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Etiquette, Swordsmanship is not just fencing
By Frank Docherty of New Albion

    During the study of the sword, as well as learning to fence, the development of one¹s character is of paramount importance.  It is said that Fencing begins with manners, and ends with manners.  However fencing etiquette is not only for the practice arena but for everyday life, it costs us nothing to be polite.

    In the Japanese art of Kendo there is a saying, Senpai - Kohai or senior - junior.  In Japanese Dojo every Kendoka is always someone¹s senpai and someones elses kohai.  It is through this relationship that good etiquette is passed on.  Respect should always be shown to one¹s seniors, not only in the training area but outside as well.  It is every students duty to try to earn this respect.  One should also respect one¹s juniors, thus showing them the way to respect themselves through respecting others.

    When Instructors enter the training area they should be acknowledged ( with a nod or hello ).  Fencing students should be especially courteous to their teachers at all times, they should stand at the ready in a respectful way, and listen attentively during instruction.  At the command of ready, or start, fencers should try to have themselves and any equipment on and be ready before the Instructor, and not make him, or her wait because they are too slow or for any other reason.  If, for any reason a fencer is not ready, he should move to a safe place, letting the teacher get on with the rest of the class, then rejoin the class when he is ready.  Similarly at the command finish, the class should have their equipment off before the teacher, he should not have to wait.  Often a teacher has been seen waiting to practice while those around him practice with equals. It would be better if they stopped and one practised with the teacher whilst the other waited to follow ( remembering to keep warm ).

    It is important that fencers are aware of other people and their equipment. It is a breach of etiquette to step over or knock anothers sword or polearm, as is touching anothers equipment unnecessarily.  It is also poor etiquette to leave one¹s equipment, carelessly, where it might promote such a breach of etiquette. For instance a sword left standing against a wall may fall and distract someone or cause an accident.

    Etiquette also becomes part of self - respect. It is important to look after one¹s equipment, uniform should be washed regularly. It is not pleasant to fence others who do not take this care with their equipment. After getting home from practice, the first priority should be the cleaning, and airing of ones uniform, and equipment. Personal hygiene is also important

    Before entering or leaving the training area, all fencers should bow, or show their respect in some other arranged way, this is to show respect for for the training area, and those in it. If for some reason a person has to stop training they should let the teacher or senior know - this may be due to injury or just rearranging the uniform or equipment.

    The rules for good etiquette also apply at competitions, or seminars. Even experienced fencers must check their etiquette. As an example once at a seminar in this country a teacher of fence was asked by a maister to line up the class for a demonstration by two other teachers, this person did not think to get a chair for this maister and one of the other teachers had to do it. I can only say that teacher learnt from his mistake, and I am sure will endeavour not to make the same mistake again.  Most of the above is common sense but it must be taught to beginners. In addition, before pulling up beginners on etiquette senior instructors should also look to their own. After all, the beginners must get their bad habits from somewhere.

About the Author:
Frank Docherty (MCHC) is a long time practitioner of English Martial arts, and Maister Terry Brown's longest serving student in these arts.  He feels that Etiquette should at all times be one of the main teachings at any martial practice.  His Web site is called New Albion, and is a growing online resource for authentic English Arts information.  Be sure to visit them and check out his new article on the Ouartersatff!

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