June 4, 2005 · 1:15am EST · Posted by Fujiyama Dojo
Fujiyama Dojo
P.O. Box 20003
Thorold, ON, Canada
L2V 5B3
(905) 680-6389
"There is more art in a single bow, simply and sincerely done, than in the most flawlessly executed technique." - Tanomo Saigo

Reigi means etiquette. Etiquette is one of the pillars of traditional martial arts. It refers not just to a set of rules of behaviour, but to an attitude, a way of being. When I was young, my father once defined for me what good manners means (he meant manners in the Western sense, but it applies here as well). He said that manners are "the art of putting the other person at ease." This is a very good definition, because it goes beyond rules to the spirit that gave rise to those rules. And it implies three of the basic qualities of spirit that should reside in the heart of every true martial artist: selflessness (humility), compassion, and respect. It involves putting someone else's needs ahead of our own. When we do that, we take ourselves out of the centre of the universe where, in truth, we have no business being. How many times have we all found ourselves upset because things haven't gone "our way," as if all the myriad forces at work in the vast universe should be uniting to arrange things our way. There are six billion people in the world, all wanting things to go "their way."

The ancient masters used to speak of the Tao. The Tao is the Way. Really it means, "Things as They Are." And that is the first principle of the Way: that things are. Simply that. Things are. Not that they are a certain way; that this way is better than that way. Just that things are. We are a part of this Way, but we are not the purpose of it. Sometimes we forget this. Our egos make us want to change "things as they are" into "things as we want them to be." Meanwhile, the Way persists. Reigi means to respect things as they are, whether you like them or not, whether you think they should be as they are or not. That does not mean that you cease all activity and stop trying to make the world a better place. But rather that you see your actions, and the results of your actions, in a greater context, as part of a larger process over which we have only very slight, and limited, control. Reigi means gaining control of the ego, which wants things to happen a certain way (our way), and realizing that things happen as they happen. When we respect the nature of things, and act with humility and compassion, we reduce conflict and find harmony. Harmony is the first principle of Daito ryu.

To Saigo Tanomo there was no difference between Martial Etiquette and Martial Skill. He once said, "I have regretted often the days when I have prayed in earnest for many things, but have failed to include the greatest blessing of all. No man should claim to have any wisdom at all until he has learned to long for peace."

Remember etiquette does not exist to enslave you, but to train you in humility, compassion, and respect. Bowing, cleaning the dojo, entering and leaving the mat the correct way are all expressions of a humble and respectful spirit.


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