I am off to Japan next week for the 16th WKC. As a warm-up I am traveling a week ahead of the competition and spending time revisiting some of my old haunts in Kansai. I am going with a kendo friend and as a reminder to him and to myself I have put together a list of things to do and not do when visiting dojo or enjoying hospitality with Japanese kendo friends. As there will be many kendo visitors in Japan over the next few weeks, I thought that this might be worth sharing.
- Only go to dojo where you are invited by members or teachers, or if you have an introduction. Do not walk in off the street.
- Keep quiet and follow what other people do.
- Wait to be told where to sit. If no information is forthcoming sit in the lowest position.
- Unless you know the grade of your training partners always defer the higher side the dojo to them.
- If you are queuing for senior sensei, stand correctly while you wait your turn and don’t expect more than 3 or 4 keiko in a session.
- Always cross the dojo after keiko to bow to teachers.
- If you exchange sitting bows with someone from your own side of the dojo, do it in a way so that you are diagonally further away from kamiza than the other person.
- Take some small gifts and ideally name cards to give to teachers who spend time with you.
- Make sure that your chakuso is correct and that you carry your men and kote correctly.
- Check out the dojo’s tenegui etiquette and follow it.
- Respect other people’s personal space.
- Hug, fondle, pat, stroke or generally man-handle Japanese kenshi. (This rule does not apply only in the case of a famous sensei who spends time in Belgium)
- Give advice to anyone, particularly those with higher grades than yourself.
- If you receive constructive (or destructive) advice on your failings, do not offer excuses. “Yes I understand”, “Thank you” and “I will try harder” are all much better answers.
- Talk too loud.
- Slouch in the dojo.
- Get into communal dojo baths before sensei, wait until you are asked.
- If you are invited for a drink or meal after keiko, don’t start on your beer until someone has said kampai and don’t start eating until you hear or say itadakimasu.
And once you have remembered all that, please don’t forget to enjoy the experience.