Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for...

E is for Etiquette and Edan

Etiquette is defined as "proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion."  In the case or martial arts, it applies to a variety of rules, rituals and social doctrines.  It would take way too long (and far too many words) to try to educate you on every single property here in this post, but I can give you the basics:

Titles: Doctor's get the pronoun Dr., wedded couples get the infamous Mr. and Mrs. and strangers get the proper Sir or Madame.  In karate, your title has to do with your rank.  The head master of the gym gets the title Sah Bom Nim while other 4th Dan and above masters are called Ko Dan Ja.  Black belts get the Mr. or Ms. before their last name and "yes sir" or "yes ma'am" in response to a command.  There are consequences for not showing proper respect when speaking to a senior (the most common one is a requirement to do push-ups) and while we usually give a pass for the first "Yeah" instead of the proper "yes ma'am" we'll usually require some form of penance after the second or third instance.  (But that's not usually a huge problem since the kids we teach have enough energy to power a small city.)

Bowing:  We all line up in rank order at the beginning and end of every class and bow in and out to show our respect.  We stand at attention just like they do in the military (it is a martial art, after all), salute the American flag, do a very brief meditation to focus ourselves and then bow to the masters.  We bow when we are promoted to a new rank- both to our instructors and our class mates.  It's also proper form to bow to any black belt when you first greet them upon entering the gym.  We also bow before entering or leaving the gym itself (or the ring if you're in competition).  I guess my point is, we bow a lot.

Proper attire: In addition to a clean, unwrinkled uniform there is no jewelry (for safety reasons), no other accessories and you must wear your belt at all times during formal instruction.  This rule is particularly difficult to follow during the black belt test (more on that when we reach T).

Open-mindness: This is more of that famous empty-cup mentality that allows us to continue to learn.  When an instructor gives you information it is expected that you will not argue with them, say "but I thought it goes this way" or in any other way contradict the instruction.  Now does this mean you can't ask a question?  Of course not, it just means no arguing.  

Respect:  Martial arts are a serious business and you can't study them without respect for the art you study.  Now, this is difficult when you teach little kids (which the bulk of our students are) and there are a number of allowances we make that you wouldn't see in other gyms- we play games, joke with our young students and generally try to make it as fun for them as possible.  But when it comes to goofing around when an instructor is speaking, ignoring a master when they address the class or doing any of the techniques in a half-assed manner we correct individuals and may sometimes require some of those aforementioned push-ups to get them re-focused.  

No misusing the art:  The number one rule of everything we do: practicing these techniques outside of class or home/gym practice is strictly prohibited.  You can see why this one is so important- If you went to the playground and showed your poor unsuspecting friend Jimmy the awesome new technique you learned you'd end up injuring or potentially even killing your friend.  It's never happened (that I'm aware of) but this is the rule that could get you permanently expelled from class if broken.  These techniques are real weapons when done properly and like any weapon they must be handled with care.

Edan means jumping and applies to jumping front kick, jumping side kick, jumping crescent kicks and jumping roundhouse.  The idea behind these is to use your base foot to give you height while your kicking foot applies the technique.  Once airborne, you tuck your trail leg under you and the momentum of your jump launches you into your attacker.  Hard to do, there's no short-cut to executing these kicks well- like everything the only key is to practice thereby building up the muscles you'll need to get the air time for the kick.  (Lunges and step-workouts help to build the muscles but the best way is to just practice jumping because getting your knees in front of you is just damned difficult to do.)  These kicks are great for action movies cause athletes can get some serious air while doing a kick-ass technique but, like most of the flashy moves, you probably won't ever get the chance to use them in real-world fighting.
Cool looking?  Hell yeah.  Practical?  Not so much.


  1. Nice post on Etiquette. Have heard about the martial art etiquette.

  2. It's very important to know and follow the etiquette behind martial arts. And I wish I could perform an Edan. But that'll never happen. haha

  3. Cool info for sure!! It takes me back. :)

  4. I never knew this about the word... but it makes sense that the word etiquette extends to martial arts.
    For everything in life, every occasion/event/happening, there should be a code of conduct that dictates behaviour and gives direction... or else there will be chaos!!
    Writer In Transit

  5. I love the bowing aspect. I think it would be cool if we did that in this country in general. ^_^

    I imagine it would be pretty hard to set up some of the flashy moves in real life. I heard that Jackie Chan has broken his bones several times performing his own stunts. Also, unfortunately, I do know someone who used his martial skills on a couple of unsuspecting people. I guess it was self-defense, but it did not end well for anyone.

  6. I like the emphasis on etiquette in the discipline--an excellent lesson to apply to the rest of your life as well! :)

  7. Interesting. I've seen the bowing before but never realized there were this many rules of etiquette in martial arts. The kick does look totally awesome!

  8. Your post on etiquette is really neat. Every time I come to your blog, I'm impressed with the graphics, especially your title banner. Love your blog.

  9. Martial Arts is so disciplined, and respect readily comes to mind. This is a truly fascinating series about it, and I'm enjoying learning so much more about this subject.

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  10. Rachna- they tend to be known for it, appropriately so.

    Chrys- You'd be surprised- you think I could do a jumping kick when I first started? Heck no! Even now after years of training I can only just barely pull these moves off.

    Ava- To your own martial arts training?

    Michelle- I agree.

    Krystal- Yeah, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris- they've all sustained some pretty intense injuries over their years of filming. It takes its toll.

    Lara- Which is exactly the point we make to the parents of our little kids about why this is so incredibly helpful for them. My Sah Bom Nim loves to tell the story of how he got into college- not the best grades, poor SAT scores. But he walked into the office for his interview, put his 2nd degree black belt on the man's desk and told him "I know what it means to work for something." He got in.

    Julie- That's just a sampling! And yeah, those jump kicks can look effing amazing when they're done well.

    Elise- THANK YOU! Tara deserves your koodos for the title banner, but I appreciate the compliments!

    M.J.- I'm so happy to hear that! I'm certainly enjoying writing it!


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