Monday, July 1, 2013


At the dojo, we sweep the floor before class starts.  There’s one push-mop and it takes about 2 minutes to cover the entire floor.  It’s a pretty simple job, with one unspoken rule we have:  Don’t let a black belt sweep the floor.

Our black belts have been there at least 4-5 years but probably way more than that.  It’s assumed that in those years, they’ve swept probably hundreds of times.  By doing it so they don’t have to, it shows respect to not only them but the dojo as well.  The idea is the dojo comes first, then you.

Sometimes none of the lower belts sweep and one of us black belts will start sweeping.   Usually someone sees this happening and rushes over to offer to take the handle.  If that doesn’t happen and the black belt finishes sweeping, it’s not going to end well for the class.  It means tons of extra pushups and sit-ups and mountain climbers and all the calisthenics that make things hurt.  Needless to say, the black belts rarely have to sweep.

At a dojo with a more defined sempai-kohai system, it might always be the newer members who are expected to sweep.  With us, it doesn’t matter if you’re new or not.  And sometimes, when a black belt does grab the mop and have others offer to take it, we’ll refuse and it won’t mean extra pushups – it shows that everyone should take responsibility, no matter the rank.

It’s also noticed who sweeps.  In a class of about 50 people, there’s a small pool of about ten who regularly sweep.   We’ve reminded the class that everyone is responsible, but for some reason it doesn’t really sink it.  This won’t ever factor into a belt test, but it’s a sign of respect and awareness.

Maybe you sweep after, not before.  Maybe you make the new students sweep.  Maybe you don’t even sweep!  But think about the things that your members are expected to do and ask yourself how often do you do them?  Are you the first to help out or the last?  How do you think it makes you appear to others?  If the group followed your example, would it run smoothly or would things be a pigsty?

It’s not easy to stay peripheral and make sure all the little things are taken care of, but it’s better to try than to “let someone else do it”, no matter how long you’ve been in a group.  You can set a good example in more ways than the hierarchy of your group dictates.

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