A dojo (道場 dōjō?) is a Japanese term which literally means "place of the way". Initially, dōjōs were adjunct to temples. The term can refer to a formal training place for any of the Japanese do arts but typically it is considered the formal gathering place for students of any Japanese martial arts style such as karate, judo, or samurai, to conduct training, examinations and other related encounters.
The concept of a dōjō as a martial arts training place is a Western concept; in Japan, any physical training facility, including professional wrestling schools, may be called dōjō because of its close martial arts roots.
A proper Japanese martial arts dōjō is considered special and is well cared for by its users. Shoes are not worn in a dōjō. In many styles it is traditional to conduct a ritual cleaning (sōji) of the dōjō at the beginning and/or end of each training session. Besides the obvious hygienic benefits of regular cleaning it also serves to reinforce the fact that dōjō are supposed to be supported and managed by the student body,
not the school's instructional staff. This attitude has become lost in many modern dōjō that are founded and run by a small group of people or instructors. In fact, it is not uncommon that in traditional schools (koryu), dōjō are rarely used for training at all, instead being reserved for more symbolic or formal occasions. The actual training is conducted typically outdoors or in a less formal area.
Many traditional dōjō follow a prescribed pattern with shomen ("front") and various entrances that are used based on student and instructor rank laid out precisely. Typically students will enter in the lower-left corner of the dōjō (in reference to the shomen) with instructors in the upper right corner. Shomen typically contains kamidana—an area for a Shintō shrine and other artifacts. The term kamiza is frequently
confused by martial arts practitioners with the Kamidana. Other artifacts may be displayed throughout the dōjō, such as kanban that authorize the school in a style or strategy, and items such as taiko drums or armor (yoroi). It is not uncommon to find the name of the dōjō and the dōjō kun (roughly "dōjō rules") displayed prominently at shomen as well. Visitors also typically have a special place reserved, depending on their rank and station. Weapons and other training gear will normally be found on the back wall.
Other names for training halls
- Kalari (kalaripayattu)
- Kwoon (wushu)
In Zen Buddhism
The term dōjō is also used to describe the meditation halls where Zen Buddhists practice zazen meditation. It is sometimes used instead of the term "zendo" which is more specific, and more widely used. European Sōtō Zen groups affiliated with the International Zen Association prefer to use "dōjō" instead of zendo to describe their meditation halls as did their founding master, Taisen Deshimaru.