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The use of proper kendo etiquette while in JapanPage Title Module
I suppose you mean aside from what you would have learned in the dojo you're presently at? Etiquette is largely the same but below are some additions I've observed in Japan but not/rarely outside or some thoughts on how to make a good impression.
- Never say "no" explicitly.
- ZNKR proscribes both hands down at the same time for seiza rei. I've met a few sensei who are insistent on this while others were fine with the older left then right order. Safest to stick to both hands down at the same time unless you happen to be in a police dojo in which case the older order is still official.
- Children will often go up to an adult motodachi and say thanks after the closing bow at the end of a particular individual keiko (not the end of the practice rei). Don't do this if you're an adult though.
- Try not to miss a practice and if you do, it's polite to inform before hand or apologize after (unless the practice is huge in which case the anonymity may make this irrelevant). This isn't required (and often isn't done by the Japanese themselves) but it will show conscientiousness, especially in a small dojo.
- If you are searching for a dojo, people will often go out of their way to get you invited to something. If the practice isn't practical with your schedule or location for some reason, it's polite to visit at least once (goes back to not saying "no"). If the invitation really can't be taken up at all then there should be an explanation (e.g. schedule conflict).
- If you are invited to a practice by one of the sensei leading the practice, or by the consent of such a sensei via a standing member, then consider yourself there by the grace of that sensei. In this case, it's best to have keiko with that sensei first before having keiko with the others (this may be trumped by consideration for a sensei who has no one in their line).
- Never leave a motodachi standing around with no one in their line for keiko. This is true outside of Japan but worth repeating especially as in Japan these motodachi are often senior sensei so making such a situation all the more of a waste. Amazingly I've seen this happen with an 8-dan (I jumped in of course).
- Some practices have a more casual start (e.g. people turn up whenever in order to cater to work schedule), others are more formal where everyone gets their men on at the same time. For this second type there's often a bit of a race to get the men on and get in early with the most senior sensei. You'll make a good impression if you happen to be able to get your men on first and run up to the sensei and "onegaishimasu" for keiko. In some cases second and third are still ok and in some only the first gets to do this. This is also something to do when a senior sensei visits your country for a seminar.
- During post practice aisatsu where people take turns thanking each other for keiko, when receiving advice you can show that you intend to work on the advice by saying "gambarimasu" (lit. I will work hard). Don't say the similar sounding "gambatte" which means you're requesting that the person you speak to should work hard (though you may heard this from a senior sensei in which case the response should be "hai gambarimasu").
- During post practice aisatsu you can say to a sensei "ii-keiko kurete arigatogozaimasu". Don't say "ii-keiko-desu-ne" which is something the sensei would say.
- If you couldn't practice with a sensei on a particular occasion don't apologize for it as you're the one losing out, not the sensei. You can say "kondo onegaishimasu" (next time please).
"- ZNKR proscribes both hands down at the same time for seiza rei. I've met a few sensei who are insistent on this while others were fine with the older left then right order. Safest to stick to both hands down at the same time unless you happen to be in a police dojo in which case the older order is still official."
Probably you mean "prescribes" not "proscribes" here?
Buy a round of beer for the instructors, in my experience in japan, if you have japanese language ability, you will probably learn more outside of class than you will in it. I also usually bring a bottle of whiskey for the head instructor when I visit in japan, which generally gets shared by everyone after class.
Otherwise, ettiqutte wise it isn't that much different in class than here, though the dojo environment may be depending on with whom you are training, for example police dojo, vs college, versus something at the komikan.
Yes, omiyage culture is indeed important both with sensei and in general.
I'm going to differ a bit on the point about learning more at the pub than in the dojo. Certainly you may get more spoken explanation at nomikai. And benkyo (study) is of course important to consciously develop the physical side. But at the end of the day that info has to go from the conscious brain into "muscle memory." Also, as I will explain below, it depends on the dojo of course but nomikai isn't a given.
Aside from attending regularly planned post-keiko nomikai at an university OB ("old boy"/alumni) practice, I haven't actually witnessed much post practice drinking. That may have to do with the fact that I live here so am not considered a "guest" in the normal sense (therefore no need to entertain me). Also Japanese nomikai culture is more of an organizational bonding phenomenon so happens between people who go to work or school together (OB fall under school despite the fact that everyone lives separate lives). From my limited experience, most adult practices (e.g. where salaryman turns up) do not socially connect people in this way so there's no off to the pub afterwards going on (or maybe there is and I'm being left out???).
I regularly practice with two sensei who I consider to "look after" my kendo. One will explain a lot (usually at the end of practice aisatsu), the other won't unless he feels compelled to correct something I'm too dense to correct myself. The second type seems to be more pervasive. I don't go to nomikai with either of them except for special occasions like bonenkai (end of the year party) or budohajimeshiki (first practice of the year demonstration ceremony... though not really the first practice). I have been to post-degeiko (away practice visiting another dojo for renshujiai/practice matches) lunch but no drinking is involved and the banter tends to revolve around how much I, as the gaikokujin, know about or enjoy Japanese culture.
On the occasions when I do drink with sensei, I find it difficult to actually get them to allow me to treat them to rounds. In Japanese nomikai culture, more senior are supposed to treat the (normally financially poorer) junior. Just as the junior receives training and beer from the sensei, the junior is expected to do the same later when they are senior.
Just to add (edit window timed out), treating sensei to rounds outside of Japan is a lot easier. If they are the local sensei then they may go along with the local drinking culture and accept being treated. If they are visiting sensei, as the guest, they may graciously accept your hospitality.
Trying to do the same in Japan doesn't always produce the desired effect. Peter West mentioned in an iaido thread that buying a drink for a sensei without their consent can be impolite as it is seen as compelling them to drink when they may not want to. Personally I've been given awkward looks then a sort of grudging thanks for wrestling consent to buy a round (e.g. I'm physically blocking the passage to the bar to make an order). Be careful in this territory. If in doubt as ask someone on the same level what to do.
Sorry for the repeat postings but something else just came to mind.
Regarding renshujiai degeiko (practice matches away training): At such practices (whether your dojo is visiting or hosting) there may be sensei from two or more dojo acting as team managers (they don't participate in practice matches). If there is a general keiko at some point (e.g. just keiko/jigeiko, no scores kept) and the sensei participate, you should practice with the other sensei but not your own. The point is for people to get the chance to practice with a different sensei then their own. So practicing with your own sensei is missing the point.
I've lived in japan as well and used to come over for 4-6 weeks a year for training trips, and the particular dojo which I often visit goes out drinking after nearly every class. Obviously won't be the same everywhere.
It depends on what level you're at as to what you might get out of the discussion. Its kind of like having doing keiko with a teacher who has been doing kendo for 10 years, versus a teacher who has been doing it for 50. For a beginner you probably won't get much more out of the experience with the less experienced teacher than the more experienced teacher as you are mostly concerned with purely physical things and may not be able to perceive the differences (kind of like how it may take a while to feel "pressure" as an easy example).