The Do Jang Community
Does your dojang have an open-gym policy? Mine has a class M/T/W/Th but we are only allowed to go to two of those. If you go to say, three, you’ll get a stern lecture not to do it again. This can be a bit frustrating if you felt like your allotted time wasn’t enough, wasn’t effective, or you just want to do more. Are most gyms like this, or are they more flexible? I understand we pay them per month and not per class, but still. It’s not that hard to take one more student.
Hi, Tim. Thanks for writing in. Well, I actually can’t speak for what most gyms do. My experience is limited to two dojangs. One on the USA East coast (Young’s Taekwondo in Woodbourne, NY) and one on the West (USTC in Eugene, OR). In both, I’d say that my experience was very different than yours. In both of these dojangs, a student was/is permitted to attend as many classes that were/are offered by the dojang, that were/are appropriate for your belt. By “appropriate,” I mean that you were/are allowed to attend a class held for your belt level OR lower. This makes for a lot of classes.
For example, at U.S. Taekwondo College (USTC) in Eugene, Oregon, there are multiple classes every day, except Sunday, that I can attend. I can go to Monday noon class (all belts), Monday 5:40 – 6:30pm (White and Yellow), and 6:30 to 7:30 pm (Green and up). Then, on Tuesday, I can go to 5:00 – 5:50 PM (Tournament Training, Green and up), to the 6:40 – 7:30 pm class (open), and then from 7:30 to 8:30 pm (White and Yellow). And so on. Wednesday offers a class at noon for All Belts, one at almost 6 pm for Open class (anyone trains, no regimen), then 6:30 to 7:30 (Green and up), as well as 7:30 – 8:30 (White and Yellow).
This is not counting my 2 – 3 weekly Demo Team practices, which are not listed on the schedule, and are above and beyond the other classes.
Scanning the regular (non-Demo-Team) slots and looking at all days including Saturday (but not Sunday) on the USTC schdule, I could, theoretically, go to 18 classes in one week. And Great Grand Master Lee would be thrilled (and impressed, no doubt) to see me that much in one week. On a practical level, however, I’d have to have nothing else going on in my life. And about three times as much energy as I do now! But that would be allowed.
It’s clear that my dojang is definitely not operating as yours is. Master Lee wants us there as much as possible. And if it is not our class, but perhaps one held for children at either beginner level or intermediate and above, we adults/higher belts are welcome/invited to show up and help instruct. That is part of a higher belt’s responsibility, in fact. Those assisting/instructing classes are required credits that go toward earning all belts above brown.
Also, I should mention, my participation in the well-being of my dojang has always been part of my experience. At Young’s, I helped them move from a garage space to a building solely used for our dojang. I contributed my skills (mural painting) to help decorate the new wall space. I also painted the sign that hung out front. At my newer dojang, I’ve done the same; volunteering hours to clean the walls, and touch up the painted figures shown kicking, as well as vacuuming, and so on. I volunteer for slots when we have a booth at a fair, or need people to help promote the school. I also hold a staff position wherein I put my video skills to work, to help promote the school as well as help train the Demo team. For me, this feeling of brotherhood and “Taekwondo family” is very important. The feeling is reciprocated in our being welcome at the dojang whenever it is open.
I don’t want to pass judgment without knowing any details that might be important to consider, but to me, judging by what you have told me, you are getting shortchanged! In my opinion, a student’s willingness to grow and give back to her/his school should precipitate or be met by the opportunity to do so. If this devotion to the art is not recognized and rewarded, how does a dojang expect to grow? I can see if it is a small dojang without a lot of history or help yet, and so can only offer limited classes. But still…to discourage a student from going to classes they want to and are qualified to attend? I can’t really think of a good reason for that, and personally, don’t care for the vibe. What makes a dojang and a martial art different than just a big room where people practice combat techniques is a feeling of positivity, of connectedness, of spiritual growth, and community. If your dojang doesn’t have this, maybe you can help instigate it. If that’s not possible, maybe it’s not the place for you.
We spend a lot of time and energy and money at our chosen dojang. If there are choices, feel free to shop around and join the place that makes you feel at home. I would.
Enjoy your training. Be well. Thanks for writing!