time it takes to reach shodan depends on many factors:  how diligently and frequently the student trains, the student's natural aptitude, and the student's emotional maturity are the three most crucial factors in advancement.  A student who trains consistently three or more days per week and has average natural aptitude and maturity will typically take four to five years to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for advancement to shodan Black Belt in most of the arts we teach.  Exceptionally athletic and committed students might do so in three years or slightly more, but this is unusual.  And there is one more significant requirement to consider:  to be awarded shodan in any of our styles a student must be at least 13 years of age.  Prior to that the highest rank attainable is shodan-ho (provisional "black belt").

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How do students earn different belts or ranks?

By training diligently. Then testing formally.  Each rank in the arts we teach has specific requirements, including a requirement to invest a minimum amount of training time in order to qualify for testing.  Those students desiring to do so are offered several opportunities per year to test for promotion at most JKI member dōjō, if they meet the eligibility requirements.  Students are not required to test, at most JKI dōjō, but they are encouraged to test if they wish to advance in official ranking within the the dōjō and JKI.  They are equally welcome to remain ungraded if they prefer. 

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What is a "McDojo" and what makes your dōjō different?

There is no universally accepted definition of "McDojo", but it has become a popular (derisive) term for a school or dōjō that operates like a fast food restaurant.  Fast food is typically high volume, mass production, preprocessed, pre-measured, reheated food full of flavour additives, but little nutrition, that is served quickly by unskilled or semi-skilled workers.  The equivalent characteristics of a "McDojo" are large class sizes, mass instruction by teachers with limited knowledge and experience, "canned" class format, sessions high in activity but low on instruction and depth of understanding, with rapid advancement from belt to belt, and numerous activities that require additional fees to be paid. 

The converse of this is the "traditional" dōjō which typically has smaller classes, more individualised instruction by instructors with decades of experience, moderately-paced advancement from belt to belt with stringent promotion requirements,  arduous testing for promotion, and class activities that emphasise conditioning, practical use, and appreciation of long-standing traditions over fun, fanaticism, self-promotion, and esteem building.

Most JKI member dōjō blend these two approaches to some degree in the conduct of their children's classes.  They employ some (but certainly not all) of the features of a "McDojo" to the operation of their children's classes by trying to make the activities fun, light-hearted, highly engaging, energetic, and affirming while subtlely instilling the virtues of Bushidō in the students.  In their adult classes, however, they operate as closely as feasible to the manner of a traditional Japanese dōjō with austere, diligent, no-nonsense, purposeful training.

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Why do students have to wear uniforms and where can they get them?

There are several reasons we require our students to wear the appropriate uniform (called a keiko-gi in Japanese) while training.  The primary reason is that a keiko-gi is designed to withstand the rigours of training without tearing or wearing out quickly.  They were originally designed so people wouldn't stain and damage their street clothes when training, and that remains their primary purpose.  They also remove all "class" distinctions while training.  Everyone looks and dresses the same and are treated the same, regardless of income level or social standing.  But a keiko-gi serves another important purpose:  it alters the participants' frame of mind and sets a mood for training.  For the same reason people wear a suit, tuxedo, or formal gown on a special occasion, or athletes wear a uniform when playing sports, we wear a keiko-gi to serve as a reminder that we are doing something special when we train in budō.

Members are strongly encouraged to purchase their keiko-gi and other equipment needed for training directly from their local JKI dōjō.  Doing so helps your local dōjō pay its costs of operations and fund the purchase and maintenance of equipment, like mats for grappling, striking targets, safety equipment, and more.  It also ensures that your keiko-gi will comply with the standards of your local dōjō .

If your local JKI dōjō does not offer or stock keiko-gi, we can recommend online sources from which they can be ordered.

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Are JKI members required to compete in tournaments?

No.  We do not require any participants to compete in tournaments.  In fact, we try to discourage excessive competition in tournaments, because they tend to emphasise "winning" over self-improvement.  Furthermore, in sparring competition, the targets that are most effective for practical self-defence are prohibited because of the danger they pose in the event of accidental or excessive contact, so competition tends to train participants to strike the least effective targets.

Having said that, we do believe that there is legitimiate training benefit to occasionally competing in tournaments.  Performing in front of judges and spectators and competing against opponents who are trying their best to defeat you adds a useful level of uncertainty, stress, and even fear that is similar to the emotional conditions of actual combat—yet it is under the reasonably safe and controlled conditions and the supervision of trained tournament referees and judges.  Learning to perform calmly under those intense conditions is extremely beneficial.  We therefore encourage (but do not require) all members to compete once in awhile to gain that experience.

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Do you teach self-defence classes or street-fighting techniques?

All budō techniques have practical application for self-defence.  The arts we teach were all created for the purpose of protecting oneself and others from violent attacks, so the techniques, strategies, and tactics routinely taught in our classes can be applied to many modern self-defence situations.  The core of our instructional programme is bunkai (analysis of techniques and what makes them effective) and ōyō (the practical application of the techniques and how to make them work under realistic conditions), so students do learn how these arts were designed to protect people from life-threatening attacks.  However, it should be noted that these arts were intended for use against weapons common in the 16th through 19th centuries (swords, spears, staves, and clubs); not modern weaponry like guns, tactical knives, or tazers. 

For that reason, many JKI member dōjō do teach separate classes or seminars on self-defence or incorporate self-defence techniques into their scheduled classes.

The term "street fighting" typically describes a situation in which both or all combatants entered the fight willingly, as opposed to "self-defence" which implies a willing attacker versus an unwilling defender.  We absolutely do not teach or condone street fighting in that sense, nor bar room brawling, or any other thuggish behaviour.

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Why do students have to bow, meditate, and use Japanese terminology in class?

These and other cultural practices of the samurai are essential parts of our training.  Bowing, for example, is the Japanese equivalent of a handshake or salute:  a gesture of respect and courtesy.  It serves as a constant and repeated reminder that all people, even enemies, deserve respect and compassion, and helps condition students never to act or react in hatred, rage, or impulsively.  A few moments of silent meditation at the beginning of each class helps students prepare their minds and focus their attention on the training that is about to begin.  And the use of Japanese terminology adds precision and depth of understanding to concepts for which there are often no English language equivalents.

The use of Japanese terminology for concepts and methodologies created in Japan also makes the participants' knowledge portable worldwide.  Our students can walk into any traditional dōjō anywhere on planet earth and immediately understand the activities there.  Everywhere in the world a tsuki is a tsuki; not a punch in the US, a tsuki in Japan, a golpear in Mexico, a frapper in France, a schlagen in Germany, and a pugno in Italy.  One of the many joys of long term training in budō is meeting other budōka from around the world and instantly sharing a common language and understanding of the art!

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What kind of meditation is performed in your classes?

We perform mokusō (黙想) at the beginning of each class.  It is a form of meditation or contemplation that literally means "silent thought", but in practice refers to a specific type of thought.  Unlike Zen medidation, which seeks to empty the mind of all thought, mokusō instead seeks to fill the mind with only one positive and uplifting thought—a thought that will push aside any stress, worries, and other distractions.  It is a single thought on which the participant will focus for the remainder of class; a thought chosen by each individual and which expresses the one aspect of training he or she believes is most important at that particular time.

In true budō, there are no particular religious or spiritual connotations to mokusō.  It is simply a method of eliminating distractions and focusing the mind on training.

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Do you have students perform any religious rituals in class?

No.  Budō is not a religion, nor does it involve any specific religious practices.  However, budō does involve the development of many character traits (moral conduct, compassion for others, etc.) that are core concepts of many of the world's religions, and the ethics and philosophy of budō are the product of the combined influence of Confucian, Daoist, Shintō, Buddhist, and Christian beliefs on generations of instructors over a period of centuries.  So, while we think it would be inappropriate to perform any religious rituals in class, we do present moral and ethical concepts on which a participant's religious beliefs may have a bearing.  And thus far, we have yet to encounter a case in which the moral concepts of budō conflict with the teachings of any major world religion.

If a participant has specific questions concerning the relationship of the moral precepts of budō to their personally-held religious views, our instructors are always pleased to discuss those questions or concerns informally outside of scheduled classes, because we want all our members to be comfortable practicing the concepts, ideals, and values of budō in their daily lives. Furthermore, at social events outside of class (such as dōjō parties or informal gatherings of members) we do not prohibit or discourage expressions or respectful discussions of personal beliefs.

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What is budō and how is it different from martial arts?

In some ways you can think of budō and martial arts as two sides of the same coin.  To the untrained eye, the techniques employed in budō look almost identical to those used in martial arts.  But the difference between the two, while subtle, is extremely significant—far more than just a matter of semantics, ethics, or philosophy.  The difference is in the very nature of these arts and how they are used.

"Martial" means "military" and true martial arts are the arts of war (called heihō in Japanese).  They can be used for both attack and defence; aggression or protection, conquest or liberation.  Conversely, "budō" means peacemaking, and the arts we teach at the JKI are arts of peace; not war.   They can only be used for defence, protection of the innocent, and liberation of the oppressed, because the techniques in budō are specifically designed and practiced to thwart and counteract the techniques employed in martial arts.  The techniques in budō exploit the vulnerabilities created when an assailant attempts to attack by counter-attacking in ways that the opponent's own aggressive actions render him or her incapable of thwarting.

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Do you offer any classes just for women or women's self-defence?

 We see no valid reason to hold classes exclusively for women.  Instead, we see several reasons not to do so.  The majority of violence against women is perpetrated by men, so the best way for women to develop the ability to survive those attacks is to train with men.  The most crucial factor in surviving a physical assault is overcoming fear and intimidation of the attacker.  Training with men helps women overcome the natural fear of larger, stronger opponents and affords opportunities to develop and practice skills that actually work against a larger or stronger opponent.

That being said, in order to serve women who don't yet feel ready to train against male attackers, some JKI member dōjō do hold classes specifically for women's self-defence.  So, if you are interested in participating in a self-defence class or seminar specifically for women, we strongly recommend that you contact the instructor at you local JKI dōjō.   A listing of our Dōjō Members is available here.

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Do you offer any classes for people with disabilities or special needs?

 At most JKI member dōjō, those with mild disabilities or special needs participate in the regularly scheduled classes and simply adapt the activities to their individual situations.  For example, by performing as many activities as possible from a wheelchair rather than standing.  In those cases in which a person's disabilities or special needs would prevent them from participating in a regular class, some JKI member dōjō may offer specialised classes.  To find out if such classes are available in your area, please call or email the instructor at you local JKI dōjō.   A listing of our Dōjō Members is available here.

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Why should I or my child learn an art or style that is centuries old and may no longer be practical?

The answer to this question depends largely on your reasons for wanting to train in the first place.  It is informative to note that the longest period of sustained peace—268 years—in Japan's history was while the samurai ruled the nation in accordance with the principles of Bushidō.  This was the probably longest period of sustained peace in the history of any nation on earth, by the way!  If you or your child want to learn how to achieve and maintain peace (yet not surrender to violence), then training in budō will serve you well, but if you or your child want to learn how to fight you might want to try something other than classical budō

Budō is a Way of Life; not merely an art, sport, or system of combat or self-defence.  Its primary purpose is to prepare people to succeed in all aspects of life; not just the rare occasions we might be physically assaulted.  It uses defence against violent attack as a metaphor for any and every adversity we might face in life in order to instill the disciplines, attitudes, and habits needed to succeed in every aspect of life.  That is the real reason for training in budō!

Budō trains people to approach nearly every aspect of life differently.  One of the most obvious examples is driving a car.  After training in budō for awhile, you instinctively drive differently than you did before.  You will be more aware of what other cars are doing around you, what presents a threat, and what presents a possible route to safety.  You will be more aware of how speed, distance, and angle of approach—your own and that of the other cars around you—affect your safety.  In short, you will be less likely to be involved a life-threatening collision.

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What if a student gets injured while training or competing?

We (or the tournament officials) will do our best to determine whether or not the injury is severe, and take the actions we believe most appropriate, such as administering first aid or arranging for transportation to a medical facility for treatment.  All JKI member dōjō diligently practice anzen daiichi ... safety first!

It is inevitable when practicing striking and blocking techniques, whether with or without weapons, and grappling techniques that involve controlled falls to the floor, that minor injuries like bruises, abrasions, and shallow cuts will occasionally happen.  Sprains, muscle pulls, or hyperextension injuries also occur from time to time.  We've never known any budōka who has trained for a year or more without having a few minor mishaps in the dōjō or during competition.  Those are inherent risks of training.  But both the frequency and severity of injuries in budō are much lower than those in popular sports like soccer and basketball—probably because participants realise the dangers involved and therefore excercise a higher degree of care.

Since injuries are an inherent risk of budō training, please be sure you have adequate medical insurance prior to enrolling yourself or your child(ren) at a dōjō.

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Why do I have to sign a waiver of liability?

Because training in budō involves inherent risk of injury and death, most or all JKI member dōjō will ask you to sign a written membership agreement that acknowledges these inherent risks and specifically exempts the dōjō from any and all responsibility or liability for injuries to participants.  It is the personal responsibility of each individual member to obtain any insurance he or she desires to provide compensation for any injury, death, or other loss sustained while training.  If you are not willing and able to fully accept the risks of training and waive any and all rights to sue the dojo, its instructors, and the JKI if you or your child(ren) are injured or killed while training, you should not join.

 

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Do you have insurance to cover medical costs if I or my child get injured?

No. Obtaining medical, life, and/or property insurance coverage for any potential injury, death, or other loss while training or competing is the responsibility of each individual participant.  The JKI does not provide any such coverage, and we highly recommend that you consult with your health insurance provider to confirm that you will be covered in the event of any injury while training or competing in budō

Those who have no such insurance and are unwilling to accept the inherent risks of training without it should not join the JKI or one of its member dōjō.

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What else ... ?

What other common question should we be answering here?  If you think of one, please e-mail us.

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More Questions ... ?

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If you did not find all the answers you were looking for here in our FAQ, please be sure to email us and we will reply promptly with the answer.

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