Southern California
Kendo Federation



Etiquette is an extremely important part of kendo. The basic rules come from the formal, highly stylized social system of Japan. Simply stated, kendo etiquette is based on respect -- for one's sensei, seniors, 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.

Because there is a proper procedure for virtually every action, it is impractical to attempt to summarize more than a few of the most basic points in this booklet.

Basic Etiquette in the Dojo

  1. Never deliver the traditional courtesies in a casual, off-hand manner.
  2. Stop and bow when entering or leaving a dojo.
  3. Greet your seniors and fellow kenshi at the first opportunity, especially the sensei. Examples: ohayou gazaimasu (good morning), kon'nichi wa (good day), konban wa (good evening).
  4. When addressing instructors, use the title sensei.
  5. Be attentive; listen carefully to instructions, and respond promptly.
  6. Be aware of seniors members and follow their lead. Do not sit down, finish bowing, or remove your equipment before your seniors. When lining up, position yourself relative to your seniors. Example: when seated, line up your men and kote, as well as your knees, to those of your senior.
  7. Be aware of junior members and take care of them.
  8. Always sit or stand properly when in the dojo. Do not slouch or lean against anything; especially, do not lean on your shinai. Do not crawl to adjust your position when in seiza, or sonkyo; instead, stand up and move.
  9. When taking the seiza position, put the left knee down first. When rising from the seiza position, raise the right knee first. Do not use your hands to assist in raising or lowering yourself.
  10. Avoid walking in front of sensei, or in front of kenshi seated in the seiza position.
  11. Pay respect to your seniors and fellow kenshi when departing, especially to the sensei. Examples: oyasumi nasai (good night), sayounara.
Basic Etiquette Regarding Apparel and Equipment
  1. Always handle your apparel and bogu respectfully. Make sure they are packed neatly, without dangling strings or straps.
  2. 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 (string) and nakayui (leather strap).
  3. 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 left first.
Basic Etiquette During Practice
  1. When practicing with your senior, thank him or her by saying onegai shimasu at the beginning and arigatou gozaimashita at the end.
  2. Practice diligently. Do not sit down during practice unless you are fixing your equipment. Do not engage in idle conversation. Do not let a sensei remain idle when he or she is available for practice.
  3. Do not wear jewelery during practice.
  4. 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.
  5. To draw the shinai: First perform ritsu rei toward your opponent. Bring your left hand to your hip and take three big steps forward. Draw the shinai; assume the chuudan no kamae position and go down into the sonkyo position. Keep your back straight and look forward at all times.
  6. To put away the shinai: assume the chuudan no kamae position, go down into the sonkyo position, and return the shinai to your left hip. Stand and take five small steps back; drop your left hand, and perform ritsu rei. Keep your back straight and look forward at all times.
As with any question of etiquette, the fine points of kendo etiquette may differ from sensei to sensei, and the degree of rigidity differs from dojo to dojo. Learn the etiquette taught in your dojo.

Copyright 1999 by the Southern California Kendo Federation
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