Following on from my last post, it’s worth looking at what we should and should not do when visiting other dojo. The best option is to go with a regular member who can explain the system and tell you who’s who. If you do visit alone, then here are a few tips on how not to make the wrong impression. The key however is to watch what others do and to follow their example.
Start by getting there on time or slightly early. Bow correctly when you enter and if you can introduce yourself to the shihan or dojo leader and ask if you may practice. The instructor will usually ask your grade and help direct you to the right place in the line. If you are left to your own devices sit in the lowest position. Being asked to move up is flattering; being asked to move down is less impressive. Pay particular attention to the “gorei” commands at the beginning and end of the session. If everyone bows to showmen make sure you are facing the right direction.
If the dojo practices motodachi- geiko, then queue for the most senior person and work your way down the line. It goes without saying that in any kendo practice you should give it your all. This is particularly true if you are training in a new environment. In jigeiko, unless you know for sure that you are the senior grade, always defer to your opponent over who takes the kamiza position. Most people will put up a show of resistance and go through a “no please, after you” discussion. Politely refuse and make sure that you stay on the lower side. I have been in situations where I have had to physically push my opponent across the dojo. During keiko if you are given advice, acknowledge the it with a quick yes or “thank you”. Do not ask questions or get into a discussion.
After practise, quickly cross the dojo to thank all the instructors that you have trained with, starting with the most senior and working your way down the line. Then repeat the process with opponents on the shimoza side. If advice is offered, accept it gratefully, but again, do not ask for a critique or make excuses. If you can, take some tenugui from your dojo and present them, ideally with a business card, to the senior dojo members.
Pay attention to the after practice showering or bathing routine, in some dojo it is the custom for sensei to go first, always defer to seniors. Finally if you are invited to go for a drink after practice, say yes; you have probably made some great new kendo friends.