Kendo begins and ends with rei.
While the character "Rei" is usually translated as bowing, more
literally it means courtesy. It also encompasses the related
concepts of rei-gi and rei-ho.
Rei-gi means manners or etiquette, referring to the techniques or
actions of showing courtesy and respect, while rei-ho is a term
that expresses the rules or concepts of courtesy and respect.
For more on rei-ho see basic concepts.
Rei-gi is an extremely important part of kendo.
The basic rules come from the formal, highly stylized social system
of Japan. Simply stated, rei-gi is based on respect - for
one's sensei, fellow kenshi, equipment, etc.
In practice, it is not that simple. There is a prescribed method for
virtually every action, and failure to adhere to proper behavior may
taken as a sign of poor instruction or, in some cases, as a severe
insult. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of
view), this is America, where the rules of social conduct are much
less rigid. Nonetheless, it is essential to know basic etiquette in kendo.
- Arrive early and be prepared to start practice on time.
- Stop and bow when entering or leaving the dojo.
- Greet everyone at the first opportunity,
especially the sensei and your seniors.
Examples: ohayo gozaimasu (good morning),
kon nichi wa (good day), konban wa (good evening).
This is known as aisatsu.
- Pay respect to everyone when departing,
especially to the sensei and your seniors.
Examples: oyasumi nasai (good night), sayonara (goodbye).
- When addressing instructors, use the title sensei.
- Be attentive; listen carefully to instructions, and respond promptly.
- Be aware of seniors members and follow their lead. Do not sit down,
stand up, finish bowing, or remove your equipment before your
When lining up, position yourself relative to your seniors.
For example, when seated, line up your men and kote, as well as
your knees, to those of your senior.
- Be aware of junior members and take care of them.
- Always sit or stand properly when in the dojo. Do not slouch or
lean against anything; especially, do not lean on your shinai.
- Avoid walking in front of sensei, or in front of kenshi seated
in the seiza position.
- Never deliver the traditional courtesies in a casual, off-hand
- Always handle your apparel and bogu respectfully. Make sure they
are packed neatly and properly, without dangling strings or straps.
Know how to fold your keikogi and hakama.
- Always handle your shinai respectfully. Do not lean on it, rest
it on the floor, twirl it, or drag it. Make sure it is
well-maintained, free of splinters and with tightened tsuru
- Wear your keikogi and hakama neatly. Make sure the keikogi is smooth,
not bulging, in the front and back. When putting on the hakama, put
your left leg in first; when removing the hakama, remove your right
- Know how to wear your bogu neatly, and how to tie them securely.
When putting on kote, put the left one on first; when removing kote,
remove the right one first.
- Do not wear jewelery during practice.
- When practicing with your seniors, show your appreciation by saying
onegai shimasu at the beginning and arigatou gozaimashita
at the end.
- Perform ritsu-rei (standing bow) and za-rei (seated bow) properly.
Do not bend or arch your neck or back. Hold the bow briefly before
returning to your original position.
- Do not crawl to adjust your position when in seiza or sonkyo;
instead, stand up and move.
- Practice diligently. Do not sit down during practice unless you are
fixing your equipment. Do not engage in idle conversation. Do not
let sensei remain idle when they are available for practice.
- Apply yourself wholeheartedly to learning, and to improving your
kendo to the best of your ability.
Aisatsu is extremely important in kendo. The phrase is usually translated
as "greetings," but aisatsu are also used for other situations such as
thanking an individual both before and after keiko,
commending someone for their efforts, etc.
Aisatsu are usually accompanied by a bow.
A missed aisatsu will be noticed, and if you routinely fail to offer
aisatsu you will be considered at best uneducated, at worst ill mannered
or even rude.
Here are some common phrases. Be sure to learn the top four
for Norwalk keiko. Use the next three at daytime events. You may also
hear the bottom phrases at the dojo or at kendo events.
good evening (greeting)
good night (taking leave)
(customary phrase before practicing with a sensei or senior)
osakini shitsurei shimasu
excuse me for leaving before you
(customary phrase after a hard practice)
(customary phrase before eating a meal)
(customary phrase after eating a meal)