Sunday, 14 December 2014

Traditional Karate Do Dojo Layout (Part 2)

ICKF Sohonbu Dojo simplified floor plan
As mentioned earlier, the front wall is the 正面 Shou Men and the Western wall is the下席 Shimo Seki. The Eastern wall is called the 上席 Jyou Seki, and is considered the place of Seniority sometimes referred to as the 上座 Kami Za, the Upper Seat. The most senior students sit closest to this wall facing the Shoumen when lining up formally. The Shimoseki or lower place is where the least senior students line up. The Southern wall is also designated as the  lower seat 下座 Shimo Za. Therefore, the lowest ranking students or practitioners should stand closest to the South West wall when lining up for formal bowing before and after the training sessions.

(Chito-Ryu Sohonbu Dojo Shoumen Kumamoto, Japan, 2012)

In keeping with the on going theme of respect and courtesy, it should be mentioned that when visiting a dojo it would make a very good impression to perform a formal bow at the entrance to the training hall (Not at the 玄関 Gen Kan, the main entrance to the building, but after changing into your 道着 Do Gi before entering the training hall) then move to the South Western area of the dojo to begin warming up silently. If you are called to a different area by the someone of authority in that Dojo, of course, it is OK to move to the place designated, but not before. In my experience, guests are usually called upon before or during the formal bow in and introduced to the other students where you will be expected to give a short 自己紹介 Jiko Shou Kai, a brief Self Introduction. (I will explain the process of the self introduction in a future post).

The four walls are not the only things taken into consideration; the placement of the entrance to the training hall is also of importance for 気の流し Ki no Nagashi, the Flow of Energy in the dojo. Even when building modern homes in Japan consideration to such traditional energy concepts as 風水 Fu Sui (the Chinese concept of Fung Shui) is made. It is understandable that traditional dojo would follow this concept of energy flow in even more detail than modern builders. (For more detailed information on the intricacies of Fu Sui please conduct independent research) Therefore, in keeping with Fu Sui concepts, the traditional Karate Do Dojo would have its entrance on the Eastern façade.

   N                (正面) front
 W                E
 (下席) Lower Side                                                                                       (上席) Upper Side



                                                                                                                        (入口) Entrance

                                            (下座) Lower Seat

(Floor plan adapted from Typical Layout of the Dojo by R. Rowell, 2011 to fit ICKF Sohonbu Dojo floor plan.)
Now that we know that the flow of energy is very important and that the front of the training hall should be situated facing North, the place of Honor is the Eastern area, and the South West area of the dojo is the lowest place in the hall we can make an educated guess as to where to hang the photos and other things in the dojo. For example, training equipment should not be stored on the shoumen or the kamiza, a more appropriate place to store equipment would be on the Southern wall furthest away from the North Eastern area of the dojo. However, in keeping with North American customs of hanging photos it is quite acceptable to hang photos of respected Sensei on the shoumen wall, but in which order?
The Correct Order of Photos on the Shoumen
I decided to ask my Sensei. He told me that the photos of the Sensei should be hung on the Shoumen wall alternating on either side of the Kamidana, if there is one, beginning with a photo of O Sensei on the right hand side of the Kamidana then alternating from left to right with every applicable Sensei. (the photo below was taken at Kugizaki Sensei's Dojo, the Edokan in Kumamoto, Japan, after helping instruct a weeknight children's class)
(Edokan Dojo, Kumamoto, Japan, 2014)
Notice that the Kamidana is in the middle with nothing hung above it. Although the photos themselves are blurred due to the flash of the camera, you can see that the photo of the First Generation Soke,  Chitose Tsuyoshi is hung to the right of the kamidana, the Second Generation Soke is hung to the left of the kamidana, followed by the photo of Kugizaki Sensei hung to the right, Higashi Sensei hung to the left. This pattern could continue to include all applicable Sensei as a sign of respect to them. (depending on how you want to describe this, one could say that the photos are hung in the order from your perspective while looking at the Shoumen  wall, in which case the order would be described in the reverse, the First Generation Soke is hung on the left hand side of the kamidana, the Second Generation Soke on the right hand side and so on)
One may question then why the photo of O Sensei is hung on the opposite side of the kamidana in the Honbu Dojo? To this I would point out that the photo of O Sensei is the only photo hung on the Shoumen wall.
I am still looking into this and will ask Soke Sensei for more details on this subject the next time I have the opportunity to speak with him. I will inquire, specifically about Sensei who have had a strong connection to the dojo but whom have passed away and where their photos should be hung. Should they be given a special place in the dojo or fall in order on the Shoumen wall as illustrated above. For example, I know that many dojo in Nova Scotia would hang photos of Delaney Sensei and Gascoigne Sensei, if they haven't already, and would be interested in the most honourable place to hang their photos.
Please stay tuned and check for the update when I post. Also, if there is anything else related to this topic or others discussed in this blog please contact me and I will do my best to include it in future posts.


  1. Hi Marc
    james Hatch here - we met a few years back - am looking to contact Kigizaki-Sensei - would you have his snail mail?

    1. Hello James,
      I remember the time we met way back in 1999 at the Aso Summer Camp fondly.
      Please contact me privately for Kugizaki Sensei's mailing address.