The importance of reigi
Have you ever heard of the term reigi sahõ?
Chances are that you haven’t, but trust me, you (should) use it every time you enter the dojo.
Reigi is the etiquette in the dojo
Reigi’s rough translation is ‘dojo etiquette’. In Japanese dojo however, it’s more than just giving a little nod of the head at the beginning of class. It is based upon respect of one’s Sensei, seniors, school, and equipment etc. However, in practice it is not as simple as this. Every action has a prescribed method, and failure to adhere to this behaviour may be taken as poor behaviour and respect.
Cool story bro/sis/panda, so why are you being so stuck up on this?
To the western mind these codes of conduct are hard to grasp and are much less rigid in practice. Nevertheless, as practicing martial artists we should endeavour to follow Reigi to the best we can, and strive for its improvement.
Because at the end of the day good etiquette is what separates us from some of our poor respecting peers. It is how we should interact with other human beings and therefore treat them with respect and courtesy as we ourselves would like to be treated.
Reigi is then the cornerstone of how we conduct ourselves in our martial arts and everyday life. Without Reigi, our martial arts becomes another exercise activity, providing the physical benefits, but lacking the character and depth that it can offer. Etiquette develops discipline, through which comes structure and through structure we become familiar with the concepts that are being taught. However, this will then spill into everyday life to make us a better person. This is one reason why parents enroll their children in martial arts classes. However, it can be overlooked in some schools and also in everyday life.
I always say:
If you do not practice reigi, you can become a fighter, but you’ll never be a budoka.
(Or even a karateka in this case)
There is a reason we’re not all in boxing, wrestling and other western fighting sports. If you fell in love with martial arts, you fell in love with the whole idea of martial arts. The whole structure is a part of the art: it trains the mind.
A reason that was perhaps best summed up by Matsumura Sokon, who at the age of 76 wrote the following (in 1885):
“A person who is truly humble will always have an inner calm”
Hmm okay, fair enough, so what is proper reigi?
Now here is where it becomes a little tricky. Every martial arts has a different strictness in reigi. Some want people to sit in seiza, other sensei really don’t care.
But the answer lies in the word ‘REIgi’
We know the word ‘rei’ right?
Whenever your sensei commands it, you bow.
But guess what,
Rei doesn’t mean ‘BOW NOW!’
Rei is “an expression of gratitude”.
The bow is about showing mutual trust, through submissive respect.
I think we can detect a pattern here:
Rei is an expression of gratitude, reigi is the dojo etiquette.
So the etiquette is to show mutual respect and gratitude towards each other. And how you that? Well if you ask me:
- Bow before entering and upon leaving the dojo - you are grateful you have a secure place to train
- Bow towards your sensei - you are grateful to receive their wisdom and teachings
- Bow towards your fellow students - you are grateful that they are willing to train with you and help you further your journey
- Show respect by not showing the soles of your feet when you are sitting, they are dirty and it is a sign of disrespect
- Show respect, but be vigilant. There is no need into greeting the floor - the floor won’t attack you. Your opponent/partner/fellowstudent/sensei might.
- Do not step on others because you have a higher rank: there is ALWAYS someone is bigger, stronger and better than you. ALWAYS.
- Report misbehaving but please do not complain about how others are ‘doing it wrong’. Focus on yourself. The sensei knows exactly how everyone is doing (unless you’re in a mcDojo. Get out of there. NOW)
So how do you bow correctly?
How to bow?
Pff, I don’t have to explain that.
I’ll have secondary grand master of Wado Ryu, the late Õtsuka Hironori II Sensei, do that for me.
Arigato gozaimasu Õtsuka sensei.