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  • #16
    From what I've seen in Japan, the dojo leader stays put while a visiting VIP will take a seat facing perpendicular to the dojo leader. This VIP seat is called the joseki and is towards the same end as the senior side of the line up. In a space where this would be awkward (e.g. the space is really large so a perpendicular facing spot would be sort of in the middle of emptiness) then from what I've seen the dojo leader either moves over in the junior direction by one space or establishes a higher seat adjacent to his/her space in the direction of the senior end.

    I wrote a bit about dojo layout in my blog. It's not exhaustive since there are many variations but might give an idea:

    http://www.dillonlin.net/?p=2659

    BTW, in Japanese culture the joseki is defined as the "most comfortable" seat. This usually is the seat furthest from the door with a surveillance position (think where a boss might sit), though this is an oversimplified definition.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Hisham View Post
      A yondan kenshi from the US (he's a moroccan/american) will be visiting us soon, it's just normal for me to step down (i didn't grade beyond second kyu) as the study group leader and let him take over the training while he's with us, my question is should i just get back to sitting with my fellow dojo mates as it was the case when we had our own sensei or sit at his right? For the record, the second option doesn't feel right to me, anyway thanks for the feedback.
      This also can vary. If you don't have a tradition in your dojo you can start one You may want to ask the visiting yondan if they mind sitting at the front by themselves. In my experience visitors typically want you to run the class in your normal manner (unless this is a seminar). Each dojo can vary tho' as has been said. I am only a nidan but I am also an officer on the BOD for our regional federation. As such at some dojo they ask me to sit at the front of the class with the dojo sensei (which I feel silly doing sometimes being only a nidan), and others give me a spot according to my rank and some even let me sit at the end of the beginners (which is where I usually head to as a visitor unless asked to do otherwise). I lead our class at UNC and as such am put on the other side of the fence sometimes. Last week I had a visiting yondan who I practically had to pull his arm to have him sit out front with me and later that week I had a visiting nanadan who naturally sat at the front but was insistent I sit with him. I personally see no problem with the 'normal' class leader (sensei if you will, regardless of rank) sitting in front with visiting sensei (as long, of course, as the visiting sensei is ok with that).

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Hisham View Post
        A yondan kenshi from the US (he's a moroccan/american) will be visiting us soon, it's just normal for me to step down (i didn't grade beyond second kyu) as the study group leader and let him take over the training while he's with us, my question is should i just get back to sitting with my fellow dojo mates as it was the case when we had our own sensei or sit at his right? For the record, the second option doesn't feel right to me, anyway thanks for the feedback.
        You should ask him first if he is willing to "take over the training". Some might prefer to let you run the class normally and just participate.

        As far as where he sits, you should invite him to the sensei side. Where you go is up to you but my feeling is that if you have been leading the club then you should be there too. As he is quite a bit senior to you I would invite him to sit ahead of you (whether that is right or left depends on where shomen is in your dojo). But he may decline that.

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        • #19
          Thank you guys for the advice.
          I'll ask him about leading the training and since the shomen is at the left side of where sensei sit in our dojo, i'll sit at his right.
          Thanks again for the input.

          PS: Dillon, that blog article of yours was an interesting read, thanks for sharing.

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          • #20
            A bit late to add but I got a rep recently and was wondering which post it was related to (my previous one on this thread). So looking again some thoughts came to mind. The following are some more of my observations about seating in a dojo. These are just observations so I could be wrong on some of this.

            Japanese hierarchy takes into account several factors. Aside from grade there's also age, role in the organization and the chronological order in which the individuals joined the organization (sempai-kohai). In the old days when people followed a simple path of joining kendo or an office at a certain age and staying there until at some point naturally moving on, these factors overlapped more or less neatly. Today it's far more complicated as there is more mobility in and out of organizations and life is less proscribed. It's complicated and I would say the best way to learn how to juggle these factors is to actually live in Japan. Someone could sit down and write a whole book on this subject but you'd have to see it in practice to learn it effectively... and still get it wrong as the Japanese sometimes do.

            In a dojo/meeting space the people sitting at the kamiza side (e.g. teacher side) are those who are responsible for the practice/meeting. That means as dojo leader it doesn't matter how low your grade is relative to a visiting senior grade who is invited to temporarily take over a practice. If you are responsible for the practice you take a seat on the kamiza side and if you're less senior you take a seat of relative appropriateness to the more senior person. If the more senior person is a visitor, then it's all the more reason that the dojo-cho should sit on the kamiza side as he/she is still required to keep an eye on the practice and ensure it runs smoothly and safely.

            In my jodo/iaido practice however, the dojo-cho actually sits on the shimoza side (e.g. student side). In this case he is the kendo shihan (and one of my kendo sensei) and responsible for running the dojo (various arts are practiced in here). However, he is only a 4-dan in jodo and for jodo practice he takes a back seat to the 7-dan jodo/8-dan iaido sensei (it's technically a jodo practice but I and another occasionally indulge in iaido). In this case, the responsibility for the practice is ceded to the 7-dan jodo sensei.

            Interestingly, the kendo-shihan/dojo-cho takes the most senior position (closer to joseki) on the shimoza side despite two others in that line having more senior grades than him in jodo (a 6-dan and a 5-dan). In this case his role as dojo-cho trumps grade. A case could be made for this dojo-cho to sit on the kamiza side along with the jodo shihan during jodo practice. But I think given that there are others more senior than him in this practice who have no precedence for a kamiza seat, the "compromise" is that he sits on the shimoza side but in the most senior spot (I use the word compromise in the social consensus sense... I don't think there were any negotiations about it though perhaps a few words to get an understanding at the first practice).

            Other observations:

            A visiting senior who isn't taking responsibility for the practice takes joseki. There is only one joseki seat if any exists as far as I can tell (though in a shinsa or taikai the joseki can be a row of tables). In this case seniority may be defined as someone senior in the organization the dojo belongs too, e.g. company president in a company dojo (though this person might not even practice at all but just turning up to watch).

            I've seen regular (non-visiting) shihan sit at joseki while dojo-cho sits at kamiza. So responsible shihan gets a choice between joseki or most senior position of kamiza (sometimes the end towards joseki, sometimes the middle with hierarchy alternating between right and left).

            In a children's practice, the children are more senior than the adults on the shimoza side. The second most senior child takes a seat at the most junior end of this line to "bookend" the line, after which the adults (if any) take their seats.

            In an OB ("old boy"/alumni) practice hosted by a university, the practice is hosted by the student club. On the shimoza side the sempai-kohai status trumps everything else (though in this case it generally coincides with age). Enrolled students who are hosting the practice take the most junior end (they are anyway the most junior of the kohai end). The club leader is a student and will most likely take a seat on the most junior "bookend" seat.

            Hierarchy on the shimoza side can also put all bogu wearers first, then all non-bogu but kendo kit wears second and then people in gym-clothes etc last. So equipment trumps grade (more obvious when someone more senior is out of bogu due to injury and participating in light practice). This aspect isn't generally applied to the kamiza side since whether a teacher is in bogu or not is irrelevant to their role.

            So yeah, it's complicated. But if you're the most senior in the dojo and dojo-cho, then you keep a seat on the kamiza side when someone more senior visits (as far as I can see). It identifies you as someone responsible in the practice.

            Also, most of the time if things are really complicated there's no time to sort out who goes where exactly on the shimoza side. It's more important to move things along than to get really worked up about the order as long as there aren't any glaring breech (e.g. a gym-clothed beginner on the senior half of the shimoza side unless everyone else is the same as in the case of a brand new club). The shimoza side is more likely to get a scolding for holding up a practice than for getting the order wrong.

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