Originally posted by Largo
I've been chewed out at a number of dojos (only in america, ironically) by a lot of people who feel that they must do everything "like they do in Japan". (sadly, before my knees gave out, I was one of that type too)
Oh, that's just silly. Not you, the practice of being more Japanese than the Japanese.
(donning asbestos armor)
Many of the older-generation Japanese have a huge military-school hangover. It was beaten into them before and during the war. It has remained present in the attitudes and practices in many schools and universities and in many business ... sadly, in many dojo as well.
The older folks grew up with military training being mandatory in school; schools run by the military, in many cases. And the martial arts programs in schools that everyone attended were often run by military officers.
Most of the militaristic BS folks cling to in the dojo is a holdover from those days. Yes, instilling a sense of order and discipline in students is sometimes needed, especially if you're teaching a roomful of kids or teens.
However, amongst adults, all of the shouting, constant bowing, exaggerated postures and oh-so-proper-formality are just not necessary.
If you have a large class, it's important to maintain discipline, but it isn't necessary to do so by treating the dojo like boot camp.
To paraphrase one very senior koryu teacher, speaking to a couple of gendai folks sitting in rigid seiza and spouting badly accented Japanese phrases (and going Osu! to his every word), "Relax, boys. This is koryu. We don't need to beat discipline into you, we practice self-discipline; the discipline of warriors, not the discipline of schoolchildren."
If you're knees are bad, being forced to sit in seiza ain't a good thing. Heck, even with mostly decent knees, sitting seiza for long stretches can be pretty daunting for folks who aren't quite as limber.
Originally posted by Colleen
I've been in some pretty traditional/strict dojos
This is another facet of that same stone. Traditional doesn not necessarily mean strict.
Students are expected to behave, to pay attention, to be respectful, but in many traditional dojo, in many koryu dojo, no one stands over you with a stick, waiting to whack you if you fidget or scratch.
Strict, in that folks are expected to show self-restraint, self-discipline, show up, train hard, share the knowledge and learn? Yes.
Strict in that everyone walks around like it's a church and geneflucts every time the teacher farts? No.
Some of the most relaxed and casual training I've done has been with an old Japanese koryu guy. He held 7th dan ranking in a handful of gendai budo, too, but ran the class in koryu style. He was patient, careful, precise and attentive, but he was not a drill sergeant waiting for someone to break ranks so he could chivvy them back into proper order.
Discipline doesn't have to be shouting and traditional doesn't mean boot camp.
Back to the knee thing.
Stretching, as Colleen pointed out, is essential for good knee health. So is proper exercise.
I've never known anyone (absent real knee probs, such as torn meniscus, etc) who couldn't do seiza, at least long enough to bow in and out and do a short meditation, after some training. Sitting there for a 45-minute lecture? That's a different critter.
Seiza is 'seated properly' -- but it's not really that big a deal. Other seated postures -- tate-hiza, iai-goshi, anza, etc -- are just as proper in their place.
In the end, common sense and safety are far more important than some artificial code of conduct.
But that's just my opinion ...