You've probably seen this video before, but pay attention to the first 10 seconds for a good example of shiai etiquette.
Some of you are new to shiai, so here is a basic guide to the main things you have to remember.
- Start just outside the shiaijo (court). When the shinpan (referees) are standing ready, you must face your opponent and step into the shiaijo. You will not be given a command to do so because you must make a connection with your opponent. Do not be the last to step in, but neither be the first. Step in such a way as you make your opponent follow your lead.
- Come to a point about a metre inside the shiaijo. Bow silently to your opponent without taking your eyes off them. Do not say "onegaishimasu".
- Take three decisive steps forward to the shiaisen (white line) and draw your sword. Again do not race your opponent but move so that they follow you. Sonkyo so that they do it at the same time as you.
- Wait for the shushin (head referee) to call "hajime!"
- Stand up promptly but do not rush. Always step slightly forward into chudan-no-kamae, never backwards. Kiai strongly. Use your kiai to tell your opponent that you will never back down.
- Fight and take shodachi 初太刀 (the first point)
You already know that matches are the best of three points. Here's a reminder of the shushin's calls:
- hajime! yame! These two are self-explanatory. They will be accompanied by strong flag movement by all shinpan.
- men ari! do ari! kote ari! A point has been scored. You must stop fighting and return your shiaisen (white line).
- nihonme! Begin! (fighting for the second point)
- shobu! Begin! (fighting for the final point)
- shobu ari! There is a winner! (the match is over). The shushin will call this after you are both returned to your shiaisen and waiting in chudan-no-kamae. As shushin calls it, s/he will lower the flag of the winning kendoka. You and your opponent must sonkyo together at the same time as the flag is lowered.
Do the normal movements: sonkyo, o-same-to, five small steps back, lower the sword and rei without saying "domo arigato...". Take a few steps backwards out of the shiaijo. Once you have crossed the line you can turn and walk away normally.
These are the basics aspects of shiai. There are many others, but if you can learn these, then you can participate in shiai.