Rei/etiquette

Als je begint op de Weg (DO) , kan je je afvragen of je reis wel overeenkomt met datgene wat je op religieus gebied van huis uit geleerd hebt. Op enig moment kan je je zelfs afvragen of er überhaupt religieuze elementen zijn op de Weg. Wat de beginner nog niet weet is dat er een verschil is tussen religie en spiritualiteit. De Weg is niet verbonden aan enige religie. De Weg geeft een betere ingang tot elke religie. Voorwaarde is wel dat er focus is op spiritualiteit en deze focus komt onder andere tot uitdrukking in Rei (etiquette).

Gedurende de middeleeuwen zijn er zeer uitgebreide beschrijvingen ontstaan over rei. Rei (etiquette) waren nodig om om te kunnen gaan met de fricties die kunnen ontstaan wanneer samurai elkaar ontmoeten buiten het slagveld. Beschrijvingen van hoe je een kamer binnenkomt, voor het afgeven van je zwaard in het bijzijn van anderen, voor zitten en voor staan. Alles gericht op het voorkomen van een conflict, of een dreigende agressieve houding. Uiteraard gaf het ook bescherming. Middels etiquette kan je bewegen en omgaan met anderen zonder jezelf aan gevaar bloot te stellen.

Klassieke gevechtskunsten hebben een groot gedeelte van deze etiquette geïncorporeerd. Alle samurai kenden en oefenden deze etiquette. Door middel van de etiquette kan je zelfs zien waar iemand vandaan komt en welke stijl hij beoefent.

Onderdeel van de cultuur
Rei is in Japan een onderdeel geworden van het collectief onderbewustzijn. Rei is een wezenlijk onderdeel van de Japanse cultuur. De basisgedachte is dat als de buitenkant correct en netjes is, dit ook aan de binnenkant zo moet zijn. Als de schaduw mooi is, moet het patroon wat de schaduw creëert ook mooi zijn. In Japan, waar aan de buitenkant een stoïcijnse houding hoog in het vaandel staat, wordt rei, als je het goed beheerst een middel tot zelf controle én een manier om de geest te beschermen.

Omhulsel
Rei is een kwestie van aanwezigheid. Rei geeft privacy. Rei is gracieus. Rei is het omhulsel van emoties. Van binnen kan iemand razend zijn, aan de buitenkant merk je hier niets van en zo kan de vijand dus in verwarring worden gebracht.

Rei is van enorm belang voor iedere serieuze beoefenaar van de Weg. In de dojo, waar Rei bij het trainen met echte wapens voorschrijft hoe je je beweegt, hoe overdracht van wapens etc plaatsvindt, om ongelukken te vermijden.

Rei geeft een raamwerk om de ziel te ondersteunen en te beschermen. Rei wordt in het karakter voorgesteld als een man die knielt voor het altaar. Rei leert je HOE je voor het altaar moet zitten. Het is aan degene die daar zit wat hij verder doet met het altaar, zijn religie of spiritualiteit.

Leven in het nu. Alles met volle aandacht doen op een juiste wijze. Het doen is belangrijk. Richt je daar op. Het resultaat is niet van belang.

The meaning of reihō can be sometimes translated as "etiquette," "respect" or "courtesy." It is a very important concept in Japanese culture, including traditional Japanese martial arts. It is not a "ceremony" or a "ritual" per se; as this may construe that it is performing an exotic spiritual or religious act without meaning, which is not the case. In Japan this act is considered ancestral reverence. While reihō may have the meaning of "etiquette," this does not adequately describe its many connotations. Reihō is in many ways a code of conduct, which in Japan is applied to one's everyday life. For example; at school, at work, at home, when they visit their doctor, ect. In Japan "rei" is not taught to the Japanese – usually only to foreigners – because it is generally known due to its culture. In our Western culture we tend not to "show respect." And when we do give respect we often express it by saying it. And when we do say that we respect someone as in "I respect you" it is seldom given out. So, reihō is a foreign concept to westerners.

"Rei" (礼) is often translated into English as "courtesy" or "respect". This is an imprecise translation. "Rei" (礼) is an umbrella term encompassing both "reiho" 礼法【れいほう】and "reigi" 礼儀【れいぎ】. "Reiho" is a term that expresses the rules or abstraction of courtesy and respect, while "reigi" specifically means the techniques or actions of showing courtesy or respect.
The reason why I believe that this is an imprecise translation is that in Western culture, we have no tradition of "showing respect". When we use the word "respect", we as Westerners often say "I respect you" or "You have earned my respect". There is an implicit understanding that "respect" is a internal, personal, and private valuation given to a person after a particular event or occurence. As Westerners, we value respect highly, guard it jealously, and seldom give it. Indeed there is almost no greater compliment in our culture than to say "You have earned my respect".
Thus given iaido's concepts of "reiho" and "reigi", we are confronted with an inherently alien concept. To most of us, the idea of giving respect to someone immediately has no value or meaning. Furthermore, the idea of "showing respect" is also difficult to understand, because in our culture we don't express "respect" through our actions as in "reigi", even though we understand the concept of "reiho".
Even when considering the other translation, "courtesy" or "showing courtesy", we tend to miss the larger meaning. Although we Westerners are not considered particularly rude, we have only a few traditions of showing courtesy. We may say "Thank you", and "Your welcome". On occasion we may hold open the door for someone.
In Japanese culture, the concept of "rei" as "showing courtesy" is much larger, and essentially permeates through many different actions. This is a source of much misunderstanding, because many beginning students of iaido inadvertently cause much offense because they are unaware that so many things fall under "reigi".
2. "Reiho" and "Reigi"
Most beginners are taught "rei" as only "reigi", the techniques to outwardly show courtesy and respect. "Reigi" taught in this manner is limited to a precise number of techniques specific to iaido. The list is extensive and is an integral part of the iaido experience. However, there is a significant danger in thinking that "reigi" is only limited to these techniques.
I get the impression that many believe that "reigi" is the "ceremonial" and "ritualistic" parts of iaido. Often I feel that there is an exotic appeal to "reigi", since it is something we in our Western culture do not practice. By equating "reigi" as "ritualistic" and "ceremonial", I feel that we define "reigi" as actions without meaning. I also get the strong impression that we make the mistake of thinking that all of "rei" is encapsulated within the limited techniques used in iaido.
I would like to take the position that the "reigi" are not simply the ceremonial aspects limited to iaido, but apply to a wide range of courteous action that are directly tied in with the abstract concept of "reiho". A few examples are showing up on time and being prepared for practice, showing focus and determination in all actions, applying oneself wholeheartedly to learning, and being an active participant in iaido to the best of your ability. Seemingly small actions, such as being quick with putting on the iaigi and hakema, introducing yourself to a beginner are good examples of "reigi", as these actions express the abstract concept of "reiho".
3. "Reiho" and "Giri" (義理 【ぎり】)
To reach a better understanding of "reiho" or the idea of courtesy within the context of iaido training, I need to introduce the concept of "giri" (義 理 【ぎり】). "Giri" in English can mean "social obligation", "duty", "a sense of duty", "honor" or a "debt of gratitude". A sense of duty and a debt of gratitude is at the heart of courtesy in iaido. "Giri" is the reason why the concept of courtesy or "reiho" exists in iaido, and why so much importance is placed on expressing that respect and gratitude.
In a simple example, the expression "yoroshiku onegai shimasu" spoken at the beginning of each practice session is an expression of gratitude. The statement means that you are aware that you are imposing on your sensei, and you are expressing a debt of gratitude to your sensei for this opportunity. It is not simply "good luck" or "thank you".
In a more complex example, "giri" changes as we become more proficient in iaido. As a beginner, it is our particular role and obligation to approach training with an open mind, be able to take instruction, and approach it with focus and determination. In addition, as beginners we must be acutely aware that we are imposing on our seniors, and that there is a debt of gratitude for their efforts and their time.
This sense of "giri" is largely a foreign concept in Western society. For example, we feel no sense of obligation to arrive at most of our classes in college on time or to leave early. We pay for college and we pay for instruction, so we as the consumer feel entitled to our product in whatever form we choose to take it. If we leave early, its our money. This is not the case in iaido, as a student in iaido is not a consumer.
As we progress, our obligation or "giri" starts to include the mentorship of people less knowledgeable than ourselves. It is at this point that our obligation isn't simply to teach someone, but to set a good example to follow and then if necessary to teach them correctly.
4. The Heart of Rei
So at the heart of "rei" are several interconnected concepts. The expression of courtesy and respect that comprise "reigi" and the idea of courtesy or "reiho" in kendo come from a sense of obligation and a debt of gratitude. It is neither an exotic or foreign idea in the final analysis. This sense of gratitude comes from understanding that we are lucky to find a group of passionate people to share our hobby, and that we have an opportunity to share our skills and grow in our knowledge of the activity we enjoy. We employ a system of mentorship based on this idea of mutual obligation, both between the mentor and the mentee, and it is through this concept of "rei" that keeps it tied together.
- by Ken Wakabayashi February 2006.