Aikido News 2011‎ > ‎


posted 27 Feb 2011, 14:25 by Unknown user
In our aikido school, and most others around the world there is usually a central feature to the dojo that we call Kamiza. Its widely present in a variety of forms and names and found traditionally in the dojos, homes and temples of Japan. As such its a cultural aspect of Japan, a carryover of a  shinto heritage and important symbolism of respect.

Kamiza are located in the centre of the Shomen wall of the dojo and most often feature some calligraphy, weapons on a stand, a photo of O'Sensei is also common. Simple decorations like a flower is often used (especially on formal occasions) and sometimes other accessories like a meditation bell can also be seen.  Natural timbers rather than lacquered woods (more common in Chinese and Korean traditions) are usually used

A photo of O'Sensei is common, he is after all the founder of our art, but it goes a bit deeper, he is the ever present headmaster watching over practice and while being someone that has passed on, is still alive as a Kami. Ancestor worship is a Shinto idea, but its common in the west to have pictures of passed on family and various saints of catholicism in special places around the home as well. Photos of living persons on Kamiza should be avoided,  though can be placed elsewhere on the Shomen wall.

Our schools (Aikido Yuishinkai) Kamiza features the 'Shin' calligraphy brushed for each dojo by Maruyama sensei, an idea common also with the Ki Society and many other schools have a similar tradition. In our school a personally brushed calligraphy is often formally presented to the head instructor on opening a dojo, its a token licence in some senses.

Bokken and Jo are the usual weapons adorning Kamiza, practically its at handy reach for sensei to use during class but it also symbolises the deep relationship between aiki and these weapons arts. The most common question people ask about Kamiza and weapons is which way should the bokken face? There are plenty of answers such that you can probably choose for yourself. Photos of the founder showed all manner of weapons facing all many of ways in the various dojo he was photographed in. One even has the antlers of an elk used to hold the weapons. Which every way you choose, here are some reasons for the curious who want to know why it is the right way. 

1. Bokken is placed blade up. The bokken is symbolic of a live blade and should be handled as such at all times. The blade of a sword is sharp, costing $100's per inch to maintain and polish, it can easily damage the expensive hand made scabbard if its resting facing down so leave it blade up. This is the most common way it is displayed. 

2. The blade is down because this is how the battle blades are worn on the body. However most often the bokken is placed this way through ignorance and an indicator of how knowledgeable the dojo is

3. Handle goes to the left or right? The blade when held in Kamae has a left side side (Omote) and right side (Ura) meaning open/appearing and hidden/ disappearing respectively. Presenting the Omote side might mean an open dojo or an aggressive one, presenting the Ura side might be peaceful or sneaky dojo. You choose.

4. The blade is stored such that it can be drawn as one runs to the dojo door to defend it, it might mean an aggressive dojo as well. The blade is stored such that it is harder to draw might be construed as representing a peaceful dojo.

From Kamiza arises a lot of etiquette seen in the dojo, understanding Kamiza makes this makes etiquette less a thing you do and more something that arises naturally from internal motivation. For example its generally considered to have the soles of your feet face Kamiza (except during perscribed exercises) or  to have your back facing Kamiza. Bowing to Kamiza before entering or leaving the mat and at the start and finish of class shows your respect for the art.  Seniority determines proximity to Kamiza for many things like gradings, examiner order etc..

Here is a few other Kamiza from the simple to grand, garnered from aikido and other traditional arts. Awesome wine cellar dojo in Vienna visited recently

Image of Goshinkan, Byron Bay Kamiza, courtesy Dean Miscamble