The Training Hall

The concept of a "training hall" (dojo, dojang, etc.) is a consistent touchpoint throughout many of the Eastern martial arts, particularly those that end in the suffix "-do". Along with roughly translating to Western concepts of art, the word "do" references the tao — or "Way".

Expanded and unpacked, this "Way" refers to the "way" or "path" of enlightenment. Somewhat circuitously, this brings one back once more to the Western concept of "Art", which, in its capitalized form, is used to reference the Western path of enlightenment known as the "Great Work". For non-martial artists, the concept of "training hall" can be viewed as a metaphor for any studio where one engages in Artistic explorations.

From an Eastern perspective, the training hall is considered a microcoasm, or "little world". This acts as a safe environment where one can explore their reactions and test out new ideas before venturing to apply their insights out in the "real world" of the macrocosm. But how does this work?

After all, aren't the microcosm and macrocosm completely different from one another due to their complexity if nothing else? As with so many things that I find myself drawn to the answer is yes, as well as no. While a yoga mat appears much less complex than the planet from an external physical, perspective, similar (if not identical) mental experiences naturally arise in each milieu. Why?

Because these traditions are working with a mental model of the world.

All of our experiences are heavily colored by our own propensity for creating stories, what I refer to as "storytelling mode". Even when we don't "know" the answers, many of us have been taught to "fill in the blanks" and "make something up". Above all, we are strategically discouraged from admitting that we "don't know".

A training hall allows us to explore what we do and mindfully move from reflexively reacting to more mindful responses — yes, even in the martial arts. Perhaps most importantly, the training hall paves the to allow one to "not know". Rather than fatalistically giving up, such an approach encourages one to continuously learn as much as they can — a wise strategy when living in a world that is always in flux.

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