On a cold and snowy evening in the Yukon, people and children come together in a small gymnasium.
Children surge into the building followed by the parents, expressing relief from the weather outside. The unique mystical twilight has been encroaching for the last half hour. When they leave it will be dark.
Over the next hour they will participate in a foreign art. One that suggests a different culture and different approach to art and activity.
The children change into uniforms that are all the same. Many struggling to tie their belts properly. Some know how to, others don’t but each tries to help the other. If they need help from the instructors, they get it.
The gis or uniforms are very white, crisp and unique to this practice. Putting them on you can see the pride and excitement in each of their eyes. Later on in the evening you will witness the same sense of emotions being played out in the adults.
On the call from the head instructor, they form a line. There is no talking now. Nor is there shuffling poking or any disruption from them. The instructor tells them to sit in a formal position which they do quietly.
Next command is for them to close their eyes and clear their mind of the daily thoughts that may be following them around.
Silence and stillness reigns.
I find myself studying them carefully. Observing them, all in a neat row, quietly breathing I also enter into a moment of quiet contemplation.
I notice the ones that still fidget a little. There are always some that need their posture corrected and some that peek out from under their furrowed brows. I am trying to imagine what attracts these children to such a different experience from their many friends and classmates at school.
After a short period, the instructor calls their attention back to her. They bow to each other then stand up to begin their physical practice. Even the sitting and standing is done in a formal manner. Each child struggling to do it right.
At times the gym will ring out with shouts and laughter and, like a mindful bell, the sound of 25 children’s voices will explode in unison as they do their techniques.
They will practice together, yet be individuals in their progress and development.
Today, some struggled with the basic movements while others learned a new Kata (series of movements to be learned). Some forgot what they knew last week but were able to follow others who did not. Each supports the other without competition.
At the end of the class, they will repeat the sitting ritual with the added requirement to say the Dojo the Kun. Following the instructor they repeat, “Seek perfection of character, endeavor, be faithful to the paths of truth, respect others, refrain from violent behaviour.”
Darkness has fallen by the time they have left, another class and each having taken something of value from their experience.