Kendo Reiho/Reigi ~ Etiquette

Sometimes folks can get a little lax in displaying proper kendo etiquette in the dojo.
Recently, the Memphis Kendo Club has been concentrating more on this very, very important aspect of kendo and so I thought I'd take a couple of minutes to list 20 items of importance.
Kendo reigi is not limited to just these 20 items, but these are very common and every kenshi should be well-versed in how to properly behave in class (and out).


1. When entering or leaving the dojo, bow to the front (shomen).

2. After you put on the keikogi and hakama, examine your appearance. Be sure to straighten the keikogi so that it is as flat as possible and not hanging over the koshi-ita (the small stiff section of the lower back) of the hakama.

3. Stack all your personal items neatly against the wall as not to take up too much space on the floor.

4. Many dojos have everyone line up in seiza (kneeling) with bogu immediately in front and to the right. Because Memphis Kendo Club has so many people and our floor space is not overly wide, it has become our custom to line up standing without bogu, preferring instead to keep all bogu off to the side. When setting up your bogu, first place the kote on the floor with the kote heads pointing to your RIGHT. Next, place the men face down across the wrist joints of the kote. The men should stay in place and not rock over. Place the men himo (strings) INSIDE the men. You may optionally put your tenugui (head towel) either inside the men or across the top -- at some dojos, this is not an option. It's either one or the other. If you visit another dojo, watch everyone else and follow their lead.
You should be wearing the tare and the dou by the time you line up for class.

5. Always carry or hold the shinai or bokken properly. Do not lean or rest on it; do not use it as a cane or walking stick.

6. If your bokken or shinai is not in use, store it, or alternatively, you may rest it against a wall. If you do this, be sure to do so with the tip pointing UP.

7. Do not step over anyone's equipment -- including your own.

8. Do not TOUCH anyone else's equipment (even to move it out of the way) without first asking permission.

9. Do not step over a shinai or bokken that is on the floor. If your shinai or bokken is not in use, it is probably better to refer to rule #6 above so that people do not have to maneuver around the equipment area trying to avoid stepping over anything.

10. Do not walk in front of anyone, but if this cannot be avoided, politely bow and extend your hand slightly forward, saying, "Please excuse me" (in Japanese: "Sumimasen!" or "Gomen nasai!")

11. When you put on full bogu for class, follow these rules --
a. Put on the tenugui such that when you tie on the men, there is no "flap" sticking out from the back of the men. This is affectionately referred to by some as a "rooster tail."
b. After you have tied the men on, examine the men himo such that they are together, parallel, and not twisted.
c. When putting on the kote, put on the LEFT kote first, followed by the RIGHT.

12. During class, after you have finished an exercise with your partner, return to the center, pause, return your shinai to the sheathed position (osame to), take 5 steps back, and bow, saying "Thank you!"

13. If you MUST take a break during class, politely bow out. Take a moment to catch your breath or cool down if necessary and then work your way back into class. It is perhaps more proper that you ask permission to bow out AND bow back in, especially if you are visiting another dojo and are unfamiliar with their customs. No matter what, though, DO NOT take off the men unless you absolutely must do so. If you have to leave the floor for any reason, please let someone know.

14. During class, refrain from idle talk. Pay attention and concentrate on the lesson. If you are waiting for your turn to participate, much can be learned by simply observing others.

15. If you are sitting in class, sit in seiza (kneeling). If you are unable to sit in seiza (try to do so as long as you can), then sit properly. Do not "lounge back" with your legs extended.

16. When lining up at the end of class (as well as at the beginning of class), do so QUICKLY. Make sure the line is straight by checking the person immediately to your right.

17. The head instructor will call for the instructors to seiza, but the student line should wait for the head student to call, "SEIZA!" before kneeling. Start to kneel when the person to your right starts to kneel (much like a domino effect). Kneel quietly without moving until the head instructor calls for everyone to remove the bogu.

18. When removing the bogu at the end of class, follow these steps --
a. RIGHT kote is removed first, slightly to your front and right, with the kote head pointing to your RIGHT.
b. LEFT kote is removed and place IN FRONT of the right kote.
c. Remove the men. Do NOT let the men himo flail about haphazardly. When finished, place the himo INSIDE the men.
d. Before placing the men on top of the kote, hold the men with one hand in front of your face. Remove your tenugui with the other hand and use it to wipe away any sweat from your face. Finally, place the men on top of the kote (as previously described). Place the tenugui either inside the men or across the top. REMEMBER -- at other dojos, this may not be optional. Watch others and follow their lead if you are visiting another dojo.
e. Remove the dou, placing it in front of the kote and men. Be sure that the dou himo are not scattered about, but rather are neatly concealed.
f. Remove the tare. There are at least a couple of different methods of folding the tare obi, but the point is, do not just set the tare in front of your dou, leaving the tare obi lying out.
Although some people at Memphis Kendo Club (myself included) occasionally tie the dou and tare together at this point, the traditional custom of the club is to place the tare in front of the dou (which is in front of the kote and men) so that your name --- if you had a zekken with your name on it --- can be easily seen by the instructor.

19. After removing all the bogu, remain in seiza with your back straight.

20. After class has been dismissed, it is customary to come forward and bow once more to the instructor(s) individually. Also take the opportunity to bow to your dojomates individually. Again, this is customary and should always be done from seiza.