Buki No Echiketto, or Weapons Etiquette, is an essential part of all weapons utilization in a Dojo. In this article we will discuss etiquette standards and practical considerations for carrying, transferring, and transporting a weapon.
Carrying a Weapon
When carrying a weapon it is customary to place it in the right hand and to carry it with the arm fully (but not rigidly) extended downward. For weapons with a Saya (scabbard) the weapon must be carried such that the Saya and weapon cannot separate. This is usually done by holding the Saya in the hand and using the thumb to clip over the Tsuba, preventing the blade from moving out of the Saya.
If you are carrying more than one weapon, the more dangerous weapon should be in the right-hand; the other weapon should be in the left-hand. You should rarely carry more than one weapon at a time. Please note that this refers to carrying weapons, not wearing them.
Weapons are carried on the right side primarily due to Katana etiquette. Since the Katana is drawn with the right hand, holding the weapon by the Saya in the right-hand makes it impossible to draw quickly. So carrying it this way is a sign that you have no plans to be aggressive. Carrying it in the left hand would indicate that you are extremely wary and might, at the slightest provocation, draw and use it. That would be considered extremely rude in polite company.
Carrying the Jo, Bo or other related weapons is similar to, but in some significant ways different from, carrying the Katana. You should carry the Jo on your right side with the front leading end of the weapon pointed down. You should not carry the weapon with two hands as this indicates you are prepared to use it.
Touching Another’s Weapon
It is considered to be extremely rude to touch another person’s weapon without having first received their express permission. Normally one does not even ask if they can touch or examine another person’s weapon. The weapon owner may extend to you the privilege of examining a weapon, but you should not ask. The one exception is that instructors may, at any time, ask to inspect the weapon of any student. This is to ensure overall Dojo safety and to teach students what to look for as they inspect their weapons.
If you have spent time removing acidic fingerprints from the blade of a Katana you will appreciate why you do not want someone to randomly touch your weapon. It will cause you perhaps ten minutes of additional cleaning work just to prevent future rust or discolorations from developing on the blade. Even if you have been offered the opportunity to inspect another’s Katana you will want to avoid putting your fingers (or other body parts) on the blade.
Transferring a Weapon
You will know when you have been granted permission by a weapon owner to examine his or her weapon when they begin the process of handing it to you. When handing a weapon to another it is customary to hold the weapon with two hands such that the weapon is parallel to the floor. Your palms both point upward and the weapon is raised to chest level. If the weapon has a sharpened edge, the sharped edge should point toward yourself. If you are accepting the weapon from someone else, bow slightly and briefly as the weapon is transferred. You are usually bowing to the weapon, not to the person handing you the weapon. This can be a somewhat involved process when a Katana is involved, but for a weapon such as a Jo, it is a relatively straight forward procedure. You will receive more etiquette training on the Katana at a later date.
It is considered a serious breach of protocol and etiquette to use a weapon in any fashion in a Dojo if the weapon has not been inspected and approved for use. When you bring a weapon into the Dojo for the first time simply ask the most senior person present about having the weapon inspected. They will perform the inspection or direct you to the person who can inspect it for you.
Before using any weapon in each training session you MUST inspect the weapon to ensure it is in safe and proper condition. For the Jo and related weapons, the weapon should be checked to ensure it has no cracks, split ends, or potential chips that may cause the weapon to fail during contact with another weapon, a training bag, the floor, or a training partner. Weapons that are found to be unsafe must be put away until they can be repaired, marked as a non-contact weapon, or replaced. These inspections are especially relevant for contact weapons, but are also applicable to any practice weapon, whether or not it will be used for contact work. Get in the habit of inspecting your weapons every time you pick them up.
End of Class
If you are still holding a weapon at the close of class then you may be required to do the closing salutation while holding the weapon. The proper way to do this is to hold the weapon on the right side at mid-point with the right hand. As you bow, the right-hand moves toward your center while the right arm remains extended and the left-hand moves forward to cover the right hand. After the bow return to an erect posture with both hands down along your sides. The class is over. If you have been training with two weapons (e.g. two sticks) then both weapons are held by the right hand as you bow. This is the same procedure for any non-bladed weapon. For bladed weapons, a different procedure will be used which you will explore later.
Brandishing a Weapon
Pulling out a weapon and demonstrating how to use it outside the Dojo is considered to be irresponsible. Others nearby will not be aware of specific safety considerations related to the weapon and may move in ways that put them at risk. You must be cognizant and respectful of the kind of serious injury or death that any weapon can inflict, even accidentally, upon another person. You should not be employing a weapon outside of the Dojo except in the direst of circumstances.
You should also not pull out a weapon to threaten or intimidate another person. That is sure to get you into legal jeopardy and may escalate a situation beyond your control. The only reason to pull out a weapon in public is when you feel an immediate need to defend or protect yourself or others. In that case, the only reason to pull out the weapon is that you expect to use it for that purpose. If you do not plan to use the weapon, do not brandish it.
Transporting a Weapon
In many places in the world, there are legal restrictions on how and where you can transport a weapon. It is incumbent upon you to learn and understand any such legal restrictions in your local area. These restrictions vary greatly between countries, states, provinces, and local government entities. It is not possible to list or show all possible restrictions or limitations imposed by government bodies. It is therefore critical that you understand and obey any governmental restrictions that apply in your situation.
There are a few general considerations that may help reduce your chances of having an issue should you be unlucky enough to be pulled over by a traffic officer. Here are some general things to consider when transporting weapons.
- Law enforcement officers are concerned for their safety. If they suspect that you are in any way a safety risk an officer is likely to increase his or her level of intensity. You will want to avoid that.
- Even if you are legally allowed to carry a weapon in the front seat of your car (not something widely authorized) you will want to ensure your weapon is always stored in the back seat or preferably in the trunk of your vehicle. If you are riding a bicycle or motorcycle then you will want to ensure you carry the weapon so an officer realizes it cannot be quickly deployed. The goal here is to make sure an officer does not feel you pose an imminent risk to his or her safety.
- If you are pulled over by an officer it is prudent, and legally required in many places, that you inform the officer immediately that you have a weapon in your vehicle and where the weapon is located. It is the polite thing to do.
- When transporting weapons try to store weapons out of sight and in a case or bag of some type that makes it difficult for you to immediately deploy the weapon. If you feel you must have the weapon accessible for immediate deployment then we suggest you reexamine your motives or seek to move to a different neighborhood. While not every community in the world is safe, you should evaluate your underlying needs and expectations if you feel you must have an immediately accessible weapon.
- In some cultures having a weapon immediately accessible may be considered normal. In other cultures or locations, it will be considered illegal. Know your location, culture, and legal requirements regarding the transportation of weapons.
- Storing weapons in a bag or other transport case will reduce the chances that the weapon will be damaged should you experience an emergency. The case will also decrease the possibility that the weapon will move about freely, damaging your vehicle or injuring passengers.
- These guidelines do not refer to firearms. Firearms often require a different level of consideration that is beyond the scope of this article. You should consult with local authorities or a reputable firearms expert regarding firearms transportation requirements in your locality.
- In some geographic locations, it is illegal to transport specific types of weapons. Nunchaku are a common example of a weapon that may not be transported in some communities. In other cases, such a weapon can be transported to and from a Dojo or other martial arts training location. If you put the weapon in your vehicle and take it to the Dojo then you may be in legal compliance in some communities. But if you put the weapon back in your vehicle and stop at the grocery store on your way home, you may not be in legal compliance. This again requires that you understand the legal requirements for transportation of any weapon in your community.
When dealing with weapons you must always remain vigilant about weapon safety. What appears to be a fairly benign weapon to you may be considered a monumental threat to another person. You need to be respectful of others and never place them in a situation where they feel they are in any way threatened by you or your weapon. It is the courteous thing to do.