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Ueshiba Aikido e-Reflections
ISSN 1712-2341
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August 27, 2005

From ancient times one dictum of budo has been:
“Begin with etiquette, conclude with etiquette.”

Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba

We have just concluded two weeks of Aikido warrior camps - one for children and the other for teens. The focus was on martial training that included character development along with Aikido techniques. The message was to be a person of integrity first; that the measure of a martial artist comes from the inside out:- by upbringing, understanding and cultivation (attitude/behaviour).

Curiously, on the last day, a man requested to meet me after seeing our "Ueshiba Aikido" sign outside. As he sat on the side, waiting for the class to end, he did not join us in the ceremony that ended the class - that is, bowing to the Kamiza. He later introduced himself as an Aikidoist with over 20years experience. After a brief chat, I bowed a farewell which, to my surprise, he did not respond to. He simply turned and walked out the dojo. Now, if someone bows to you, please bow back - especially if he is a sensei. It is good manners and basic courtesy.

As I reflected on this incident, I wondered why after over 20years of Aikido training the man did not know to join us in the traditional ceremony at the end of class, nor did he bow when I bowed to him. I realised, then, how important it is to continue reinforcing the importance of basic etiquette to my Aikido students. Etiquette was stressed by my Sensei and his Sensei before him; especially in executing proper bows and being humble in other dojos. A student is a reflection of his/her sensei. Outward behaviour reveals one's attitude and understanding. Nothing needs to be said.

In the quote above, the late Doshu reminds us that etiquette is the way of budo.

"Bushi", or "wushu" in Chinese, and the "martial arts" originally referred to military training. "Bushi" literally means "military man/person". The "Shi" or "Shu" is a word used to refer to the "samurai", "commissioned officer" and the "gentleman". Discipline, respect, honour and obedience are central in military training.

It was ironic that this incident occurred right after the summer camp. I had just spent one week bringing my students through these definitions, and how bushi, or warriors, are people of integrity and honour first. Aikido is not only about the techniques: it is a way of life.

And so, please reflect on the importance of this.

Remember: No matter which dojo you are in or visiting, even when dressed in civilian clothes and just observing a class, it is proper for an Aikidoist to sit in seiza and join in harmony with the bowing ceremony to O Sensei at the beginning and at the end of the class. It is a ceremony of respect, appreciation and acknowledgement of O Sensei as the founder of Aikido. As a member of the Aikido family this is proper etiquette. There is no excuse for not knowing basic dojo etiquette. This includes observing good manners and bowing to fellow students and senseis in greetings and farewells. Aikido is budo; and budo begins and ends with etiquette.

In harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei.
(© Copyright August 2005: Rafael Oei)

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