Karl E. Geis, Hanshi
10th Dan Aikido, 9th Dan Judo U.S.J.A., 8th Dan Jyodo
Every martial arts system has its rules of etiquette, and the same is true for Aikido, Judo and Jodo. These rules exist for the betterment and protection of all students and, in effect, guarantee any student following them access to all the knowledge and rank in the system.
Entering the Dojo (School):
It is wise to develop the habit of bowing toward the teacher's place (joseki). This is not required, but if you ever visit another school, you can't go wrong if you do.
Entering the Mat Area:
The same rule holds true when entering the mat area (bowing towards joseki). Neither rule is required because they are not American customs and we generally speak at these times. However, one can never go wrong building the habit, especially if you ever want to go to Japan and visit a school.
Joseki (teacher's place):
The joseki in any martial arts school is private, private, private. Never make the mistake of entering without permission.
Addressing the Teacher:
The terms Sensei and Shihan are normally used in Japan to address any teacher and are required by many martial arts teachers the world over. This particular formality is not required because it is not our custom to address our teachers in this manner. However, again, it is not wrong to develop these habits. Since I do not require the above courtesies, other high rank people may not require them of you. Again, it is a judgement call on your part.
All teachers of Yondan rank (4th degree black belt) or higher may be called Sensei. In a normal class where a 4th degree black belt is on the mat, I would be addressed as Shihan and they as Sensei. Or the many of us could be addressed as Sensei.
Sempai/Kohai-Higher Rank/Lower Rank:
Any time you have two martial artists together, you have a Sempai (senior or higher rank student) and Kohai (junior or lower rank student) relationship. Most of the time, since we strive to develop the teaching discipline as well as the martial art discipline, the participants will be of different ranks. The Sempai (upper rank) is by design the leader and teacher of the pair. It is their job to guide the practice, and, if there is confusion about what is right, it is their job to decide how a given technique is to be done.
Since there are any number of ways for a given technique to be done, the Kohai, being the lower rank, should accept (at least for that practice) the opinion of the Sempai that they are working with. The Kohai should never bring disharmony into the practice by making statements such as "Mr. Geis says to do it this way" or "There is a new way to do it", etc. Aikido, Judo and Jodo are true art forms and many ways are correct. It is generally accepted that the Sempai probably has the better idea. This does not give the Sempai the right to play lord and master. This attitude is discouraged in any player. It does serve to protect the higher rank from "off the wall" ideas that a lower rank might perceive as correct at a particular period in their training.
Personal Conflict or Misunderstandings:
Any student who feels mistreated, misused, or misunderstood should seek to speak to the Shihan (Mr. Geis) about the problem. Almost always the problem turns out to be a simple and solvable one.
Speaking to the Teacher:
Any student should feel free to speak to the Shihan, Sensei or any other teacher or Sempai at any time about any subject important to them. We want to listen and help.
Harmony in the Dojo:
The Fugakukai International Association was founded in order to help people bring harmony into their lives through the following:
If we are to achieve these goals, it is essential that each person in the system strives to act in a harmonious and positive manner with all other members. I hope to set a good example.
Moving around the Mat Area:
It is always acceptable courtesy to stop and give a slight bow before passing between two talking or working martial artists.
Leaving the Mat Area or Dojo:
It is never wrong to bow when leaving the Dojo or mat area.
Even though the above principles will guide you through most situations there are other situations that may arise. I will be glad to answer any question that you have, if I can. In any case, please do not discontinue your study because of anything that exists in the Dojo or the Fugakukai that may be preventing you from enjoying your study until you talk to me. Our goal is harmony. If we are failing to achieve it, I really need to know.
Equality in Life:
I look at all persons as equal to myself. I have never encountered any person who did not have skills that I admire. I sincerely hope that you will become proud of your skills and admire the skill of others. No one of us is better than the other, just different.
Karl E. Geis