The Rules of the Dojo are not really rules, but more of a social contract I use in the Ninja Academy classes to help guide our practice and our interactions with one another. They are inspired by the work of Frank Forencich and Dave Gleason, both masters coaches in the art of play. I am sharing them here in the hopes that they help you build your own community centered around movement, play, and mindful exploration.
I outline each one below, but in my experience, they are often better left without much explanation. They will mean different things to different people, and may even change over time.
Be relentlessly supportive of yourself and your tribe.
I often find it is easier to be supportive of others than it is to be supportive of yourself. Be relentless in the way you lift others up around you, and give yourself the same courtesy.
Celebrate practice and process.
Celebrate each step of your journey. Focus on the here and now. You may find that the time and effort spent to achieve something are more valuable to you than the achievement itself.
Have fun, but don’t let your head explode.
Gameplay and fun are central to a fully realized practice, both for yourself and your group. It is often in the moments where you step outside of the normal boundaries that you find your creative self. However, there is always a line to be aware of. Don’t get so caught up in the moment that you risk more than your willing to: your health, your time, or even your life. As Erwan Le Corre of MovNat likes to say, “We are not the jackasses of natural movement.” Have a heck of a lot of fun, but know when to pull back.
You are a teacher and a student.
Everyone has something to teach you. Absolutely everyone. Cultivate the mindset of a student throughout your practice. Pay attention to those around you. Learn. Mimic. Improvise. And most importantly, don’t assume you know it all. A flexible body means nothing without a flexible mind.
At the same time, anyone can take on the role of teacher or coach. It doesn’t matter your experience level, you have something to contribute. Don’t be afraid to engage with your tribe and those around you.
The line between these roles is fluid. In any given session, you will likely switch back and forth between them dozens of times. Your group will likely be limited only by your adherence to strict relationships, i.e. “This person is a teacher and this person is a student.” Nurture a culture of collaboration and sharing. Embrace the mindset of a student. This will allow your tribe to spiral out.
Leave no ninja behind.
We start together, and we finish together. Perhaps Ido Portal put it best when he said “Don’t walk behind me, walk beside me.” This is about our journey together as a group. Humans are social organisms. We feel, learn, and experience life to the fullest through our interactions with each other. We even feel pain from isolation through the same receptors as we feel physical pain!
True play happens when everyone is fully engaged. When children make up games, you will regularly see them changing the rules in order to make the sides more even so that everyone can compete and enjoy the challenge. In adults it is no less important. Be on the lookout for someone who might seem down and out or struggling. Don’t force them to join, but leave the door open to multiple possibilities.
I hope you enjoyed our Ninja Academy “Rules of the Dojo”. If you’re ever in Bloomington, IN, please stop by and join us for a session! We’d love to play together. 🙂
You can find a printable PDF copy here: