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"One thing has always been true: That book ... or ... that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour

"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon

Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

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Etiquette - Are We Doing It Right?

Ever a bone of contention among martial artists who want to adhere or assume all or some of the Japanese etiquette such as bowing, use of titles, and the use of names. Americans don't necessarily need to use the Asian forms of etiquette but it would be advisable to try wholeheartedly to learn the fundamentals if you decide to take your studies to Japan and/or to Okinawa.

First, as to Okinawa and Japan, the distinctions may not be a far apart as one might imagine. After all, the Okinawans over the years and even centuries have been able to keep their core culture intact even when pushed to change by the Chinese or the Japanese - when Japan pushed into their lives around 1600, I think.

Another consideration here is that both the Okinawans and the Japanese were heavily influenced by China. So, it might bring the two closer in the etiquette department simply because they both took from and created from the Chinese their forms of etiquette and thus their unique cultures.

The use of names, use the last name and to add formality and politeness add the -san to the end. When it is added to either the last name or a title it shows respect and is perceived like our use of Mr., Mrs., or Miss. It is used when talking to both men and women. Adding "chan" to a first name is not recommended.

Using titles is still important to the way of the Japanese. It remains a key social grace even today. Titles are even more important in Japan's business world. In my humble opinion the dojo is also a business situation and is hierarchical in nature so using and adhering to "Sensei," "Senpai," and "Kohai" would be the most courteous and correct form of etiquette. Now, here in the states it is not necessary unless you are trying to learn the rudiments of Japanese etiquette to remain within a traditional form of practice and training. But important is to get it right or it may be perceived when you visit or have visiting Japanese/Okinawan Sensei. (Quick Note: I use to use "sempai" but have since determined the correct way is "senpai.")

Rei, the bow. First know that the bow is not just a formality of the martial art dojo. It is cultural and traditional method of expressing such things as a greeting, respect, when apologizing, displaying humility and when you understand and accept something. The world of the martial arts uses the term "rei" but actually the term used in a traditional Japanese is "o-jigi / oh-jee-ghee." In a nutshell as a martial artist you should use what is called the "medium bow."

Medium Bow: Arms extended downward; hands rest on the legs above the knee; body bent to about 45 degrees angle; normally held for two to three seconds except when you wish to add more meaning to it.

Light Bow:
Body bent to about 20 degree angle; held for only a second or so; hands down at the sides;

Generally, use the medium bow to greet those senior to you or to whom you wish to show a special degree of respect and when expressing feelings of humility, sorrow, or an apology to someone. If you encounter, say in the dojo, the same highly place senior several times in one day you greet them with the medium bow the first time that day then a light bow thereafter.

Ok, what I am getting at is if you wish to incorporate a more traditional aspect to your training hall then at least find out what that means and at least, a minimum, stick to this simple guide to get it "right" otherwise give it a rest and leave it alone - use the American etiquette way.

Caveat: this is my personal understanding that came about today, the 21st of December 2011, due to my continued studies. i have casually related it to the martial systems with the knowledge more informed and experienced practitioners with considerable experience in Japan and/or Okinawa may state otherwise. if so, go with their interpretations as they have the experience. this is an attempt to at least pass along a form that will be looked upon as a genuine attempt to honor the Japanese way as best as a foreigner can without being seen as impolite, insincere or insulting.

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