Dojo Etiquette

The Bujinkan is pretty well known to be a more relaxed martial art when it comes to etiquette. The general philosophy is one of expediency: there’s no time for it; when it’s time to train, train; respect for others in the dojo is a pre-requisite, not an additional task; that sort of thing. That being said, context is very important in budo. It’s easy for ego to creep its way into our training; after all, a martial art is an empowering tool. To curb that, we perform actions of humility or deference.

I’ve compiled a list below of relatively standard etiquette for before, during, and after training. I’m sure you’ll notice that we don’t follow some of it at our dojo, and that’s just fine; like I said earlier, they’re not hardline issues. The main point is that you err on the side of more etiquette, then you keep your eyes/ears open in order to shave off what you don’t need in order to comply with the rules of the particular dojo that you’re in at that time. This is important when attending seminars held by other groups, and especially important when you travel to Japan to train. Our actions reflect either positively or negatively on Robert and the dojo.

Before Training

  • Make sure your “normal” clothes/jacket/bag/shoes are placed somewhere neatly out of the way. You don’t want others tripping over your things.
  • When you enter and leave the carpeted/mat training area, face the kamidana and bow.
  • Keep a look out for anyone who may need any help. (a new person having trouble tying their belt, someone carrying heavy objects, etc)
  • Dress how the instructor is dressed. If they’re in full gi, so are you. If they wear just pants/t-shirt/belt, so do you.

During Training

  • When the instructor begins showing a technique, stop training, stop talking, and pay attention. Don’t finish the technique you’re working on, don’t finish your conversation; just stop. This requires you to remain aware of what’s going on around you at all times.
  • If you haven’t met your training partner yet, introduce yourself when you pair up; you could even ask them if they have any injuries of which you need to be mindful. We’re all in this together! (“Onegaishimasu“)
  • Be aware of your training partner’s skill level, and train safely.
  • If the instructor comes by to give you a piece of advice on your movement, ask any clarifying questions, say thank you, and then work on the correction. Unless they specifically ask, or unless there’s an issue with your movement that you want to ask a question about, there’s no need to explain what you were doing prior; the instructor already saw what you were doing.
  • Thanking your training partner at the end of your time together is recommended.

After Training

  • Help put away any weapons, bags, or training materials that are still out.
  • Reset the carpet/mats/etc if they shifted during training.
  • Pick up any trash left behind or clean up any spills made.
  • Don’t forget any of your things at the dojo.

Miscellaneous

  • Ask questions! Etiquette is not intended to shut you up or to override your individual needs in favor of a “quiet ride”. Be lively! Be involved! Ask questions!
  • If you are sick/contagious: don’t train. You might be able to come and watch so you don’t miss what was taught, but try not to be a vector or create fomites.
  • Make sure to have your training fees ready at the appropriate times, and try not to ask the dojo to make change for you.

As you can see, most of these are typical, respectful things that we all already do; however, being mindful of a thing will better allow you to train it and use it to your advantage. We owe it to Robert, and to the heart of the dojo, to do our best.

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Reading List

Amazon.com has an author’s page for Hastumi-soke here. All books authored by Hatsumi are great reads, but the two that are considered the “timeless classics” are Ninjutsu: History and Tradition and Essence of Ninjutsu.

Soke’s writing style is very interesting, and you can see how he “plays” with various kanji in order to bring a new outlook on the subject. If you read one of his books and wait a month, you may see something different within the same set words. If you read one of his books and wait a year, you will see something different within the same set of words. Having your interpretations change over time is also a good indicator of whether or not you’re advancing in your training.

Training is not just a set of physical skills. There’s a mindset as well, and Soke’s books will help develop that.

Shikin Haramitsu Daikômyo

These are the words that we say during the bow in/out in class. Wikipedia has a pretty decent write up of its definition HERE.
Like many things in the Japanese language, particularly with Soke’s penchant for playing with kanji, this is just a general definition. There can be many different definitions/expansions of the phrase, but at least it’s a starting point.

Holiday Homework

As you know, there are no classes for this week and the next, and the first adult class will be Tuesday, Jan 7th. In the interim, choose one way to translate your training in the dojo to your life outside the dojo. Not just philosophically, make it a physical thing.
Maybe you open doors by stepping back into Ichimonji instead of just pulling with your arm. If you drop something, maybe you don’t bend at your waist to pick it up but at your knees instead. Maybe in a restaurant you sit with your back to a wall instead of to the door. It doesn’t really matter what it is; the more mundane, the better. Choose one thing and do it in a “budo way”. We’ll discuss it in the new year.
See you on the 7th!