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Do You Feel 'Safe' Training at Your Dojo?

The mere mention of 'Dojo' will usually summon up images of the practice of martial arts, the arts that protect you from bodily harm from the attack of an aggressor. Given time and an adequate level of consistency in training, barring any life threatening injuries, a person will generally achieve a level of proficiency that will enable him or her to achieve that skill. You may even achieve a sense of confidence, security and safety.

A question that sometimes arise is whether that same dojo or academy provides you with a safe zone from verbal or psychological attacks. I just want to bring up 2 instances that occurs fairly regularly in some academies.

Body Shaming

If you pay careful attention to casual conversations between members in some academies (dojos), instances of body shaming do crop up, usually masked as humour or advice. Even though it is humorously stated or helpfully intended, body shaming says “who you are is fundamentally ugly, unacceptable, and undesirable". Words and actions that repeatedly point out another person’s inability to measure up to supposed body ideals amount to bullying and verbal abuse.

There tends to be this public perception that maybe body shaming is okay because it will provide motivation to lose weight. This perception is not only wrong but the continued use of this form of abuse crushes the self-esteem and confidence of another human being.

Skin Colour/Racism

Jokes about dark skin are oppressive and offensive. Period. Society labels dark skin as ugly and unattractive, and these jokes strengthen those labels and treat dark skin as a shortcoming. Individuals who are subjected to these jokes may just smile and treat it as something not worth addressing or correcting so as not to rock the proverbial boat.

If instaces of body shaming or racism occurs within your knowledge, should you speak up. The short answer is an overwhelming yes but most will not because of something called motivated blindness. "The term motivated blindness describes the systematic failure to notice others' unethical behaviour when it is not in our best interest to do so. Simply put, if you have an incentive to view someone positively, it will be difficult for you to accurately assess the ethicality of that person's behaviour". (1)

To give an example, a junior student in an academy will most probably not speak up against a senior student or heaven forbid his instructor should they engage in the above 2 behaviours. It is just against his or her best interest to do so. "We may even justify our inaction by citing our loyalty or the beliefs that the behaviour is not as bad as it seems, that it is too late for us to be helpful…"(2)

Motivated blindness is not inevitable, it is surmountable. Bring it to the attention of the your Academy's management and if that does nothing to remedy the situation, decide if you still want to be part of that team or make plans to leave. You deserve better.

(1) & (2) see The Power of Noticing - Max H. Bazerman

The Power of Noticing - Max H. Bazerman

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