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Why 'Osouji' Matters in a Dojo

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

cleaning at clearwater martial arts dojo aikido

What is Osouji?

As a Japanese rooted traditional martial art, Aikido enjoys many of the traditions and practices common to Japanese culture. However, as Americans, it is important to recognize that while we honor the roots of our chosen martial art, it should not be our goal to "become Japanese". This is more of a topic for a separate story, so we will focus mainly on Osouji here.

Osouji is the traditional Japanese practice of doing a 'big cleaning' before the start of the new year.

You see, in Japanese culture cleaning is not some mundane task that must be undertaken for health reasons alone. It is often considered a way of "cleansing the mind and spirit". In other words, 'by cleansing my home - I cleanse myself'.

The practice actually began in Edo period in Edo castle when they would begin cleaning the castle in December. This was quickly adopted by everyone else and became a method of purifying the spaces we occupy for the year to come.

Why is it important?

In our dojo we are lucky to have students who help keep the dojo clean by sweeping, mopping, vacuuming and dusting. There are surprising benefits to this practice as students work together to clean the space they just spent hours throwing, locking, and attacking each other.

Just as Kagami Biraki, or New Year Training, is valuable because it presents an opportunity to celebrate the coming year of practice; Osouji is an opportunity to practice and clean the dojo in both thanks for the year behind and the year ahead.

Who should participate?

Everyone should feel welcome to participate in Osouji whether they have never trained before, are active members of the dojo, or are interested in trying Aikido for the first time. Seeing teachers, students, seniors, and juniors, working together in training and in cleaning the dojo is truly an awe-inspiring sight. It exemplifies the virtues of traditional martial arts training in its purest form.

What should I hope to gain?

In addition to the 2 hours of martial arts training, participants often gain a deeper sense of community and camaraderie with their fellow students as Osouji often ends in food and drink. Time is spent regaling stories from seminars and experiences training throughout the year and everyone enjoys each other's company after the physically demand year behind us.

See you on the mat.

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