Within Okinawa goju-ryu, a number of more or less fixed rules are used concerning greeting, positioning in the practice room, and more.
The idea behind the rules is to create an atmosphere in which peace, hospitality, solidarity and concentration are stimulated. Although you have to bring all these qualities to the dojo yourself in the first place, the atmosphere and setup of the lessons can help you with this.
Especially after a busy day, the ceremony can help you find back your inner peace and clearness. On itself this is already a good thing, but it becomes especially important when you are facing a physically intense training. Injury, of yourself or your training partner, is far more likely to occur when a part of your mind is still wandering about in the past or the future. Furthermore, learning and having fun requires real attention and being present with heart and soul.
The most important rules are given below.
1. Entering the practice room.
- Bow in the direction of the teacher [sensei], or in his absence in the direction of the ‘first student’ [sempai] and/ or the other people present in the dojo. While greeting you say ‘onegai shimasu‘, which means ‘help me’ or ‘teach me’.
- Allow higher graduated karateka to enter the practice room first, if they are about to enter at the same moment you do.
2. At the start of the session
The highest graduated student present usually directs the greeting ceremony at the start of each lesson. He / she is sitting right in front of the group. The group follows his or her orders:
- ‘Shugo!‘: Everybody quickly takes his/her position, usually in four rows. The highest graduated student stands right in front of the group, the lowest graduated student left in the back. Your stance is musubi dachi.
- ‘Ki o tsuke!’: Attention! (Gather your attention!)
- ‘Seiza!’: Take a kneeling position, bringing your left knee to the floor first, followed by your right. The sensei sits down first. Straighten your backbone up towards your crown and relax your body from the head down into the floor. Sit straight and centered.
- ‘Mokuso!’: Close your eyes and calm down; free your mind of thoughts as well as you can and focus your attention on your abdomen [tanden]
- ‘Mokuso yame!’: Open your eyes and focus your attention outward again.
- ‘Shomen ni’: Turn to the ‘head’ of the practice room; the head of the practice room is the symbolic residence of the ‘ancestors’ of Okinawa gojuryu karatedo. As an act of respect for their genius and effort in the past you can now thank them for passing on the karate style you are now practicing. The words ‘Shinden Ni’ instead of ‘Shomen Ni’ are sometimes used when there is an altar at the head of the practice room.
- ‘Rei!’ : Bow (Start from your abdomen.)
- ‘Sensei ni’, : Turn to the teacher [sensei], or the one who replaces him in his absence [sempai].
- ‘Rei!’ : Bow (Start from your abdomen.)
Finally, the sensei gives the sign to stand up using the command:
- ‘Kiritsu’ or ‘Tatte’: Put your right foot forward, raise yourself and put your left foot next to your right one to form musubi dachi. The order of rising is the same as when kneeling down. Next, still standing, you salute again and start the first part of the training. Each part of the training is concluded with a standing salute in order start the next part with refreshed spirit and courage.
3. If you are late
Walk alongside the room to the right side of the shomen, kneel down in seiza and turn towards the shomen or shinden. Take some time for a short meditation to calm yourself and to tune in on the lesson. Bow (starting from the abdomen) towards the teacher and say ‘Shitsurei Shimasu’ , which means ‘I beg your pardon’. Then you can participate in the training. If the teacher is not sitting or standing in front of the shomen, you salute (standing) in the direction of the shomen and again towards your teacher before you participate in the lesson.
4. Training with a partner
- Greet each other at least when you start training together and when you finish. When you start you say ‘Onegai Shimasu’, and when you finish ‘Arigato gozaimashita’.
- When you accidentally hit your partner too hard this is in the first place your fault, so you apologize and make sure the other is all right.
5. During instructions
It is important for everybody to show if they understand a certain instruction or demonstration, or at least if it was sufficient for you. Just bow if you want to show this. When bowing, it’s optional to say ‘hai Sensei’, ‘osu’ or ‘arigato gozaimashita’ [‘thank you very much’].
6. At the end of the session
The greeting ceremony at the end of the lesson is, for the most part, the same as the one at the beginning. When you bow in the direction of your sensei, however, you now say ‘arigato gozaimashita’, which means ‘thank you very much’
Then the ceremony continues with:
- ‘Otegaini ni’: Turn towards the student next to you. In case there are four rows of students, the outer rows turn towards the two inner rows and the inner rows do the opposite.
- ‘Rei!‘: Bow (starting from your abdomen) and say ‘arigato gozaimashita’.
- ‘Shomen!’: Everybody turns towards to the head of the dojo again.
Then the sensei says ‘kiritsu‘ [rise] and everybody salutes again, less formal, and proceeds to his / her ordinary life
7. When leaving the practice room
- The same as when entering the practice room; Bow in the direction of the sensei, or in his absence, in the direction of the sempai and/or the other students. If you like, you can say ‘arigato gozaimashita’, again.
- Never leave the practice room without permission.
- Don’t turn the etiquette into a formal set of actions without actually feeling respect and gratitude.
- Be at the dojo on time.
- Go to the toilet before the training.
- Never do things that can cause or worsen injury, neither to the others nor to yourself.
- Make sure your nails are trimmed.
- When you bleed, clean the wound (and the floor) immediately, and cover it with a plaster or a bandage.
- When you wear a karate suit (gi) make sure it is clean and that there is a goju-ryu emblem attached to the part on the left side of your chest. Make sure you are wearing the right belt with the right number of lappets.