By Brian W. Workman
Menkyo Kaiden Shihan Sandaikichu
“Politeness is a poor virtue if it is actuated only by a fear of offending good taste, whereas it should be the outward manifestation of a sympathetic regard for the feelings of others.”
From His book Bushido
Rei (courtesy) is an important element of all bujutsu (martial arts) and budo (martial ways) in Japan, and so it should be in this country as well. Rei instills within the exponent a personality and frame of mind of seriousness and respect towards training, fellows students, and instructors, and should never be neglected. Knowledge of rei is essential, is an indication of discipline, and the mark of a well trained student.
We should all be thankful to our parents for giving us life, for helping us survive through critical years, for sheltering and feeding us, and for being our most influential teachers. We should be thankful to those who organize and protect our homes, communities, country and world. We should be thankful to our seniors and teachers who guide us and help to make our passage through this World smooth. We should be thankful too to our friends and juniors who are our companions and who teach us through their successes and failures. Finally, we should be thankful to our enemies, who through their efforts to thwart and destroy us, steel and temper our souls making us much stronger. By being respectful and courteous, our journey in this life will likely be easier.
Rei has very practical self-protection implications as well. A majority of violent situations could be avoided or at least minimized if tact, respect, and courtesy were used. This then, is our first Hakko-ryu principle of self-defense. Do not challenge or insult another person, nor be discourteous or disrespectful. In the old military classic Sun Tzu, The Art of War it states:
“He who excels at resolving difficulties does so before they arise.”
As a reflection of this principle in the Dojo, there are certain formalities that all exponents should perform. These will be shown to you individually by your teacher during the first class and reinforced thereafter. Please learn them well, for what you get from others will to a remarkable degree depend on how you act toward them.