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Respect …

Respect … 'A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. ' … as defined by Google Dictionary.

Read the definition again and ask yourself when was the last time you sincerely and truly showed respect to someone, and I don't mean the causal hello, shaking of hands, mutual greeting and the sorts. I mean heart felt respect for ' someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. ' If you are honest with yourself it may take sometime to remember.

And that is the point of this article, the word ' respect ' is used so often and loosely, especially in the martial arts community, that at some point in your training its essence is lost.

We go through the motions during the opening and closing of class, we may even remember to rei (bow) when we are face to face with a practitioner who is working with us during training (waza), sparring (kumite) or analyzing techniques (bunkai). We might even remember to rei (bow) when we enter and leave the Dojo, when we see Sensei or other Instructors and when we enter and leave the training areas. But there are far more subtle ways to show respect that are often ignored.

Often times the subtle respect I speak of is not shown by Mudanshas (Kyu Rank) students because of their lack of experience and understanding, but Yudanshas (Black Belts), especially those who have trained for a considerable amount of time will pick up on the lack of respect being shown.

It matters not whether you like or dislike the person or whether you agree or disagree with their training methods or ryu (style); what you are honoring is the years and work that person committed to in order to achieve their current rank. A practitioner who trained, sweated, hurt and suffered the joys of training for years in order to achieve the rank they now have. People who operate McDojos and buy their way through the ranks do not merit the same respect. They dishonor the sweat, effort and pain suffered by those who have spent countless hours training hard to earn their ranks and follow the path.

One of the subtle ways respect can be shown is when guests and practitioners are invited to your Dojo to participate in a training session, seminar or tournament and are asked to line up.

I have sometimes seen training instructors ask the invited participants to lineup in no particular rank order, I have also seen training instructors have their Dojo students lineup in front of the line although some are of lower ranks than the invited guests. This is disrespectful to the invited guests and any invited practitioner with a long standing history training in traditional Karate will immediately notice and feel something is not quite right.

Invited guest in our Dojo while attending any events are lined up by rank, regardless of what style of traditional Karate they come from. If we are having a special event then the Yudanshas (Black Belts) are asked to lineup by rank to the right of the Shinza (Shrine) and the Mudanshas (Kyu Ranks) lineup by rank in front of the Shinza. If any invited Yudanshas are of a higher rank then me (the Kancho), then the highest ranking Yudansha stands to my immediate right and the others are spaced evenly to my right and left by rank. This protocol honors everyone who has practiced and trained hard to earn their rank and projects a spirit of camaraderie.

Without Respect, Honor and Discipline all you are training in is Karate, not Karate-Do.  


Jonathan Pietronigro 1st Dan, Black Belt, Born Feb. 28, 1986 Shiloh N. Niedermeier 7th Kyu, Orange Belt, Born May 7, 2007