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Reiho

Reiho is often defined as etiquette, respect, or courtesy in English. I have often described it as such when trying to explain the concept to those who do not practice a form of Budo. In his blog, Geoff Salmon defines Reiho as the physical component to Reigi; the Japanese concept translated and defined in English as etiquette. I prefer this definition. Drawing a distinction between the physical components of proper etiquette does not diminish the fact that fundamentally even the smallest acts of Reiho can demonstrate the essence of Reigi.
When understood to be a physical manifestation of etiquette, Reiho can be seen to permeate every aspect of the art of Iaido. The proper layout of a dojo, the correct fit and wear of the practice clothing, how we wear the sword, how we clean the sword, our very hygiene, posture and even the way we place our thumb on the tsuba while wearing the sword are all forms of Reiho. Every action during practice should be approached with the attitude that even in the smallest actions; the total sum of proper etiquette should be expressed.
The most obvious expression of Reiho to the outsider is bowing. This is the classic example for most westerners of Japanese martial etiquette but is rarely understood for what it truly is. The bow as stated earlier when performed with proper humility, respect, and intent can embody all that is true of etiquette in Iaido. The Iaido practitioner who understands etiquette will always bow more deeply to those who are their seniors in the Dojo. They will also hold the bow for an instant longer than those who are more senior. These physical manifestations are not a form of worship, as has been improperly asserted by some, or an act of submission. They are a signal to those who know that this individual is not only ready to receive the teachings imparted in the dojo but that this person takes their practice seriously and has begun the process of internalizing the basic concepts of the art. Budo can be dangerous if practiced without the proper attitude and concentration. Proper demonstration of Reiho is also a signal to others that the practitioner understands the importance of following direction and is unlikely to do things to put others at risk during practice. The bow as an act of correct Reiho will demonstrate correct Iai.
To me, Reiho is also means by which I can demonstrate my sincere gratitude and desire to learn. It is a defining element of my practice which necessitates that I strive to learn and understand more about this complex concept that can be so hard to define. I was once told that the waves on the ocean are not fundamentally different from the ocean as a whole. That the ocean is waving at us all the time. Reiho as a fundamental aspect of the practice of Iaido can demonstrate the very essence of Iaido when performed correctly. From the instant we enter the dojo, with every breath, movement and thought, we strive to demonstrate Reiho and the essence of Iaido.

 

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