Protocol Miscellany

By Erik Hofmeister

We do things a certain way in WYKKO- all the dojo in the organization do.  I don’t have actual answers to all of the questions of protocol, but I do have some anecdotes which will help students remember which way things are.

1) Left knee down first so you can draw your sword.

In Yoshukai, whenever we kneel down in seiza, the left knee goes to the ground first, and this position is called iai dachi (sword stance).  The sword is worn on the left side of the body and is drawn with the right hand.  When kneeling, if you kneel with the right knee down first, the left knee is now obstructing your ability to draw the sword.

2) Lower ranks on your right so you can cut them down.

When students line up for class, we line up with the highest-ranked student in the front left corner, with the next-highest-rank to their right, and so on.  If you were wearing a sword, it would again be on your left side and drawn by your right hand.  If some uppity lower rank wanted to challenge you, you could draw your sword and attack them more easily than they could draw and attack you.

3) Zarei is starting with the right hand so you can draw your sword.

When we execute zarei, the right hand goes down to the floor, then the left and, when we come up, the left hand returns to the leg, followed by the right.  This is to keep your left hand by your sword for as long as possible, so that you could draw it if necessary.  This may actually be canonical, since, in the Yoshukai Iai series, the first move is predicated on being interrupted mid-zarei, and the sword is able to be drawn quickly because the left hand is close to it.

4) Turn clockwise to cut down everyone.

When we turn to kneel down and prepare weapons, or when black belts turn during zarei, we always do so clockwise.  Again, with the sword on the left hip, you can draw and turn clockwise, executing a cut, but cannot do so counter-clockwise.
These are small issues of protocol, and there is probably no actual reason why except “Soke said do it this way,” which is good enough for me.  Still, anecdotes help students learn.  So, if you think about how you would use your sword in a given situation, it may help you remember what the protocol is.


“What do I call you people?”

By Hali Serrian

While seemingly a simple question of introductions, knowing what to call one of your dojo-mates can be rather complex, most especially if you find that you’ve become friends with them outside of the dojo.

In our dojo, we call white belts by their first names. This is because they are technically a guest in our dojo, and not a part of the hierarchy which requires the use of surnames. This is also why we do not ask our white belts to sweep the floor or refill the water cooler. Once a white belt has tested, they are an official member of our dojo and we begin referring to them by Mr. or Ms. and their surname. This shows respect to them as a peer in martial arts training. And of course we remember that Yoshukai is all about respect. And manners.

So, we call white belts by their first names and everyone else by their last names, plus Mr./Ms. How is that difficult or complex? Well, the trouble really comes when we move outside the dojo walls. For instance, when we travel to Summer or Winter Camp, we often caravan and meet up at a restaurant for lunch. Well, we’re not in the dojo, so what do we call each other? The semi-unwritten/assumed rule is that since we are going to an event where karate is going to happen, the event has already begun and so we should refer to each other by our ‘karate names’, generally surnames.

Well, what if we’re at a party with a bunch of karate people? That depends. Do you only see that person in the dojo, excepting this party? You should probably call them by their karate name, unless told otherwise. Are you friends in real life? Do you see each other outside the dojo to hang out and such? You’re probably good to call them by their first name, since that’s usually what friends do.

One of the most interesting ‘rules’ (once again unwritten) about what to call dojo-mates is in conversation, including stories about people who are not present at the time. I’ve heard people flow between stories, switching between first names and surnames, all dependent on the context of the conversation. Conversations about stuff that happened at class the other day? Surnames. Conversations about when they all went out to dinner afterward? First names.

So at its simplest and most boiled down, there is only one rule about what to call people in your life who also do karate. If your current situation or conversation has anything to do with karate, you call the person by their surname. If not, and you’re friends, roommates, married, or share some other relationship outside of the dojo, feel free to call them whatever you like, as long as it’s appropriate.

Instructor Apprentice Program Plan

By Erik Hofmeister

In 2012, I received a small raise due to salary compression.  This was nice, but not necessary- we have the lifestyle we want, we save a bit of money each year, so I didn’t have anything to do with the added salary.  Since we like to give back to the community, and the amount was close to the amount we get from people renting from us, I thought I could comp the rent for a karate student interested in more in-depth training.  Sensei McCandless, Sensei Dawkins, and I would talk often about martial arts topics, since we lived in the same house.  I thought the environment could be enriching for someone else.  Furthermore, Sensei Dawkins would be leaving in the summer of 2014.  We could either replace him with a generic roommate or with a karate student.

Shihan Garduque had introduced me to the concept of an uchideshi years ago.  An uchideshi is a live-in student who usually takes care of the dojo and lives at or near the dojo.  He was an uchideshi for Shihan Torruella, and he also was an uchideshi for Soke for a short period of time.  After searching online, I found many uchideshi programs, but they were all for-pay setups, and not like the more traditional setting I imagined for my dojo.

I finally found the internship program at the Shiramizu Japan Karate Dojo.  They have a blog with a lot of information, have had several interns over the years, and seemed to have a good structure for their program.  I communicated with their program administrator and discussed the idea.  He suggested I not use the uchideshi term, since that implies a kind of servitude which I certainly did not want.  I made several changes- mostly to formalize some of the agreements- and then distributed the idea to the world.

Summer of 2014 marks the start of the Instructor Apprenticeship program for Athens Yoshukai.  It was born out of my desire to make the world a better place and help out students who may be in financial straights.  I was also passionate about sharing good conversations about martial arts with more people, now that I didn’t regularly have Sensei McCandless or Dawkins to talk to.  The program will hopefully serve the dojo, and the Apprentices, in a fulfilling manner going forward.

Hidden Training, Part 1- Nutrition

By Daniel Williams

When I was growing up, my primary athletic activity was competitive swimming. During this time, my swim coach, Tim DeMott, introduced me to a concept he called “hidden training”, which refers to how the things that you do outside of practice can either improve or impair your athletic performance. This concept is just as relevant to karate as it is to swimming, and mastering it is absolutely necessary if you want to reach your full potential as a martial artist.

Unlike working on a form or a technique in class, hidden training happens in your everyday life and in ways that may not seem connected to karate. (Hence the “hidden” part.) In my mind, the three main components of hidden training are nutrition, recovery, and study.

So that I can cover each of these components in sufficient detail, I’ll be devoting a separate post to each of them, starting with the subject of nutrition for this post.


Karate is a physically demanding activity. As a martial artist, you need to be able to deliver short bursts of explosive power, in addition to possessing large reserves of endurance. Proper nutrition is the best way to make sure your body has the fuel it needs to operate at peak capacity and the resources necessary to recover properly from doing so. Nutrition is a complex issue and each person’s dietary needs vary, so I highly recommend researching the topic yourself. However, here are a few simple steps you can take towards improving your health and athletic performance:

1) Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are a healthy source of carbohydrates, which your body uses a major source of fuel. They also provide many key vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are needed for everyday health and for your body to operate at its peak capacity. In addition, fruits and vegetables are great sources of fiber and antioxidants, which can both help lower the risk of various diseases.

Since the specific nutrient content of each type of fruit and vegetable is different, be sure to consume a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables in order to reap the best health benefits.

2) Avoid eating heavily processed foods. The more a food has been processed, the more is likely it is to contain unhealthy ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and refined carbohydrates. These foods are also likely to be high in sugar and sodium and low in nutrients and fiber. Fast food should be avoided as well and for the same reasons.

3) Hydrate. Water helps your body keep cooler and helps your muscles function efficiently by delivering nutrients and removing wastes. Be sure to drink plenty of water during and after class to restore the water your body has lost by sweating. It’s important to keep your body properly hydrated outside of class as well. Eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content, as well as drinking water throughout the day, are good ways to do so.

4) Eat enough food. Your body needs calories to fuel physical activities and for regular functioning. You’re not doing yourself any favors by skipping meals or by eating almost nothing. Just make that what you do eat is healthy and that you eat enough of it.

While these guidelines may not cover every single thing you need to know about food or sports nutrition, I feel that they go a long way towards doing so and are a great way to start eating better.

As you go about your daily life, look for other “hidden training” opportunities as well. Remember, as a karate-do style, Yoshukai is not just about improving yourself inside the dojo, but about improving all aspects of your life.