The Striking Post July 2017

The Striking Post
July, 2017

Good day everyone,

I know I have discussed this topic in the past, however it has since reared its ugly head once again and therefore I feel compelled to address it once more.
The issue is RESPECT, and how you show it and how you earn it.

The first time I traveled to Japan it was a totally new world to me. I did not know any of the customs or the proper etiquette to follow in any given situation.
The karate and other Japanese people that I encountered during this visit were very helpful in showing me the proper manners that I should know. I was very appreciative and did my best to learn and implement these instructions in various locations during my visit. The locals were very “forgiving” and patient with me during this period as they understood that the learning curve was a steep one and I would make many mistakes before I would eventually learn the proper courtesy procedures.

I have traveled back several times since and have found that each time the bar is raised and a bit and more is expected of me. Now if I make the same mistakes I made on my first visit their reaction is less forgiving because I should know better. Now a misstep is more likely to be seen as a lack of respect or worse an outright insult to the people present. Ignorance is no longer a defense to a breach of etiquette.

Now, in Japan, there are many, many rules of etiquette. And, different rules are applied in different situations depending on who you are talking to or who may be present at the time. Unless you have spent a great deal of time in Japan there is no way you can possibly know all the rules for all the situations that may arise.

Here in the west, though we try to adopt some of the etiquette from Japan, our application is very limited by our knowledge and understanding of these principals.
Again, having said that, ignorance is not a defense if you know or ought to know the proper way to show respect in certain circumstances.

Case in point: If you show up late for class, ie; the class has already begun. (specifically, this is after the mokuso) the proper etiquette is to:
1 – go quietly and change into your gi.
2 – Sit quietly in seiza at the entrance to the dojo where the instructor can see you.
3 – After being acknowledged by the instructor and invited into the class you should perform a proper bow to the shomen stand up and go quietly to the last position in the ranks or, if you need to warm up, you should go to an area where you can do so quietly and not disturb any of the other students. When you are ready you should go to the last position in the ranks.

If you do not follow this procedure you are disrespecting the instructor and the other students who, were ready at the appointed time. Examples of bad manners
in this case include:
1 – not sitting in seiza
2 – bowing by a quick nod of the head
3 – warming up by striking the makiwara or other activities that may be a distraction to other students
4 – not waiting to be invited into the class by the instructor
5 – warming up in front of the class
6 – disrupting the class in order to line up where you would have had you been on time.

Another case in point: Standing up from a seiza position or sitting down in seiza from a standing position before the instructor and other students of higher grade than you have done so. This is disrespectful to the instructor and the students who have worked hard to reach the level they are at and who, whether you like it or not, are senior to you.

These are basic rules that every karate-ka should know. Other rules include: Never do a “short bow”. If a bow is required always try do a proper bow. There should never be horseplay in the dojo. The dojo is a place to be serious. You should never turn your back to the Kamidana while engaging in idle chatter. This is disrespectful to the great teachers of Chito-Ryu who have passed on and whose spirit is believed to reside in the Kamidana. To not do your best or not follow the instructors directions is disrespectful to the great senseis who have created our art and to the instructor whose duty it is to guide you to the highest level you can be.

Please respect these simple rules of Reigi-Saho and do not be disrespectful if you can help it.


Milton Bourque