POSITION IN LINE
Please understand your place in the dojo based on your experience. Seniorities are by age until you reach the first Dan rank. Shodan and Nidan are junior ranks. Sandan is the point where people are normally expected to start teaching or being a sempai. Yondan and above are normal junior teaching ranks. In the the ranks below Yondan, please cooperate with each other and share your duties as Sempai and other roles that you might be asked to perform at some time. If you are in doubt, please ask one of the more senior members. Line up in the order of your grade. Within each grade division, there is no particular order to follow though it is polite and respectful to offer an older or more experienced person your higher side. It is not appropriate to argue if a Sempai directs you to move. If in doubt ALWAYS make way for someone else, especially if they are a visitor.
ROLES IN THE DOJO
During seiretzu (lining up), do so quickly with the most minimal amount of fuss. It is not important to be overly concerned about your position in the line as there is little difference in abilities between someone who graded 3 months earlier then the next person. Ask the advice of a sempai (literally anyone who is senior) if in doubt. Each dojo typically has a sempai or most senior student to deputise for sensei – but in Japan this could be a Hachican Hanshi. In the West this is typically the next most senior student to the dojo leader OR whoever is appointed (Toban) OR is senior on the day.
Please show due respect to seniors and please do not argue with anyone who has higher rank. Kendo is only democratic in the pub and other social events afterwards. Inside the dojo, please be respectful to each other to the point of over emphasis. Better to be too polite than not polite enough.
If asked by the sempai to do something, please perform the task quickly. If the task might cause harm or distress, always let the Sempai know in advance.
The high side (komiza) is the once farthest away from the entrance and the Sempai will be positioned there. Everyone else will line up together after the Sempai.
Bogu, Tenegui, and Equipment
Make sure you really are lined up correctly first starting with the Sempai’s position. When seated at seize, the knees should be lined up and all the bogu should be lined up starting with Sempai’s bogu. The kotes should be positioned correctly with the open ends in front and fists pointing to the right. The men should rest straight and not leaning to either sides. The shinai should also be lined up at the tsuba on your knee level. The tenegui should be clean and folded neatly. Some dojos have the tradition to have the teenage over the bogu, others have it folded and inside the men. Please put these away nicely after practice and folded neatly. Dogi (equipment) should be in good repair (esp shinai), clean and fit for use.
Please observe also how to put your bogu on the floor correctly as well as how to put it away properly after practice. This also includes how to carry your equipment around the dojo correctly. You should know how to set your bogu up on the dojo floor, how to place doh and tare if required, how to lay out men, kote and shinai and what to do with your tenegui. If you are told to take your bogu off during practise, make sure you are ready to put it on again immediately. You should be able to put men and kote on properly in 2 minutes. This includes tying a tenegui rather than just making a hat out of it that is more appropriate for juniors. You should be able to put the whole lot on, the knots tied correctly (esp the doh) in less than 5 minutes. Time yourself & practise at home through guidebooks as you have to remember that you are also taking others away from their practice time to help with your bogu. During the class it is tempting to speak to or try to teach your partner, especially if they are junior in order to help them. Please refrain from speaking. Unless you have a mid rank grade (3-5 dan), you should keep quiet and call the Sempai or whoever is teaching in order to make any corrections. Focus on your own mistakes, not those of others. We all have faults and the goal is not to pass on the faults to someone more junior. Even then it is better to be quiet and attempt any corrections via actions. While you are talking, you are not listening and talking over a sensei is considered very rude. It is also possibly dangerous as you get the situation where no one is quite sure what to do and that is when mistakes are made.
Phil McLaughlin 26/1/15