At the end of every class - right before rei - the sensei or the seipai always remind us of the three rules of every USA Goju dojo on the planet: everyone works, nothing is free and all start at the bottom - which brings me to the etiquette question burning in my mind today: If you are a black belt in say, Shotokan or TKD, what should you do with your obi if you decide to step on the mat in a Goju or Wado-Ryu class? It was my understanding that the practitioner should either:
1. wear his/her current rank but line up in the back of the class.
2. turn his/her obi knot to the back and line up in the back of the class.
3. ditch the obi altogether and line up in the back of the class or
4. don a white belt and line up accordingly.
Notice the trend?
Last night, a young woman who is about to test for nidan in Shorin-Ryu - but who has been coming to the college class gi-less for about a month or so - showed up in her Shorin-Ryu gi and black belt. She was allowed to line up directly behind the class shodans, which put her in front of some second and first kyus who have been training with Sensei F for four to five years or more. I got there just as we were falling in, so I'm not sure if she just arrived in gi and Sensei, out of respect for her rank, told her to fall in up front or what, but I'm pretty sure reishiki dictates that she should have deferred and respectfully lined up near the rear.
I really couldn't care less who lines up in front, but since Sensei F. always reminds the newbies in the back to look to the front row for guidance on how certain techniques are done, it seems like the front row should have folks in it who know what they are dong. Sure a front snap kick is a front snap kick, but kata is a whole 'nother ball of wax. And during the second half of class, any color belt in the room could have lead her through the kata she was working on/learning because it was a white belt kata not done in her style.
As summer was approaching last year, I toyed with the idea of studying a style like TKD to improve my kicking skills. I went so far as to sign up for the four free classes the dojang offered (although I later canceled due to some scheduling conflicts), but the idea of walking in to train in a new style wearing my black belt from my current style was never even a thought. I wouldn't wear my current rank to a Judo or Jujitsu class either, simply because I'm not a black belt in either of those styles.
At the summer dojo I finally settled in, a similar thing happened a while back: two students showed up to train who had black belts in other styles (Brazilian Jujitsu and Kung Fu), but lined up in back without even having to be asked. After about a month, the seipai pulled them aside and asked them to please start wearing their white belts to class. They've done so ever since...
Last night, I was the seipai - although I earned my shodan rank only five months ago. What do you think: is it time to channel my summer dojo's seipai and speak to our "new" black belt?