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Etiquette and Ego
by The Mirror
11-28-2007
Etiquette and Ego

A while back, coming back from a seminar I got into a discussion with a fellow from another aikido organization. We were talking about etiquette and whether or not it is needed.

He'd attended a couple seminars with my teacher's teacher, and one of the things he didn't like was the severity of the etiquette that we follow. I can't remember what he said exactly, but the idea as I understood him was that a teacher who asks for such strict etiquette has a big ego.

Here is a list of some of the key points of etiquette that I've gotten used to following when visiting my teacher's teacher's dojo:

-Entering the dojo, bow. Exiting the dojo, bow.
-Wear something on your feet from the dressing room to the mat. If you don't, you might be asked to return to the dressing room, wash your feet and put slippers or socks on to return to the mat with clean feet (washing your socks afterwards is your problem).
-If you're late, stand at the edge of the mat for permission to step on the mat.
-Stepping on the mat, make a bow from seiza.
-When sensei is demoing a technique, sit in seiza at all times. If you absolutely can't, ask about it before class.
-During practice, if sensei comes to correct your partner, kneel down on the edge of the mat out of the way. After receiving instruction, bow and say thank you. Don't argue or explain why that particular mistake seemed like a good idea. Just say thank you.
-If you're watching a class, stand up when the class bows at the beginning and end, and perform a standing bow.

I'm sure there are other small points that I forget to list simply because I'm so used to them.

Although we in principle follow the same etiquette, my own dojo is more relaxed about it. If you forget to bow, or if you sit cross legged, my teacher might say something about it in private, or he might not bother. His teacher, however, will just ask in front of the class that you repeat whatever it is you were doing but properly this time. For example, if you just run off the mat, he'll ask you to return and do a kneeling bow like you're supposed to.

It's this that people seem to object the most to, saying it's putting the students down, or that it shows the teacher likes to boss people around. Most people I've talked with do agree that the etiqette in many ways makes sense. They just don't like to be openly reminded of it if they forget to follow it.

Since my home dojo is more relaxed about these things, I always feel a little bit apprehensive and nervous about etiquette myself whenever I visit my teacher's teacher's dojo. It would be easier if I didn't have to think about that. So I can see how that might put someone off.

Many of these customs serve a purpose. I have to be present and aware of entering the dojo in order to remember to bow. Not talking back to the teacher saves a lot of time. Why dwell on something that wasn't correct practice? It does have another effect on me as well: not being allowed to justify what I was doing is hard to take, and the more often it happens, the more often I get to practice swallowing my pride and accepting that I don't know everything just yet. And the more often I practice that the more it just isn't a big deal anymore. I can make mistakes and it's ok. I get a correction and I'm sincerely thankful for getting new information to work on.

Being reminded in front of everyone of washing my feet isn't a pleasant feeling. Of course anyone will understand the purpose of clean feet when we frequently get our faces pressed into the same mat we walk on. But couldn't the teacher remind me tactfully in private?
"During a student's training, reigi takes on important and progressively deeper purposes. It is an inseparable part of shugyo or austere mental training. It is used to test a student's willingness to submit his ego to destruction. As such, it becomes the foundation on which one tempers the soul of the warrior. But of course we don't actually destroy a student's ego. We instead aim to polish and mold the students ego through hardship, challenge and reflection."
http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=472
Budo Reigi in Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin-ryu (1) by Yukiyoshi Takamura
It is one thing to mostly remember to bow, and mostly remember to pack my slippers, and almost always to sit upright when watching a demo. When I ask of myself to always remember to do these things something changes in my mindset, in the way I'm present in the moment, in the way I approach my training.

Points of etiquette that to me don't seem to have any practical purpose at all are difficult to remember, and corrections are harder to swallow, too. But why is it really so unpleasant? If it makes me feel humiliated or ridiculed or embarrassed, where are those feelings coming from? If openly asking his students to follow common points of etiquette is a sign of a teacher's big ego, what size is my ego that I find it so demeaning?
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Old 11-29-2007, 04:59 AM   #2
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

Hi Pauliina,

I too have seen a vast spectrum of etiquette from the very rigid to practically none.

Living in a military culture as a soldier I am constantly surrounded by these issues. I have to wear my clothes, hair, and refrain from actions or behavior that might be completely appropriate for others. We say sir/m'am, salute, and all that!

However, even within this institution there are varying degrees or extremes. WIthin my beloved Infantry you will find some units that are very strict. Basic training is about a parochial as you can get! While Special Forces tend to hold all this stuff in complete disdain.

Think about it, Special Forces, some of our most highly skilled and disciplined warriors! They where incomplete uniforms, if any at all. They call each other by their first names, have long unruly hair. Never march, never salute or where hats (unless it is a baseball hat!).

Does this make these soldiers any less effective? No.

What it boils down to is this:

Etiqutte is a very wide and subjective area. It is important, but important in different ways to different people. It is cultural and helps shape a dynamic within a group. It is adaptive and the leadership must shape the environment appropriately to use it has a TOOL to help guide and teach the lessons and accomplish the job at hand. It is both external and internal. The best kind of etiquette IMO is the type that internalize and no longer think about having to do! we just do it!

Great article! Thanks!

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Old 11-29-2007, 11:50 AM   #3
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

Hi Pauliina,

Beeing confronted with the same teacher`s teachers every so often :-)
To me the severity of the strict etiquette serves just one purpose...
Awareness and what some people may call spiritual development.

In the act of conscious training all those etiquette`s serve as reminders. Each of them enabling us to spot those places in our mindset we are not aware off.

I for one don`t feel it serves as a strict regime to boost his ego.But as an example of what he tries to develop for himself?? expecting no less from his students.

eelco
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Old 11-29-2007, 12:48 PM   #4
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

I don't see anything excessive at all in the points your shihan stresses. The only thing I would have a problem with is the seiza, as my knees often just don't allow me to do seiza for very long. My own teacher understands this, and will allow me to adopt other postures, including standing when needed. Like you said, speak to the instructor before class.

I don't think it says anything at all about the instructor's ego.

Best,
Ron

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Old 11-29-2007, 01:51 PM   #5
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

You guys are no fun, you get it.
Quote:
Kevin Leavitt wrote: View Post
Etiqutte is a very wide and subjective area. It is important, but important in different ways to different people. It is cultural and helps shape a dynamic within a group. It is adaptive and the leadership must shape the environment appropriately to use it has a TOOL to help guide and teach the lessons and accomplish the job at hand.
Agreed. And I guess my point was that a student with a flexible and adaptive enough mind won't have a problem with whatever etiquette is asked for in a particular group.
Quote:
It is both external and internal. The best kind of etiquette IMO is the type that internalize and no longer think about having to do! we just do it!
I kinda dislike "just do it"... Has to do with my job... I think to me the best situation is where you don't need to be reminded of doing it, but while you do whatever it is (bowing as you enter for example) you still know that you are doing it, that it's not an automated habit. But maybe that's what you mean as well.

Thank you for reading!

kvaak
Pauliina
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Old 11-29-2007, 02:06 PM   #6
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

Quote:
Eelco ten Have wrote: View Post
To me the severity of the strict etiquette serves just one purpose...
Awareness and what some people may call spiritual development.
Yeah but you're been brainwashed already so that doesn't count. Seriously thought that is what it means to me , too. Exactly.
Quote:
I for one don`t feel it serves as a strict regime to boost his ego.But as an example of what he tries to develop for himself?? expecting no less from his students.
It just surprises me how often I've had people complain to me about it, that's why I started writing this column. Maybe it's a Dutch independent individualistic thing, do you think?

kvaak
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Old 11-29-2007, 02:27 PM   #7
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote: View Post
I don't see anything excessive at all in the points your shihan stresses. The only thing I would have a problem with is the seiza, as my knees often just don't allow me to do seiza for very long.
It was maybe a bit misleading to give those examples of etiquette in detail, because of course it's not just about that. In the same way it's also about expecting from myself that I do what is shown, and not ignoring little seemingly irrelevant details in technique, for example. Our shihans dojo has members who can't sit seiza at all, some bow in standing. It's not really about the details.

kvaak
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Old 11-29-2007, 02:41 PM   #8
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

Exactly! It's more about the spirit I think. If you will forgive me for using that word.

Best,
Ron

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Old 11-29-2007, 06:25 PM   #9
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

Budo Reigi in THSYR by Takamura Yukiyoshi is by far the best exposition of this topic I have read. Maybe there is something out of sado or shodo, but those aren't really my purview.

Funny story/Cautionary tale: In a Japanese language class one day our teacher had us sit in seiza with him so we could get an "idea" of a formal visit to someone's home. He sort of judged who was suffering the most asked them a question about summer vacation and then gave them the magic words "Oraku ni nasatte kudasai." The thing is, a couple of my classmates refused. It was funny because it vexed him a bit and I'm sure that whatever else they did they got a failing grade for that day. But more seriously, none of those classmates lasted through the term and these were not beginning students; each had invested at least 2+ years of study already.

I think you will notice if you look that the quality of the reigi before a performance or enbu of any kind is indicative of the quality of the rest.

-Doug Walker
光道館 高村派新道楊心流
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Old 11-30-2007, 05:26 AM   #10
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

Good point Pauliina, I don't subscribe to the "shut up and train" or "just do it" paradigm. It does not work for me, nor is it a part of my culture.

I think there is a balance between respect, socialization, and questioning.

For example, I might go to a dojo, not agree with, or understand why they do certain things. I might personallly find them pretensious and feel like that they are missing the point.

However, I would still oblige them during my tenure there.

Also, in my own dojo, I might question things like this internally, not quite understanding or agreeing.

At some point though, you have to make a choice:

1. Do it and not agree-question internally and comply.
2. Do it and agree, blind compliance (faith based compliance).
3. Do it and not agree- and question externally.
4. Do it, come to understand why you do it (question), then accept it, and it disappears into the background of you subconsciousness.

One such example for me is the word OSU or the "HAY" or "HA" or "HI" that we sometimes use. I do it in the dojo without even thinking about it. In fact a few weeks ago, a new student asked me what I was saying when I said "HI". I then realized it must sound very strange. It is an old habit I picked up years ago!

We don't even use that in our dojo, but for some reason, it sticks to me!

I think blind compliance, or "shut up and train" is an incorrect training basis.

That said, I think you need to open your mind in class and "listen" and do what is being asked to be done, while looking at it with a discernful eye!

"shut up and train" is a good thing to say when you are talking doing technique from an external perspective.

Not so good internally.

Accepting anything on blind faith, IMO is just to a healthy training paradigm.

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Old 11-30-2007, 06:45 AM   #11
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

IMHO, there is the etiquette that is the behavioral norm of the context. There is etiquette that is internal and because who you are. And there is the etiquette extended because some has earned and deserves it. The behaviors may have similarities, but the intent is different. And they all involve our own learned ego identity.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 11-30-2007, 07:30 AM   #12
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

Generally agree with most of the points made - in fact many are the the same points made concerning politeness I learned while growing up.

However, you can be well mannered and polite, you can also use the correct manners and be extremely impolite. Intention on the part of the other person means far much more to me than having the correct "form" in your actions, so I often do find the aikido adherence to various bits of Japanese etiquette (which varies widely dojo to dojo) is rather silly and annoying, but not really a major issue apart from the seiza business.

Etiquette in the dojo is like any other form of manners, it's there to smooth the bumps of human interaction and maintain the correct behavioral code - but the overriding importance to me for dojo etiquette is it should provide the correct amount of discipline necessary for everyone to practice safely. If it's not involved with safety, I really don't give it too much thought (but my mother claims I was never polite)

Quote:
... think you will notice if you look that the quality of the reigi before a performance or enbu of any kind is indicative of the quality of the rest.
This I will probably disagree with if I was certain about what "quality" we were discussing. If you're referring to the quality of a demonstration in terms of it's choreography, I could agree. If you're talking about martial or technical proficiency, I have to disagree - I've seen some scruffy shufflers wander on to the mat and be rather amazing to watch.
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Old 11-30-2007, 11:41 AM   #13
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

I find in martial arts, there is no etiquette, etiquette, and crazy OCD etiquette. In a world of you tube and cell phone cameras, I worry about being recorded as the slouching idiot in the corner of a seminar video.

I use etiquette to evaluate those partners with whom I am not familiar. For example, if I witness a partner who has poor personal hygiene, I think, "if this person thinks so little of themselves to remain clean, how will he treat me?" Or, I witness a student training with a weapon, and she moves slowly and carefully and treats the weapon with respect, I think, "hmmm. this person may be a great partner, I will make it a point to work with her."

In a dojo, we sometimes dismiss etiquette as something foreign. But, we judge people by their manners all the time. Someone cuts you off in traffic, they're a jerk. Some one bumps into you while walking, they're not paying attention. I find it odd that we will judge others based upon their social manners, but when we walk into a dojo, the attitude changes.

Etiquette at it's purpose keeps us safe, keeps the dojo clean, and facilitates the respect we owe each other.
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Old 12-04-2007, 06:02 PM   #14
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Ai symbol Re: Etiquette and Ego

Etiquette has no meaning by itself.
It is nothing universal. It is local.
The ceremony at start and ending, the handling of weapons and many other things differ from place to place.

Following etiquette is far away from doing things right.
And just if you think so, if you did something "wrong" it doesn't gets undone if you do it again in the "appropriate" manner.

We do not have to argue who's ego we are talking about, if these rules are just the idea of one single person...

You were speaking of pride...
...I want to speak of honor...
...I want to speak of self-determination...

Why do I have to ask for permission to not having to sit in seiza if I know that forcing me to do it anyway wouldn't lead to a miracle cure?

What remains of respect if it has to be requested?

Let me ask how "japanese" it is to raise your hand if you get aware of something "offending" happens...

Don't get me wrong. I do like etiquette alot.
But in my opinion the essence of aikido is love... not restrictions...
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Old 12-27-2007, 12:14 AM   #15
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

On a related question. If you visit a dojo of a different organization that lines up by rank, would you find your place in their line based on your rank or would you sit at the far low end? I've tried both and not been happy with either. My preference would be to sit in the low end as I think they are different enough that the ranks don't really equate. But when I've tried that they kyu ranks get scandalized and try to nudge me down the line...

Maybe there's a "correct" answer but I'm more curious about opinions.

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Old 12-27-2007, 01:11 AM   #16
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

Quote:
Jeff Sodeman wrote: View Post
On a related question. If you visit a dojo of a different organization that lines up by rank, would you find your place in their line based on your rank or would you sit at the far low end? I've tried both and not been happy with either. My preference would be to sit in the low end as I think they are different enough that the ranks don't really equate. But when I've tried that they kyu ranks get scandalized and try to nudge me down the line...

Maybe there's a "correct" answer but I'm more curious about opinions.
You'd rather we tell you how we feel in our gut, rather than what we know in our heads?

I think the situation is best summed up like this: I was reading a book on Japanese etiquette. For the section being a host, it said when entertaining a guest, have them sit in the kamiza, the seat of honor. For the section on being a guest, it said when visiting someone's house, sit in the shimoza, the lowest status seat, and never the kamiza. And that resulting tug-of-war is the etiquette. As a guest, you should sit at the far end. As the hosts, it is the kyu ranks' job to be scandalized and push up you up in the line. Everything is thus well socially-lubricated.

Cf. Picking up a check in Japan...

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 12-27-2007, 03:15 AM   #17
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

Luke 14, 7-11:
Quote:
He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
"When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, 'Give your place to this man,' and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, 'My friend, move up to a higher position.' Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Inocencio Maramba, MD, MSc
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Old 12-27-2007, 10:05 AM   #18
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

With Josh, again...

Try to sit low, if they wish you to sit elsewhere, they will let you know. Works for me...

Best,
Ron

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Old 12-28-2007, 07:45 PM   #19
Don
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

I had a friend who when young was totally undisciplined, gave his parents no end of grief, had no respect for authority and eventually got kicked out of his home for his behavior and disruption of his family (yes this has something to do with the post on etiquette).

Well this kid finally decided to go into the Marines of all things and he told his father that he was going to stick it out no matter what. He told me after finishing boot camp and more basic training that the DI's made them do all these seemingly stupid things constantly. The guys that washed out (or were recycled) never grasped what my friend said he finally did grasp. Every seemingly stupid thing had a purpose, at least as part of the overall Marine training was concerned so that they would not get killled and be disciplined Marines. Once he realized this (and had it validated by his instructors) doing all these things was no longer a massive hassle, but became supremely easy and eventually faded into his subconcious personality.

I think it is the same with the question of dojo etiquette. Personally none of what was listed seems excessive. However, if you are training adults, I think it is appropriate to explain why you do everything. Personally, if a piece of etiquette seems to have no discernable purpose, after much thought and deliberation, it should be eliminated. Mindless, purposeless etiquette will be seen as demeaning, IMO. For instance, requiring ONLY the lower ranks to clean the mat at the end of practice is in my opinion stupid. Having a new student understand that it is EVERYONE's responsibility to help keep a dojo clean is important. Exempting the yudansha "because we are yudansha" creates a bad paradigm among students. Explain why things are done and have everyone do them seems to be a good way to infuse the etiquette into everyone.
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Old 12-28-2007, 07:56 PM   #20
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

I just picked up this wonderful book yesterday by Dave Lowry.

In the Dojo: A Guide to the Rituals and Etiquette of the Japanese Martial Arts

Explains alot about why we do what we do in the dojo.

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Old 01-31-2008, 04:22 PM   #21
reisler
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

Quote:
Cito Maramba wrote: View Post
Luke 14, 7-11:He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
"When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, 'Give your place to this man,' and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, 'My friend, move up to a higher position.' Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Excellent example!!

Last edited by reisler : 01-31-2008 at 04:23 PM. Reason: .
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Old 02-04-2008, 06:46 AM   #22
Ketsan
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Re: Etiquette and Ego

Quote:
Doug Walker wrote: View Post
Budo Reigi in THSYR by Takamura Yukiyoshi is by far the best exposition of this topic I have read. Maybe there is something out of sado or shodo, but those aren't really my purview.

Funny story/Cautionary tale: In a Japanese language class one day our teacher had us sit in seiza with him so we could get an "idea" of a formal visit to someone's home. He sort of judged who was suffering the most asked them a question about summer vacation and then gave them the magic words "Oraku ni nasatte kudasai." The thing is, a couple of my classmates refused. It was funny because it vexed him a bit and I'm sure that whatever else they did they got a failing grade for that day. But more seriously, none of those classmates lasted through the term and these were not beginning students; each had invested at least 2+ years of study already.

I think you will notice if you look that the quality of the reigi before a performance or enbu of any kind is indicative of the quality of the rest.
You can predict the outcome of kendo matches on it too. The guy with the better reigi generally wins.
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