Suenaka Sensei is coming to visit our dojo this weekend. With that in mind, last night's class was on etiquette. How to enter the dojo, how to sit, how to greet someone, when to bow, how to bow, and so on. For people that did not grow up in Japan, these behaviors are not automatic, they must be learned and incorporated.
Listening to Shihan teach last night, I was reflecting on the purpose of etiquette. It sets an agreed on standard for proper behavior. Less important than what the rules are is the fact that there are rules and everyone understands them. In a samurai culture, where people were trained and armed all the time, those rules established standards for behavior. It was then easy to know when they were not being followed.
In the dojo today, the same sort of understanding applies. If we all know and try to follow rules of etiquette, times when they are not followed clearly stand out. If it is an inadvertent lapse, either forgetfulness or perhaps a lack of knowledge about the expectations, then it is easily and gently corrected. Willful disregard of etiquette is a more serious matter and brings into question the intentions of the individual.
Training in Aikido requires a high level of trust within the members of a dojo. Respect, humbleness, and a spirit of cooperation and openness are necessary components of a Aikido student. One of the ways we both practice and display that nature is through submitting ourselves to the restraints of the etiquette we have learned.