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Thread: Line-up etiquette

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    Default Line-up etiquette

    Hi all,

    During my last trip to Japan, a senior instructor *might* have informed me that the original method for lining up before and after training is different than now. The old way is the same as that used when seated in formal situations, or, when taking a photograph - meaning most senior in the middle, then descending seniority alternating to either side of the middle person. Obviously, the most commonly used method now is the most senior member on the senior side of the dojo, descending seniority towards the junior side of the dojo, and the instructor front and center.

    My Japanese isn't perfect, so there is a very good possibility that I misunderstood the instructor. He may have been giving me two different historic examples. But I was curious if any koryu line up in a significantly different way than the "standard" way, or more specifically, with alternating seniority and teacher in the center of the line.

    Just curious,
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Were you lining up for a photograph at the time <smile>
    Gusta Paulo Novak

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    Hey Nathan,
    For what it's worth, I was told something the same by a senior in Japan. The way it was explained to me was that it changed during the Edo period when dojo proliferated, and dojo yaburi was common as a way to defeat rivals. The junior to senior arrangement was made to put juniors nearest the main door to act as cannon fodder. Now we had been drinking quite a bit at this point, so I can't guarantee that he wasn't pulling my leg and making things up out of whole cloth, but there it is.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    Gusta, nice one!!

    Paul, thanks for replying. What you are saying makes sense.

    At the risk of adding confusion, here is my point of view:

    The "photograph" method of lining up and the idea of keeping the seniors away from the entrance door are both (to my understanding) originally derived from samurai etiquette, meaning, the placement of the most important person in a room is based on the idea of providing them with the most superior position tactically (AKA: seat of honor). If seated/standing in a single line (or at a table), then the most trusted/senior person to the VIP is positioned to their right. Also, the position furthest from the entrance provides more distance/time against an ambush from outside the room, so was considered the superior seat. So you could say that both the photograph method and descending senpai to kohai method are based on the same warrior etiquette. So as you say, prior to dojo yaburi issues, it would make sense that the biggest threat would be from your own student base, making it more advantageous to position yourself using the photographic method. Then when ambushes from outside became the larger concern, the instructors basically began to form a skirmish line between themselves and the front door, with less trusted newer students closest to the door.

    What is interesting is that we are normally taught that the joseki/shimoseki and shomen are based on the cardinal directions, which derive from Feng Shui / On'yo Gogyo Setsu. While this is true, martial art dojo were built from the ground up taking the cardinal directions in to account, as well as entrance door placement, etc. But these days many of us have to train in buildings that weren't originally built to be used as a dojo, so the member layout and directions have to be cheated as best as possible based on traditional tactics and what is available.

    Anyway, does anyone still line up in a dojo with the instructor in the middle of the line using the "photograph" method of seniority? Or have further accounts of similar etiquette?

    Thanks,
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 5th August 2012 at 22:29.
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    One variation we use commonly is the senior instructor and other instructors lined up along the joseki side and the rest of the students facing the shomen joseki to shimoseki. Depending on how formal you're being, the students don't particularly have to be in senpai order except that the head of the line leads the bow.

    Another variation is the students lined up along the shimoseki facing the senior and other instructors.

    Haven't really heard of the picture order outside of photography.

    FWIW
    Doug Walker
    Completely cut off both heads,
    Let a single sword stand against the cold sky!

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    Hi Doug,

    Yeah, having instructors of a certain rank lined up perpendicular to the student line, along the joseki, is not that uncommon. I've seen it in several arts as well.
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Maybe it is just a simple matter of putting the important people in the center of the room where everyone can see them, and identify them readily. The Sensei sits in front of the Kamidana, which both is in the center of the room. It may go along the lines of the universal position of having the leader, teacher, speaker, etc., the most important person, in the front and in the middle of the room. This phenomenon seem to be a socially an innate behavior demonstrated though out the ages, across all cultures. Therefore, when lining up where do the lower ranks go? Ans. to the wings out of the limelight positions, because they are less of importance. The Japanese are practical and there is purpose behind what the do, is my understanding.

    I am also thinking at the time Japan formalized a national military if they didn't model it after European military protocol structure? Hence the higher ranks when lining up to one end of the line wasn't adopted like the later belt system of Kano into budo?

    Finally, to what importance does the earlier protocol have? In my mind it would be the high ranks being in the center of the room, paralleling the significance and importance of being in the center of a picture. The center of the picture really is the first place people focus on when looking at a picture and associate that position with importance. If you're in that middle spot, it means your the head honcho.

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    Quote Originally Posted by J.Canon View Post
    correcting error:

    I am also thinking at the time Japan formalized a national military if they didn't model it after European military protocol structure? Hence the higher ranks when lining up to one end of the line. Wasn't [lining up from high to low rank was something] adopted like the later belt system of Kano into budo?

    Something I should have added before to see what the real importance is of old vs new protocol. Look at feudal Japan's military history where were the troops and officers positioned on the battlefield in the mist of waiting to engage in battle? Another question is, what is the importance of knowing how to line up in the dojo the old way vs. the current way? A dojo that prides its self on authenticity to the true spirit of the feudal past of Japan would incorporate the past ways right down to the letter. If it the dojo sought to be an authentic koryu. Doesn't that in someway translated to some kind of value?
    Last edited by J.Canon; 8th August 2012 at 05:15.

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    A dojo that prides its self on authenticity to the true spirit of the feudal past of Japan would incorporate the past ways right down to the letter. If it the dojo sought to be an authentic koryu.
    No, no it wouldn't. You're a bit mistaken about what a koryu is and isn't, but that's not unusual for those that have not trained in one. Scott is not looking for speculation, I think, he is looking for actual instances from current koryu practitioners. Myself, I've never lined up with sensei in the middle except for photographs, so I can't help him with what he is looking for.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    FWIW, the koryu I was practicing in Japan under the aforementioned instructor lines up the more common way, with descending seniority and instructor sitting in front. The reason I was asking for others who might have received similar teachings is two fold:

    1) I have my own dojo, so small points such as these are important. Etiquette, tactics, and techniques are all principle based, and often change depending on any number of variables. Understanding the "why" something is done, or not done, is eventually important when it comes to doing something "correctly" rather than just mimicking what you see - even in koryu. The Japanese cultural center I use for my dojo was not originally built to be a martial art dojo, unlike the dojo I trained at in Japan.

    I do know that the methods of lining up we are talking about, historically, are based on bushi tactics, ranking heirarchy, and building layout (what I am calling the "photographic" method appears to be a method of lining up that far precedes the invention of cameras, though having the instructor centered in front of the shomen is surely a significant consideration).

    2) As far as koryu arts, understanding the historical context of techniques and tactics (including etiquette) is crucial to understanding how to correctly adapt the methods to modern times. While I do enjoy the history and culture, I am very much concerned with developing practical skills.

    While discussion is welcome, I am looking for specific examples of other who have either been taught the same thing, or, may still line up using the photographic method.

    Thanks for posting,
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 8th August 2012 at 21:38.
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Quote Originally Posted by pgsmith View Post
    No, no it wouldn't. You're a bit mistaken about what a koryu is and isn't, but that's not unusual for those that have not trained in one. Scott is not looking for speculation, I think, he is looking for actual instances from current koryu practitioners. Myself, I've never lined up with sensei in the middle except for photographs, so I can't help him with what he is looking for.
    Good point, it is sad that anyone can say they are koryu.

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    That is the issue isn't, authenticity. How the authenticity is define? It is defined by not what you do, but how you do it? That sincere respect is observed, being the correct behavior, valued over the scheme? Isn't the purpose for the ceremony to express correct behavior. Isn't it true spirit more valued than technique?


    Experience lends to not over-looking what was being over-looked before. The kamidana's position, significance is an over-looked tell. It was over looked for years, yet staring us in the face as we sit in front of the Kamadana looking at it, yet never really understanding why it is placed where it is- traditionally. The military in its practically and purpose of action is another tell not so obviously apparent. Also the arrangement of rank in pictures, where the picture captures the past is a tell. How long do we suffer from what social psychology call Initial Blindness, or developed further in this instance Cultural Initial Blindness.

    The constructed answers expected are something that has seduced you. The satisfaction of knowing the correct protocol, the construct of proper authentic ceremony, has blinded you to maintaining correct spirit. It is understood there is a desire to avoid the anecdotal. In some circles authenticity is of great value and merit. It is the same for collectables. The older the object in its original condition and completeness the greater value it has to a collector.

    The pit fall is in the oversight and the stress placed on what is perceived to be important, thereby leading to the fatal choice of picking the ball over the sword.
    Last edited by J.Canon; 9th August 2012 at 06:09.

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    That is the issue isn't, authenticity. How the authenticity is define? It is defined by not what you do, but how you do it? That sincere respect is observed, being the correct behavior, valued over the scheme? Isn't the purpose for the ceremony to express correct behavior. Isn't it true spirit more valued than technique?
    I'm sorry, but that is totally incorrect. Authenticity is extremely simple. You are either a recognized member of the ryu under the current head of said school, which automatically makes you authentic, or you are not. If not, it doesn't matter what your behaviour is, or how much 'spirit' you apply to anything, you are not legitimate. If you wish to practice Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto ryu, you have to apply and be accepted under the single branch of that school, else you're not practicing that art. Your instructor will tell you how he expects you to practice, what is acceptable, and what ceremony (if any) is required since it can vary wildly depending upon the art.

    You are only guessing about what you think the koryu are. Please visit Koryu.com and read up on the subject a bit more. It will give you a little bit better understanding.
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

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    Quote Originally Posted by pgsmith View Post
    I'm sorry, but that is totally incorrect. Authenticity is extremely simple. You are either a recognized member of the ryu under the current head of said school, which automatically makes you authentic, or you are not. If not, it doesn't matter what your behaviour is, or how much 'spirit' you apply to anything, you are not legitimate. If you wish to practice Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto ryu, you have to apply and be accepted under the single branch of that school, else you're not practicing that art. Your instructor will tell you how he expects you to practice, what is acceptable, and what ceremony (if any) is required since it can vary wildly depending upon the art.

    You are only guessing about what you think the koryu are. Please visit Koryu.com and read up on the subject a bit more. It will give you a little bit better understanding.

    I am going to explain with the one caveat this has nothing to do with Nathan or anything associated with his situation. This post is set apart from all of that. It is strictly addressing you, providing you with a better understanding koryu.
    It is bold and in red for the purpose of stressing the importance.

    I now see how you came to this conclusion. It is appreciated you ask for clarification. I will be happy to expound beyond the webpaged/book approach to koryu as indicated by your kind suggestion of koryu.com.

    Koryu is a living. It is also oxymoron-ish. How can something old, something archaic, i.e. a dead language, be living? It is through book study, though recreation of any particular koryu as if it was a museum piece. This isn't a bad thing. Recreation is the corps, and not the heart. It is the heart that makes it alive. Koryu arts are about preservation, particularly methodology- the ones that are not corrupted that is. I address koryu as living.

    Koryu to me is living, when there is the proper understanding of it. Going through the motions is an empty exercise of futility. Too many these days who don't have a deep expansive understanding of koryu. Many into koryu make into a collectable figurine. When the value of the figurine increases there is an opportunity to peddle it. BTW, we don't question the quality of the peddler's knowledge, authenticity or claims. Usually because he is Japanese and that gives him automatic credibility regardless.


    Placing emphasis on the superficial minutia of pomp and circumstance, does have a benefit to a point in regard to mindfulness. Like that of tea ceremony, etc. Observation of protocol is only part of what koryu is about. Many learn koryu incompletely thinking only the superficial aspects define the koryu. This is in part due to the student and his personality, and due to the quality and understanding level of the teacher. Those who have an improper experience in a koryu. superficial practice of koryu as "playing koryu." The individual "playing koryu" is someone focusing one part, just as an reenactor. Who is concerned with his presentation.

    I am not insulting a person for this, am pointing out an more to the experience of practicing a koryu which usually escapes many. Koryu doesn't need to be practiced as a dead art, it can be is a living art. Luckily, I have practiced it in its complete form as a living art. I impart this fortunate opportunity to finding an outstanding and authentic teacher who has an sincere and accurate understanding of the body and heart of koryu. The complete koryu.

    Now am not a collector of koryu trivia, I have no interest in the game of koryu trivia. I have been taught and realize that playing such a game is an indicator of poor representation and treatment of the koryu practiced. If you wish to learn more about true koryu, I will be glad to do that privately.

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    I wish to apology for the post above. Please disregard. I regret ever posting, and should have never registered to post. Again my sincere apologies.

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