It’s All About Respect
It sounded strange as the visitor bowed and entered the Dojo.
Why so strange?
Because our etiquette is to stand quietly to attention and bow to Kamiza (the shrine) as we enter the Dojo and then toward Sensei. The noise sounded really odd to us. Sensei nodded in the direction of the guest and said no more.
As if this was not enough, our visitor strode up to Sensei.
“OSSSS! Sensei! My name is Raoul, I am a nidan from the Magrid Shotokan Academy under the instruction of Chimo Sensei. I am here on holiday and have been recommended to train at your dojo,” he announced in clear and very loud English.
“You are a welcome guest,” replied sensei quietly.
“OSSSSS!” As we bowed in the class.
“OSSSSS!” Every time sensei spoke, this was really getting on everyone’s nerves……
Finally we had a break and everyone sat down to chat, Raoul was the first to speak.
“I hope you don’t mind me speaking up, but as a guest I am very confused, it seems to me that the etiquette and discipline in this club is very lax……” You could almost hear the sharp intake of breath and then the release as everyone realised that he really couldn’t understand.
“That’s OK, said sensei. The club and style that you train in is quite militaristic compared to ours, you may have noticed that we don’t use the greeting and acknowledgement “OSSSS!” This is because our background is not so university and military oriented.
“But the movement seems so much more sloppy”.
“It is not so sloppy Raoul as less overt. Our manners and movements are conducted in what we consider to be a dignified manner, not so military as gentlemanly, probably very English and old budo, Japanese style. In all movements and techniques we use the optimum amount of energy so that they are economical, graceful, fluid and yet powerful.”
“But do you not think that your students are disrespectful toward you?”
“No. Respect is earned by both sides. The Sensei has to earn the respect of the student by his efforts to teach properly and his conduct both in and out of class. The student has to earn the respect of the Sensei by his or her efforts to learn, paying attention to the teaching, training in what he or she has been taught and learning and applying the Dojo code of conduct, written and unwritten. Proper and deep respect is then earned over years of the blood, sweat and tears of spiritual development. Do not mistake “lip service” for respect.”
“But the training is messy with everyone doing their own thing a lot of the time, why is their no linework and class discipline?”
“Because we are not military in our approach. Our discipline comes from the inside out not the outside in. Did you see anyone being lazy or slacking?”
“No, but it seems so messy.”
“If you have the right discipline structure, it is far more effective for each student to work on their individual or graded programme. This way they are making effective use of their time and I am able to get around to each of them individually to give them advice. Sometimes when it is appropriate we do line work, but we don’t just treat the class as one person, it is better to treat them as individuals. After all, they aren’t disobedient school children but responsible Martial Artists.”
“Does that mean that you disapprove of Chimo Sensei’s methods?”
“Not at all. It’s horses for courses. Different people learn best by different methods. There is no doubt that Chimo Sensei achieves good results by his methods, students are attracted to different schools by their approach. We have to learn to appreciate that there is no one perfect method and any school only exists by virtue of its support.”
“I do find this way of training very difficult to come to terms with, it seems so untidy and lacking in power, discipline and respect.”
“That is because it is very different from the methods that you are familiar with, would you be surprised to discover that some of my students probably find you loud, uncouth, undignified and technically using a sledgehammer to crush a grape?”
There were mutterings of agreement from the floor, Raoul looked surprised and for once could think of nothing to say.
“Well, both are extreme points of view and just as bigoted. A proper Martial Artist should have patience, tolerance and respect for all paths that lead toward the way of wisdom. We are pleased that you came here today because it gives all of us the opportunity to learn from each other. And I rather suspect that you were recommended to train here today by Chimo Sensei himself, is that not so?”
“Then maybe he felt that your arrogance needed a little tempering?