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.

Why Learning Japanese Matters

By Erik Hofmeister

KarateKanjiRikkiHitatsuFor the test to Shodan, there is a written component which includes questions about Japanese terminology.  Athens Yoshukai has written tests starting at blue belt expecting a basic understanding of karate-related Japanese words.  Commands in advanced classes and tests are given largely in Japanese. Why? Couldn’t the command just as easily be “right leg front kick” as “migi ashi mae geri”?

Yoshukai is a traditional martial art.  One of the elements of that is learning, understanding, and respecting the cultural origins of the style.  Language is a major contributor to culture. Learning the little bit of Japanese we do helps us to understand the Japanese culture and pay homage to it within the context of karate.

In my opinion, traditional arts require a mental or cerebral component in addition to the physical aspects.  It’s not enough to be able to DO karate, you need to understand and KNOW karate. The language requirement helps to highlight that cerebral component and requires effort studying.  Before a test, a student can’t just run through kata and techniques- they also need to study written material.

Finally, our organization is tightly associated with Yoshukai Japan.  Students may be called upon to understand a Japanese speaker giving commands in the dojo.  Some students may travel to Japan, and having some rudimentary understanding of the language is helpful.

Learning Japanese can be frustrating for some students.  This is particularly true if you don’t understand the utility and need.  Demonstrating your understanding of Japanese for karate can be a point of pride- look at this cool piece of information you have for communicating about karate!  For anyone who has tried to learn martial-arts-related Korean, Japanese is a breeze, so be thankful you don’t have to learn Korean!

Kyudo

By Ajay Sharma

A colleague and friend sent me this link.

After watching it I was amazed by the “real-life” application of archery as a combat system. The long history, practicality and versatility are astounding.

We often think of martial arts or fighting arts as being primarily eastern or Asian in origin. However, all humankind has engaged in fighting and warfare regardless of geography or culture. This has led to the development of distinct but strikingly similar styles and methods of fighting practices. This makes sense when you think about the universality of physics and human biology. The Japanese form of archery is called kyudo. It is interesting to note that some aspects of original combat archery have been preserved in kyudo such as holding arrows in the right hand and loading the arrow on the right side of the bow. This video also reminded me to continually search for meaning in martial arts and to sometimes question the “modern” modifications in terms of fighting merit. I am glad that Yoshukai and our dojo teaches the historical rituals and emphasizes the practical combat aspects (bunkai) of the martial arts. Excellence in the martial arts requires strength, stamina, flexibility, precision and mastery of technique – Lars Anderson is probably archery’s equivalent of Soke!

Osu!

Courtesy

By Hali Serrian

“Karate begins and ends with courtesy.”

Gichin Funakoshi says this more than once in his autobiographical novel, Karate-Do: My Way of Life.

Funakoshi is the founder of the Shotokan style of karate and is also in many ways the founder of modern karate as we know it. So, if he says that karate begins and ends with courtesy, then there must be something to it.

We bow when we enter or leave the dojo. We bow (at least in our dojo) to brown belts and higher ranks when they enter the dojo. We use Sensei, surnames, and sir or ma’am when we are addressing our teachers and fellow students. We shake hands at the end of partner work and often thank that person for their time/instruction/help. A lot of what we do in the dojo, especially when interacting with others, hinges on the students being courteous and polite to their teachers and peers.

Out of the Five Precepts of Yoshukai karate, four are very much related to courtesy:

Respect and Manners: that one’s easy. We should respect everyone in our dojo and use proper manners when working with them.

Be prudent in action/speech. Precepts two and three are related to each other and they both help us to think about what we do and say and make sure it is a wise thing to be doing or saying. If we’re being prudent, we’ll probably be polite.

Keep high spirited doesn’t fit as clearly into courtesy in karate, but it can still apply. Keeping our spirits high, even when we’re tired during a test, can help improve the spirits of our fellow practitioners, and that is a bit of indirect courtesy to them.

It is polite to keep oneself clean, especially when our art generally means we will be getting sweaty and somewhat gross. Nobody wants to stand next to the guy in the needed-to-be-washed-two-weeks-ago dogi. This precept can also extend to why we don’t use foul language in the dojo; it’s not polite.
Karate begins and ends with courtesy. It’s a nice phrase, but it can also be seen throughout our Precepts and demonstrated in the formalities of dojo life. Of course, if we want our dojo life to extend into our everyday life, then that means courtesy comes with it. And why not try to live a life that begins and ends with courtesy? It certainly couldn’t hurt.