|The dojo is the
place where one studies the Way. It is dedicated to
practice and meditation. As all sacred places, the dojo
is positioned in a precise way and demands a ritualized
behaviour. It should be slightly elevated to remind us of
the shinto myth of Ame No Yuki Ashi, the floating bridge
of the Heavens, from where the kami created Japan by
stirring the sea with a spear - the term
"Japan" refers to "the world".
The four walls of the dojo carry a symbolic function. The east wall, or kamiza, is the wall of honour where the protective shinto divinities (kami) reside. We can simply say that the east refers to the ascending energies (rising sun). It is the natural direction for meditation.
The dojo is a sacred yet non religious place. Its layout rests on the will to make one with the energy (starting with the east where the sun rises). Also, from an architectural point of view, it offers the best possible orientation for a combat training hall. It prevents the students from being blinded by the changing north-south light.
The picture sometimes displayed at the kamiza reminds the students to humbly bow to others, and reminds the teacher that the art he's passing on existed a long time ago.
The shimoza faces the kamiza and designates the place where the students stand. The highest ranking students take place on the right, facing the teacher who has his back to the kamiza. The beginners are placed on the left or on a second row behind the oldest practitioners. Each person sits at a place determined by the hierarchy of ranks. This placing is not without reason. In the event of a surprise attack, it is much more difficult to draw the sword while facing left than right. The older students are known to the teacher and have his complete trust. On the other hand, the teacher is less familiar with the new students standing on his right. Accordingly, his position allows him to repel any treacherous attack much more easily. It is not an expression of excessive suspicion, but rather of normal vigilance.
The joseki refers to a place of honour. As we know now, the oldest students sitting at the shimoza are close to the joseki. It is possible to have at the joseki one or several assistants of a higher rank than the students placed at the shimoza. Finally, the shimoseki is where the visitors take place.
|To enter a dojo is to accept and respect the etiquette that is part of the practice. One bows in a standing position while entering or leaving the dojo. The same bow is executed before and after working with a partner on the tatami. It should be done in a rigorous way since it represents a transition to harmonize oneself with the atmosphere of the dojo. The bow is an act of commitment to oneself, to the other practitioners, and to the Master. Courtesy is the first expression of the harmony sought-after in Aikibudo.|
To sit in the seiza position, one has to first lower the left knee, then the right knee. Why this order? For elementary tactical reasons. The sword is either inserted in the belt on the left side, or held in the left hand against the hip. Lowering the left knee first does not prevent the drawing of the sword with the right hand in the event of an attack. The same principle applies to the positioning of the hands during the bow. One must place the left hand, then the right hand, to form a triangle with the thumbs and forefingers. The other fingers are naturally held together.
The bow is a gesture of respect towards others and the place where one practices. It is a sign acknowledging those who have practiced before us.
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