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Did I do something rude (or what would be the most polite course of action?)

by Angelica
(Philippines)

In my dojo in the Philippines, everyone comes early to clean the floor before training, and then those who have been doing kendo for over a year practice their kata with the senseis 30 minutes before everyone bows, warms up and begins formal training. The beginners either wipe the floor or just wait for formal training to begin while this is going on.


I needed to go to the bathroom, but there was a shinai in front of me and I read on your website that I must never step over a sword. But if I moved around the shinai I would be in the way of one of my sempai.

So what I did was that I waited for my sempai to pause between kata, then I quickly passed in front of him and gave a short bow while doing so.

Or would it have been better to simply go all the way around the other side of the dojo?

If I did that, I would have had to walk in front of the shomen, and I didn't know if that was allowed.

I am sorry if this seems like a stupid question, but showing respect in the dojo is very important to me because I am very happy to even be able to do kendo and I also want to learn Japanese culture as much as I can.

Thank you very much!

Answer: Thank you for your post.

I would do the same thing you did. I would never walk over a shinai. I was told to choose to cut in front of people saying “excuse
me” with a bow.

Now one thing it concerned me. You wrote

“So what I did was that I waited for my sempai to pause between kata, then I quickly passed in front of him and gave a short bow while doing so. “

Did you walk between kata performers (uchitachi and shitachi)? If you did, you should not do it again.

Question 2: Can we walk in front of the shomen?

In a traditional dojo, there is a little shrine called “shinzen”. It is usually placed up high. In some dojo, there are a bigshinzen from the floor to the celling.

However, in a gym we do not have a shinzen even in Japan and for a religious reason there may not be a shrine these days. So the front (shomen) is used instead of shinzen.

You can walk in front of shinzen if there is no other choice. At dōjō I grew up in Japan, there is a little path behind the shinzen so I usually took the path.

I do not feel right about walking in front of shinzen even now but many people do. It is because the shinzen at the dōjō I grew up was big so we had to walk in front of it when we had to.

As I said, the little shrine should be up high in the dōjō so you are walking “under” the shrine. It should not be a problem.

It depends on how your dōjō considers their shomen.

I like your question. Thank you for that!

Hope this helps.

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