So, you’ve decided to start studying Shintaido, and you’ve been to a few keikos, and the sensei has been nice, but sometimes you wish you could understand the gorei better… huh? By now, many of us are saying, “What?” Lets walk through a common Shintaido experience, and see if we can fill in some of the blanks.
Like many martial arts, Shintaido (new body way) trains in a dojo (place of practice). A keiko is a session or class. Here in the Pacific NorthWest, our keikos are usually 90 minutes long. They begin with a warm-up. The warm-up leader (and later in the class the instructor) gives gorei, which means the count and directions for movements, and also models the warm-ups for the other people in the class. The warm-up leader and the instructor often give the count in Japanese, for a count of 8 or 10. After guiding the group through a fairly standard set of warm-ups, the leader will end with a brief meditation. This may be standing or seated. The leader will say “seiza” to signal the group to sit, or “seiritsu” to signal that it will be a standing meditation. Mokuso (pronounced mok-so) is the signal that the meditation is beginning, and mokuso-yame (meditation stop) is the signal that the meditation is over.
As you might have gathered, “yame” means stop, and it’s a useful word to remember. If the sensei (teacher) calls “yame,” everyone should stop practicing and listen. At the formal close of the meditation, we bow; the goreisha signals us to bow by saying, “rei” (bow).
After meditation, the sensei begins to guide the keiko. It’s tradition to start with a short kata (technically “form,” but meaning a connected sequence of movements) called Tenshingoso (five expressions of heavenly truth). After that foundational practice, the most common next step is to practice kihon (basic techniques).
These might be done with a bo (six foot staff), a jo (a shorter stick), a bokuto (wooden practice sword), or empty hand. Empty hand practice might mean karate, or it might mean a range of other techniques intended to develop the body, awareness of ma (group interaction), or underlying energy. No matter what branch of Shintaido is practiced in a given keiko, the basic principles remain the same.
In addition to practicing kihon, there is a great deal of kumite (partner work) in Shintaido. If you’re using a bo, this partner work is called kumibo. In Shintaido partner work always begins with by the partners facing one another and bowing. The sensei will then say “Yoi,” (ready position), and “kamae-te” (get set). He or she may then say “Hajime” (begin), or simply count, “Ichi, ni, etc.” At the end of the kihon or kumite, the sensei will call “Yame” (stop), at which time you return to yoi (the ready position). Practitioners stand in readiness until the sensei calls “yasume” (relax).
At the end of the keiko, we rejoin the group and walk through a traditional conclusion to each keiko. We complete another variation on Tenshingoso, then form a circle. After another brief meditation, we bow to the group, and to the sensei. And that’s a keiko.
Of course, there are lots more terms that you might find helpful. A list of these terms is available in the glossary section of the Shintaido of America website, or you are invited to ask your sensei or a senpai (senior student).
1-10 in Japanese: