dojo soji

This post originally appeared on my AikiWeb blog…

Like every morning, this morning started with cleaning the dojo. The morning routine is to smash it* down to the dojo on my cheap $30 used tourist bike, walk in pretending to be refreshed and relaxed, and greet any instructors present with a loud “Osu! Ohayo-gozaimasu!”, get changed into dogi, and immediately start cleaning.

So far, I have been the first one at the dojo each morning, so I start on the bathroom right off. Most people might balk at bathroom duty, but I find the cut and dried goals of making mirrors and porcelain shiny very preferable to searching out hidden dust in forgotten corners. Since working as an RN for several years, I have almost lost my aversion to other people’s feces and urine, so it is a good trade-off.

In Angry White Pyjamas, Twigger says that the mirrors at hombu were cleaned every day with newspaper. I never understood how this was possible because if you used my hometown paper to clean glass, the newsprint would smear all over. However, in true Yoshinkan fashion, we polish the mirrors at Mugenjuku with newspaper as well. I can report that Japanese newspaper is a fairly good cleaner, leaving behind no smudges or ink but a layer of fine paper particles. I find a once-over with a dry clean cloth takes care of the paper. The funny thing is, I am sure that at hombu in 1994, newspaper was used because it was an economical way of using something that would have been thrown out. Now, we still use newspaper, but we were told to be sparing with it because it is hard to come by!

The toilet at Mugenjuku is a Japanese toilet. (See I went to university with Justin. In 1996, he used to wear wrist braces from writing so much HTML code. He was blogging before blogging existed, but there were no tools for online publishing at the time.)

No, it’s not a fancy one with water jets, a heated seat, and a keypad. It’s one of the old-style ones, almost exactly like this one, in fact, complete with step:

Japanese squat toilet

The floor around the toilet and sink have to be scrubbed with a hand-held scrub brush and “Magi-clean.” Except on Fridays, when we’re to use “Kabi-killa” instead of “Magi-clean.” (Kabi is mold.) This part is actually rather fun since, after getting the floor all covered in suds, you can fill a bucket with water and dump it on the floor to wash everything down the drain.

In addition to the bathroom, there is a kitchen, which I have thankfully not had to clean yet. There is also the hallways and stairwell–mostly sweeping, vacuuming, and dusting.

Continuing with Yoshinkan hombu traditions as reported in Angry White Pyjamas, the clocks have to be checked and synchronized daily. This is a two-person job. I reach up and take the clock down from the wall. Then Takinaga-san, who can read the instructions but not reach the clock, adjusts the time.

In the five minutes between the end of the first ippan class and the beginning of kenshusei training, we have to scrub the dojo floors with wet rags called zokin. The dojo floor is concrete covered in spongy judo mats (like most modern dojos I assume). You take a zokin out of the bucket and push it along the mats using a bear-walk. You’re meant to run as you do this. It takes about 4 passes to finish a row of mats, then you run to put away the bucket and line up for seize by 8:05. Don’t be late!

Zokin cleaning has to be done again after each of the three daily training sessions. And I have talked them into letting us vacuum after the last session as well. Vacuuming is necessary because the zokin don’t really pick up hair or dust balls, or any particle larger than dust. Actually, they’re a very bad way to clean, but it is a discipline to get down in the unseemly bear-walk and push the zokin. Also, I suspect it’s tradition.

At the end of the day, wet zokin are washed in the sink and hung on drying racks in the stairwell, and cleaning is done.

I leave out a lot of small details here, but you get a good idea of what the cleaning regimen is like.

smash it: see glossary