Reishiki

Reishiki at the KaZoku Dojo: The customs and courtesies of our dojo.

CONTENTS

  • Before Going to the Dojo
  • At the Dojo
  • Tachi Rei – standing bow
  • Clean vs. Common Areas
  • Niten Soji – cleaning the dojo
  • Tatami Nenchu – seniority of the mat area
  • Sempai / Kohai – senior and junior students
  • Zori Nenchu – seniority of the sandals
  • Bowing before entering the mat area
  • Heiretsu – lining up
  • Assuming Seiza – sitting
  • Mokuso – breathing and focus
  • Zarei – sitting bow
  • Shinden Rei – respect to the art and its founder

PRIMER

  1. Good manners used to be a necessity to warriors. At one period in Japanese history, if a warrior perceived a ‘slight’ in manners towards him, he would have the legal right to kill the offending person and walk away (kirisute gomen), all without having to explain himself to anyone.
  2. Manners done according to a pre-prescribed way ensured a modicum of safety in less-than-perfectly guarded moments (such as bowing). If everyone did things the same way, then anything different was a threat to your life.
  3. Training in manners is a discipline that warriors embrace to demonstrate humility and create honor for themselves, their family, and their associations. When faced with a decision to follow a quick and easy path or to follow a disciplined, difficult path, the warrior will choose the latter.
  4. Make your word a solemn vow. If you speak it, accomplish it. There is no other way for a warrior.

BEFORE GOING TO THE DOJO

A warrior must pay attention to his appearance. An unkempt person demonstrates a weak spirit (whether that is true or not, it is a perception, so unless you are purposely hiding your spirit, it is best to be perceived well). Casual dress is likewise an indication of a casual spirit, not the strong-willed powerful person that you should aspire to be.

Cleanliness shows self-discipline. Shaving, trim nails, hair cut, brushed teeth, and clean body show a disciplined person. The uniform should likewise be kept clean and without odor. There is almost nothing quite as disturbing in a close quarters martial art, than when a person is dirty and smells.

The uniform should be neatly rolled, or folded, and either carried by the obi (that is wrapped around the gi), or in a gym bag. Uniforms are never worn to and from the dojo. If you had to make an emergency stop, you would look ridiculous – unless its Halloween.

When leaving the dojo, the uniform is similarly rolled and tied, but must be undone immediately upon arrival at your home since mildew will quickly form on a sweat-soaked gi.

When carrying the gi, or any other item, we always try to keep the item in our left hand. This is a carry-over from when warriors carried swords on their left side and drew them with their right hand. Now days, you can look at it as a way to have your handshaking hand free, your gun hand free, your salute hand free (if military), or perhaps your dominant hand free to open doors, etc.

AT THE DOJO

Arriving to the dojo, you open the door (genkan) and perform a tachi-rei prior to entering to show humility and respect to the area that you learn your art. Many Japanese homes or shops will have a Noren curtain that hangs at the entrance to kind of force you to show humility before entering. Warriors should not need that type of reminder.

If guests or visitors come to your dojo and do not perform a tachi-rei, you must forgive them, it is not their custom.

TACHI-REI

Tachi means standing. Rei means respect. We perform this by having our feet approximately shoulder width apart, hands closed with thumbs facing down and near our thighs, bending at the waist, and hesitating (beginners are told to count “one thousand one”) before rising and stepping in.

Tachi rei is performed any time you enter or leave the dojo.

Never tilt your head up or down, keep it in line with your torso. Putting your head down doesn’t allow your peripheral vision to see the other persons hands and feet, and tilting your head up to watch the other person shows fear.

CLEAN / COMMON AREAS

Outdoors the ground has dirt, bird droppings, spit, and who knows what else. This is not to say it is bad, only that it is not very clean. Indoors may be clean or dirty depending on if you wear your outdoor shoes inside or not (and of course clean it).

The Japanese distinguish between clean areas – where you wear either tabi socks or bare feet, and common areas – where you wear street shoes. Many American homes are entirely common areas, where most Japanese homes are entirely clean areas.

Inside our dojo we have common areas, where you should wear your street shoes or zori sandals, and we have a clean area; the embujo (tatami area), where only bare feet or tabi are allowed.

NITEN SOJI

Sempai (seniors) in the dojo have the obligation to ensure the cleanliness of the embujo (matted area). Dusting, sweeping, mopping, arranging tatami are all part of it. This doesn’t mean that the sempai must do the work, but rather make sure it has been done. Typically the work is done by lower ranks, but many higher ranks, myself included, regularly ensure the cleanliness of the embujo. It is a matter of discipline, and pride in our art.

TATAMI NENCHU

The embujo (mat area) in our dojo has a seniority system. Every square inch is either junior or senior to every other square inch.

The kamiza is the highest ranking area of the dojo. It is front and center. Typically there sits a raised platform, about two tatami higher than the rest in which the Soke of the style may sit and observe class. In the old days in Japan, a member of the royal family would sit there to observe class and determine whether your teacher would instruct the royal family in martial arts – a high honor. Many times the top of this platform was wood, but could also be tatami. When not in use by Soke or royalty, a flower vase or swords might adorn it.

The joza is the upper seat, which is the front part of the embujo closest to the kamiza. The dojo’s teacher will sit in joza.

The shimoza is the lower seat, which is furthest from the kamiza. Students sit in shimoza.

The joseki is the upper side, which is to the right side of the kamiza.

The shimoseki is the lower side, which is to the left of the kamiza. Students line up in order of rank from joseki to shimoseki on the shimoza.

SEMPAI / KOHAI

No two persons have the same rank in our dojo. We use the Dan-i system of rank for students of Yondan (4th degree Blackbelt) and lower.

1) the person with the higher rank is more senior (Brown belt is senior to Green belt, etc).

2) if two persons hold the same rank, the earlier date of rank is more senior.

3) if of the same rank, and same date of rank, whoever became a student first is senior.

4) if of the same rank, same date of rank, and same start date, the older person is senior.

Obviously rank doesn’t have much to do with skill levels, so there shouldn’t be rivalry among students.

An important note about relative rank; when visiting any other dojo, you will only line up using your belt color. No haggling over who is more senior among white, green, or brown belts. Our dojo will automatically take the most junior position among the same belt rank unless asked by the host dojo to take a more senior position.

Sempai is a term used to call a senior student (usually Brown belts or first degree Black belts that are not the Sensei). Sempai are totally in charge of reishiki in the dojo. If the Sensei must mention a point of divergence from reishiki to the sempai, he has failed in his duties.

Kohai are junior students (under Brown belt), that must do the tasks assigned by sempai. Kohai are important for the dojo, but also must show their worth to the dojo.

**The Kohai always initiates a rei (a bow) to a Sempai/Sensei/Shihan and holds the rei longer and deeper depending on relative rank.

Sensei is a term used for your teacher (usually the master of your dojo). It means someone who was “born before”, but in reality would be more like someone that has been where you are, and knows how to get to where you want to be. “Been there, done that.” Sempai are to inform new students how to address their teacher. The term sensei may be used for other instructors, but you will have only ONE sensei (per art).

Shihan are master instructors of our art, and are rightfully called sensei, although some may prefer to be called shihan to denote their status above other teachers. Normally the title shihan is only used in documents or a way for students to talk about that teacher to someone else.

Soke is the headmaster of the art. There is only one. In Japan, the art gets passed on to a family relative (normally), who gladly tries to be good enough to promote his family’s honor to future generations. These may not the best or most talented of the students. The headmaster of the art is called Soke, dai-sensei, or sensei (but most formally Soke).

ZORI NENCHU

When relative rank has been established, everything follows suit. In hanging your uniforms in the dojo, they will be aligned joza – shimoza, joseki – shimoseki. When entering the mat area, your zori (sandals) will be lined up joza – shimoza, joseki – shimoseki – so leave space for the people that have yet to arrive.

If everyone in the dojo decided to buy new zori that were identical in every detail, then came to practice, it is easy to determine whose zori are whose. This is discipline.

AT THE TATAMI

We turn and face away from the tatami and put the heels of our zori against the mat in preparation for entering the embujo. We remove our foot from our zori furthest from kamiza and place it on the mat, then the foot closest to kamiza. Turning toward the kamiza we then perform a tachi-rei.

HEIRETSU

The sempai will call “heiretsu” or clap to line everyone up to be ready for practice. In other dojo, the sempai may even hit a taiko drum. Everyone will scurry to line up according to relative rank. When the senior person calls “suwate!” or quietly sits down, everyone will follow and sit in seiza.

ASSUMING SEIZA

Suwate! is the command to sit. There are several ways to sit, mostly having to do with what type of clothes you have on. We will assume that you have a keiko-gi (a white practice uniform).

1) step back with your left foot, to place the ball of the foot on the mat.

2) lower yourself to your left knee (Hantachi)

3) bring back your right foot, to place the ball of the foot on the mat

4) sit gently on your heels, while you are on the balls of both feet (Kiza)

5) flip your toes out and sit on your heels. Adjust the width of your knees if necesary (Seiza)

Tachi-ni! is the command to stand. It is opposite of sitting. Kiza, Hantachi, then Tachi.

MOKUSO

Mokuso! is the command to clear extraneous thoughts while sitting in seiza, before and after class. It is pronounced with a silent U, and with a long O sound; mOk-sO!

We tilt our head slightly forward, cast our gaze about 4 foot away on the tatami, or close the eyes altogether. Our posture is upright. Our hands come to rest at the belt level where the right finger tips are touching the inside bottom of the left fingers, then we bring together our thumbs so they touch. The hands now form an oval with the thumbs on top (called Zenjo-in).

We breathe in and out slowly, pushing thoughts out with every exhale.

A clap from the sensei, will allow us to open our eyes, and place our hands back on our thighs in preparation for Za-rei.

ZA-REI

Za-rei means – sitting respect. There are two basic forms that we use; one for respect to something inanimate, and one for demonstrating respect to a person.

To perform za-rei to inanimates (the Shinza, a photo of Soke, a special kanji, or perhaps weapons);

  1. We place both hands in front of our knees, palms down and arms straight,
  2. We bend our elbows so that we end up bowing at about a 30 degree angle.

To perform warrior za-rei to another warrior (Mukashi Buha Rei);

  1. The junior (kohai) will place both fists on the tatami next to his knees (fists have thumbs straight down).
  2. The senior (sempai) reciprocates.
  3. The junior bends his elbows to achieve a 30 degree angle.
  4. The senior reciprocates – possibly at a lessor angle depending upon rank, then rises.
  5. The junior follows.

A variant of a warrior’s za-rei that you may see outside of our dojo;

  1. The junior will place his left hand down in front of his left knee, palm down.
  2. The senior reciprocates.
  3. The junior places his right hand down
  4. The senior reciprocates
  5. The junior bends his elbows to achieve a 30 degree angle.
  6. The senior reciprocates – possibly at a lessor angle depending upon rank, then rises.
  7. The junior follows.

When bowing to a person, although it may be perceived as a bit rude to only extend the left hand, reserving the right hand for a weapon, it is the warriors duty to be “on guard” and so it is an excusable slight given his position in society. We want to be respectful and humble, tempered with a bit of distrust and caution in our dealings with others.

SHINDEN REI

Shinden are small wooden structures that were the precursors to paintings or photos of the art’s founder. They are a focal point to remember the sacrifices of our warrior ancestors and teachers. We show our respect and may dedicate our practice to an ancestor or the founder of our system.

We perform a za-rei twice, clap twice in unison, then za-rei a final time.

BEGINNINGS

The beginning of class can take on different forms depending on if the dojo has a Shinden, or a photo of Soke, or nothing at all on the main wall (called Shomen). It can also be different depending on whether you are practicing with a teacher or a group practice without a teacher. It will also take on different forms if Soke is present, visiting Shihan, or other visitors. Here are some variations;

1) Shinden present with a sensei (our dojo);

Sempai calls “heiretsu,” or claps. All line up according to rank, and sit in seiza. “Mokuso” is called by sempai, until sensei claps once. Sensei is facing the front of the dojo. Sempai calls “Shinden-ni-REI” and all zarei twice, clap twice, zarei once. Sensei turns to face students, sempai calls, “Sensei-ni-REI,” and all perform za-rei to sensei, which he reciprocates.

2) Photo of Soke or a special kanji and a sensei is present;

Sempai calls “heiretsu,” or claps. All line up according to rank, and sit in seiza. “Mokuso” is called out by sempai, until sensei claps once. Sensei is facing the front of the dojo (Shomen). Sempai calls “Shomen-ni-REI” and all zarei once. Sensei turns to face students, sempai calls, “Sensei-ni-REI,” and all perform za-rei to sensei, which he reciprocates.

3) Sensei present, nothing on the wall at Shomen;

Sempai calls “heiretsu,” or claps. All line up according to rank, and sit in seiza. “Mokuso” is called out by sempai, until sensei claps once. Sensei is facing students, sempai calls, “Sensei-ni-REI,” and all perform za-rei to sensei, which he reciprocates.

4) Photo of Soke or a special kanji and no sensei is present, it is a group practice;

Senior students will sit according to rank (joza – shimoza) on the joseki (upper side), and the more junior students will sit according to rank (joza – shimoza) on the shimoseki (lower side), so that all are facing each other. This is a different form of lining up.

Sempai will call, “Mokuso,” then will clap once to end it. Sempai will call, “Shomen-ni-” and everyone will turn toward the front (Shomen), the Sempai continues – “REI!” Sempai will then call “Otagai-ni-” so that everyone once again faces each other, then he continues – “REI!” and all will za-rei to each other all at once. The practice can begin.

5) No sensei is present and (no shomen), it is a group practice;

Senior students will sit according to rank (joza – shimoza) on the joseki (upper side), and the more junior students will sit according to rank (joza – shimoza) on the shimoseki (lower side), so that all are facing each same as the above group practice.

Sempai will call, “Mokuso,” then will clap once to end it. Sempai will call, “Otagai-ni-REI!” and all will za-rei to each other all at once. The practice can begin.

Other Reishiki will be explained before hand by either the Sempai or Sensei. When in doubt follow the Sempai’s example.

All Reishiki are combinations of old customs and local traditions so when visiting another dojo, follow the Sempai’s example.