Zarei

By Erik Hofmeister

At the start of a class, the highest-ranked student has a choice: do a formal bow-in or an informal bow-in.  Generally, if the highest-ranked student is visiting another school, if a promotion is occurring, or if time permits, a formal bow is preferred.  An informal bow consists of the highest-ranked student facing the other students (facing away from shomen) and calling, “Kiyotske, rei.” and everyone bows.  This is tachirei- standing bow.

A formal bow involves the highest-ranked student calling “Seiza!”.  Everyone then kneels, left knee first, to seiza position. The highest-ranked student calls “Mokuso!” and everyone closes their eyes.  Everyone breathes in through the nose, out through the mouth, expanding the diaphragm, and clearing their mind. The highest-ranked student then calls “Kaimoku!” and everyone opens their eyes.

The next command is “Soke-ni, rei!”.  This is a bow to Soke Yamamoto. Everyone holds for a four count (ichi, ni, san, shi) and then comes up.

Assuming one of the directors is not leading the bow, the next command is “Kaicho-ni, rei!”.  This is a bow to Kaicho Toyama and Kaicho Culbreth. Everyone holds for a four count, then comes up.

At a small dojo and when high-ranked visitors are not present, the second-highest-ranked student (Second) now has a choice.  If the highest-ranked student (Highest) is also the head instructor of the school where the bow is taking place, the Second should call “Sensei-ni, rei!”  If the Highest is not the head instructor, the command is “Title-ni, rei!” Acceptable variations in either case include, “Mr/Ms lastname, rei!”, “Title lastname, rei!”, and “Mr/Ms lastname, thank you for today’s training/today’s test, etc., rei!”.

This process is zarei, or kneeling bow.  The zarei is a time for all students to reflect on their role within the WYKKO, and to help cement relationships and the rank structure of each dojo.

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.