Each year, Cuong Nhu instructors from across the country come to the Bay Area to teach classes at West Coast Training Camp. With a full schedule of classes ranging from soft-style katas to advanced weapon training, balanced with meal times spent socializing with fellow Cuong Nhu practitioners (not to mention the famous cookie break!), students of all ages always love the experience.
As you get ready for a fun filled weekend, here is a review of some of the rules of etiquette in Cuong Nhu. Cuong Nhu Redwood Dojo is a traditional martial arts dojo; the customs in Cuong Nhu help students respect each other, their instructors, and the art. Once you know what is expected, you can focus on your training. Whether you are a new student or have been studying for years, a student yourself or a parent of a student, will be attending West Coast Training Camp or not, it is worth reviewing these guidelines.
The Cuong Nhu bow is a sign of respect that is used frequently. When you are bowing to a person, both people bow to each other simultaneously. Some of the most frequent times we bow are: when you enter or leave the dojo (or training space); when you begin and end class; when you begin and end partner work; when you begin and end a kata.
Speaking to Black Belts and Instructors
Black belts are called “Sensei” in Cuong Nhu. If you are speaking to a black belt in class, weather they are your instructor or your partner, you should address them as “sensei” or “sensei <first name>.” This title does not mean they are better than you, it simply acknowledges their rank. Those who hold the rank of sixth degree black belt or higher hold the title of “Master.”
There is a time and a place to ask questions, and there are lots of times in class to NOT ask questions! When you are in class, it is always best to focus on practicing even if you have a question or two. There will be a time to ask these questions, either at the end of the drill or class, if the instructor asks for questions, or outside of class time. Questions to clarify how something is done are much more useful than questions that begin with “but what if they …” Be thoughtful about your questions. Is there something you don’t understand or do you just need to try it a few more times to figure it out?
At events like West Coast Training Camp there are also lots of opportunities to ask questions about Cuong Nhu from experienced instructors who have lived much of its history. You are encouraged to attend the dinner on Friday and the party on Saturday evening to get to know the out of town guests. In these non-class setting, questions and conversations are encouraged!
Wearing Your Uniform
Make sure your uniform is neat, complete, and put on properly. You should wash it, and if needed, iron it regularly. A complete gi top includes the Cuong Nhu patch (left side) and your first name (right side). If you have a stripe on your belt, it should be sewn on and should be on your left side when your belt is tied. If you do not yet have your patches or name on your uniform, get them done before training camp!
For bowing in at the beginning and end of camp, all students should be in a white uniform. At Redwood Dojo, all students below the rank of black belt wear a white gi at all times. You may see instructors or students from other dojos wearing other colored uniforms during the classes at West Coast Training Camp.
Your uniform should not be worn outside the dojo. If there is a place to change (like there will be in the Alameda High School gym for West Coast Training Camp), you should arrive in your street clothes and then change into your uniform. Similarly, when you leave you should change back into your regular clothes. When you put your uniform on, ensure that you don’t have other clothes sticking out (for example, your shirt should be tucked in). Do not wear a watch or jewelry in class. At Redwood Dojo, since we do not have a full changing room, you may arrive in your gi pants and a shirt. You should put your gi top and belt on after you are in the dojo.
Joining Class Late
If you are late to a class, you are still encouraged to join in! Stand in natural stance on the side where the instructor can see you. Once they bow to you (you bow to them at the same time), just join the group and listen carefully to find out what is happening. If for some reason you need to leave a class early, you should let the instructor know and bow out of class before leaving.
Working with a Partner
When you are working with a partner in class, either at training camp or at your home dojo, remember to show your partner respect and focus on practicing. You should not talk with your partner. You should not instruct your partner. This is true no matter what ranks you and your partner hold. If someone is a lower rank do not assume you know more than them. It is not your job to instruct; it is your job to practice and to allow your partner to practice.
The only time you should give your partner feedback is if you were specifically instructed to do so for the drill or if you feel unsafe. If your partner is doing something too hard, you may ask them to lighten up. Similarly, if you are practicing and your partner asks you to go lighter, then go lighter! Safety is always of the utmost importance. Do not let you or your partner become injured.
Learning a Weapon
West Coast Training Camp gives you exciting opportunities to learn weapons and other techniques or katas that would normally be beyond your rank. While you should absolutely take advantage of this opportunity, you need to understand and respect the weapon.
Treat the weapon as real even if it is a practice (or blunted) weapon. Do not play around with it, hold it inappropriately (for example, by the “blade”), or hit it against anyone or anything. You will learn the proper way to use the weapon in class, and this is how you should use it at any time. Practicing outside of class is great, but not to show off or goof-off, especially with a weapon.
Keep in mind that if you are in the dojo, the expectations of control and respect always apply. Break times do not give you permission to run wild and ignore the rules. Be aware of what is happening around you. If you see something that needs to happen, take responsibility for it. This can be anything from cleaning up spills or helping set up chairs to reminding kids to not run in the dojo.
Parents Watching Class
Parents, you are a big part of your child’s training and we thank you for it! The classes for children at West Coast Training Camp are great and taught by highly skilled and experienced instructors. As is true at Redwood Dojo, you may either stay and watch or you may leave your child and come back to pick them up at the end. If your child must leave before the end of the event, please be sure that their instructor knows when they are leaving.
If you are staying to watch, please keep in mind that your child should be focused on their instructor. Do not advise or coach your child from the sidelines. Similarly, your child should not just leave class to go to you. If they need something, they must get permission from the instructor before stepping out of class.
Please keep in mind that the we are teaching your child that the dojo is a place of respect. You can do a great deal to support this lesson; while you are in the dojo, model respectful behavior and help other children or visitors do the same. If you have younger children with you, ensure that they are not disruptive and please refrain from loud conversations during class.
When in Doubt
If you have questions about etiquette, the safest bet is always to do whatever is more formal. You can also ask a senior student (brown belt or higher) or an instructor outside of class time. In Cuong Nhu, we have many rules and traditions to follow. If you make a mistake, simply fix it and move on.
West Coast Training Camp is about learning new things, getting to know other members of Cuong Nhu, meeting talented instructors, and enjoying a great workout. Review these guidelines before you go, and then allow yourself to focus on the fun weekend of training!