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,
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
Basic Etiquette Regarding Apparel and Equipment
- Never deliver the traditional courtesies in a casual, off-hand manner.
- Stop and bow when entering or leaving a dojo.
- 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).
- 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,
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.
- 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.
Do not crawl to adjust your position when in seiza, or
sonkyo; instead, stand up and move.
- 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.
- Avoid walking in front of sensei, or in front of kenshi seated in the
- Pay respect to your seniors and fellow kenshi when departing, especially
to the sensei. Examples: oyasumi nasai (good night),
Basic Etiquette During Practice
- Always handle your apparel and bogu respectfully. Make sure they are
packed neatly, without dangling strings or straps.
- 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).
- 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.
- When practicing with your senior, thank him or her by saying onegai
shimasu at the beginning and arigatou gozaimashita at the end.
- 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.
- Do not wear jewelery during practice.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.