So I was recently at a karate Seminar. Not out of the norm considering I’m at some type of Martial Arts seminar almost every month of the year. I don’t speak perfect Japanese however I have a fairly good understanding of the basics and usually find a way to briefly chat up the guest instructor regarding the items that either I or the group need to polish. At this particular event, those same items which caught his attention caught my attention and were further obvious during the grading. They included:
Onegaishimasu - I humbly ask of you
I may or may have not written about this one some time in the near past but here goes again.
Along with bowing, both terms are similar to brackets in Algebra, it opens and closes and always come in sets of two. Opening with ‘Onegaishimasu’ and closing with ‘Arigato Gozaimashita’ [thank you, formally]. There is absolutely no exception. About the only time not to use these terms in the dojo, is when you are bowing towards Shomen or Shinzen.
Bowing in and out
Karatedo without respect is just a fight
Everything in all budo begins and ends in bowing. Bowing [again] is similar to the brackets in basic Algebra; it comes in sets of two’s. What I mean by this is, if you bow in, you must bow out. When walk onto the the dojo floor, you bow, when class begins you bow and when you begin an exercise you bow. Therefore, you should bow the equal number of times to close out and complete the formula. If you’re not sure whether or not you bowed, bow and start again. Picture this, during the exam your name is called for Kata Shisochin. You approach the demonstration area and bow in. You then proceed to the center of the floor, bow again and announce your kata. After the kata is complete, there is a pause and during the thrill of exhilaration you see the signal of the examiners to step back off the floor and you do so. You only bowed two times, on when you entered the floor and the 2nd before the beginning of the kata. Therefore, your performance must have been that march to the center of the floor. This could constitute a failure to the sharpest of examiners.
Lets go over bowing. The term “Rei” means bow. “Ritsu-Rei” is standing bow and “Za-Rei” is kneeling bow. When standing or kneeling in Seiza, the command should simply come as “Rei”. If standing bend at the waist keeping your hands in the exact fixed location. If kneeling in Seiza, use both hands at the same time to place in front of your making a diamond shape and hold this position for approximately 3 seconds before returning to your starting position.
Assistants & attending instructors
Assisting and attending instructors are vital to the Chief Instructors success with advanced or large groups of students however these same assistant & attending instructors often pose a detrimental liability. In the anxiousness to “assist” assistant and attending instructors tend to overcorrect or misinterpret an exercise while the Chief Instructor should be given primary command of the group. If you are a Sensei attending, please use caution as the Chief Instructor is also watching kohai [you]. The Chief Instructor earned their position for a reason.
If you are called to lead an exercise or warm-ups which include calling out commands, do your best to clearly and precisely give correct, complete and coherent commands. Direct the exercise a few times slowly before calling for stronger movements with or without Kiai. If you do not know the command in Japanese, simply say it in English. Assistant instructors should also give proper breaks and pay close attention to the participants for boredom, lack of focus, comprehension and mental or physical exhaustion.
As an assistant instructor of the Chief Instructors, you’ll want to demonstrate your command of basics. This is not the time to show off fancy techniques or take the seminar into a different direction. If in doubt, review what is already in writing using the K.I.S.S. method [Keep It Simple Sensei], this applies from warm-up exercises [jumbi undo] starting with the right toes [furthest point away from the heart] to prearranged sparring [yakusoku kumite] starting with Rei.
Absolute basics & Commands
Let’s be honest, every instructor wants to teach attendees all the fancy techniques they know right? Well, not really. The well rounded and most experienced instructor wants to help practitioners by giving and gauging a group while keeping the group challenged.
In Budo, we repeat multiple times, correct and repeat again. I know, repetition is monotonous however practice makes perfect and repetition builds perfection. I plead to you, always practice your basics. Champions know, Gekisai dai Ichi is the goto kata for fine tuning Superimpei. For beginners that have yet to get into a larger group setting, some hints to review at home include.
A correctly aligned Musubi dachi.
A precise transition of “Yoi” into Heiko dachi
When blocking, the action hand or hand that is rising is always on the outside.
The shoulders should remain down while;
Keep your elbows close to you.
Keep the knees slightly bent.
If there is a strike during a step, the step is straight and;
If there is a blocking technique during a step, the step is curved or in a half circle.
Always turn or rotate on the ball of the foot and not the heel.
Strengthen your core so you are naturally capable of performing all techniques.
Keigo & Etiquette
Allow me to give a brief explanation for “Keigo.” It’s not easy to explain or give a full explanation of all 3 levels of keigo however simply put, they are:
Sonkeigo; respectful speech, behavior and actions.
Teineigo; polite speech, behavior and actions.
Kenjyogo; humble speech, behavior and actions.
Keigo simply refers to ‘terms of respect’ in regards to seniority, age and position in society or social class. Regarding Karatedo we continue to strictly adhere to these customs and principles to maintain order, tradition, practice moral character, pass along history and technique. There are certain honorifics to respect which came far before us. They can include changing the manner of your tone and speech to carrying the bags or dogi of your Sempai or Sensei. These simple gestures extend to Budo and Karatedo, governing the expectations of social behavior.
With that in mind, lets move on to lining up for group photos. When the time comes, it doesn’t matter how excited you are, Only the highest graded teachers are to take their seats in the order of grade and age. Everyone else should fall in under the same circumstances. Children are precious and should be addressed accordingly. Big point here is, in a group of 100 people, it is very unlikely the shodan is at or over the shoulders of the four 8th Dan in attendance. If you do have the opportunity to take photos with senior and guest instructors please do not pal up and put your arm around them. If they put their hand on your shoulder, that’s fine because they are the Senior. Let them set the pace and you act as the student following their lead.