“Karate begins with courtesy and ends with courtesy” – Gichin Funakoshi
In the dojo, there are certain forms of etiquette, or rules of conduct and interaction, that you must follow. The purpose of these rules is to show respect to your instructors and fellow students, to provide a safe and enjoyable training environment, and to show your dedication to the path that you have chosen to follow, the way of karate. Although some of these Japanese forms may be unfamiliar at first, they will become natural over time. It is important to realize that these forms of etiquette may vary slightly from dojo to dojo. The following is an overview of the most common forms of etiquette and conduct that should be observed in our dojo. If you are new to the dojo, or traveling to train in another part of the country or world, you will be fine if you pay close attention and follow what the other people around you are doing.
Arriving at the Dojo
Always arrive on time. Try to be a few minutes early, so you are dressed and ready to start when your instructor calls to line up for class.
Arrive clean, with fingernails and toenails trimmed, jewelry removed, in a clean uniform. (No one wants to train in close contact with a partner who has forgotten to launder his gi for a few classes.)
Do not bring food or drink into the dojo (this includes chewing gum). You may bring water in sealed bottles.
Bow before entering or leaving the dojo – towards Sensei or shomen wall (front of dojo.)
Come to class prepared to focus, listen and learn. It is critical to enter into training with the proper frame of mind.
If class has not yet begun, you may begin stretching or warming up on your own.
If you do arrive late, please bow in and proceed to the back of the dojo, stretch out as necessary, and join the class with as little disruption as possible.
Treat your gi and obi (belt) with respect – neither should be thrown on the ground.
If you wear your gi traveling to the dojo, do not put on your obi (belt) until inside the dojo.
Arrive with the proper attitude: that you are there to learn, to be respectful to yourself, fellow students and Sensei, and to give your full attention and effort to your training – never accept less from yourself.
We welcome family, friends and prospective students to watch our classes. If doing so, please maintain a respectful atmosphere conducive to our students’ training. Keep conversation low and avoid anything which may disrupt class.
Parents, please avoid correcting or assisting your children during class. Instructors are responsible for teaching the students, and will handle any corrections necessary. Children must learn to focus on the instructor during class, and splitting attention to listen to parent coaching is counterproductive.
Once Sensei calls for the class to line up, please proceed to position quickly and in an orderly manner. Class has begun – no horseplay or talking. Students line up by rank, senior student in the front, most senior student to the left (facing the front of dojo.)
When Sensei calls kiotsuke , come to attention. When Sensei calls rei, bow and respond osu (pronounced oos).
Instructors are always referred to as Sensei in the dojo .
Notify Sensei of any illness or injury.
Face away from Shomen (front of dojo) or partner while adjusting your gi.
Do not walk through lines or groups of people training – go around.
Bowing is a sign of respect. Bow to Sensei or senior students if approaching for assistance, bow to fellow students in greeting. Remember to show the proper respect, and the same will be shown to you.
No horseplay – keep your hands to yourself and conduct yourself in a serious manner while in the dojo. Your fellow students are here to train in a controlled and disciplined atmosphere, so please, no disruptive behavior.
No talking during class unless absolutely necessary.
If you have a question, please raise your hand and wait for Sensei’s recognition before asking. Try to keep questions to a minimum during class. Simple questions about the performance of the current techniques are okay, but questions requiring long explanations are better asked during breaks or after class.
Proper attitude and focus are critical to martial arts training. Pay attention to Sensei’s instructions and look at him when he is speaking. Talking while Sensei is speaking or demonstrating a technique is considered very rude. Stand still and pay attention.
Training drills with partners
• No useless contests of strength. Cooperate with your partner – you are here to improve yourself and help your partner improve, not to show how tough you are! The point is to improve your skills, without injuring your partner.
• Pay attention and concentrate, showing appropriate control of your techniques.
• Respect your partner and they will respect you.
• Bow to your partner before and after drills.
• This is not social hour – keep chit-chat to a minimum, and focus on your technique.
• When Sensei calls yame , stop at once and pay attention for next instructions.
Follow the example set by senior students. They have been doing this a lot longer and you can learn a lot by observing their behavior.
Senior students, remember your juniors are looking up to you as an example, so always set a positive one! It is your responsibility to assist junior students and lead by example, but please do not teach new kata or techniques to students unless asked by Sensei.
Accept constructive criticism from instructors or senior students when offered = this is how you improve. Do not argue or try to explain why you think you are correct. Listen and try to implement the corrections.
Always concentrate and put forth your best effort.
A loud kiai displays a powerful spirit. The choice of sound and/or word is yours. Don’t be afraid to kiai loudly – this displays good spirit and will motivate everyone in the class. Never do it in a half-hearted manner.
While seated in class watching other students perform, sit cross-legged, or in seiza if you prefer, but never extend feet out towards center – this is considered disrespectful. Try to sit still and pay attention, and avoid conversation. Remember, this is the behavior you will expect from your fellow students when it is your turn out on the floor.
If an instructor (black belt, or brown belt instructing at Sensei’s request) feels your conduct is not appropriate in the dojo, he may order push-ups or other calisthenics as a form of discipline. Do not argue – accept the punishment and return to class participation. If you wish to discuss the events, talk to Sensei after class. If conduct persists, you may be asked to sit out for the remainder of class.
Never ask when you will be promoted to your next belt rank. This is considered disrespectful, and will only increase the time until your next test. Remember, you are always being tested Sensei will advise when you are ready to be rewarded for your hard work by promotion to your next level.
End of class – when Sensei calls to line up, do so quickly and in an orderly manner, and stand in a good ready stance. Pay attention to any announcements. When Sensei calls “kiotsuke“, come to attention. When Sensei calls “Rei“, bow and respond Zanshin.
Please leave the dojo cleaner than you found it.
Bow to Sensei or Shomen (front wall of dojo) when leaving the dojo.
Now is the time for questions and socialization. Have fun, but maintain respect for fellow students and your dojo (no horseplay or running around).
Outside the Dojo
“There is no first strike in karate” – Gichin Funakoshi
The above quote is one of the most widely recognized sayings in the martial arts. Put simply, it means that karate is for defense only. We train to improve our bodies, minds, character and spirit; we do not train so that we may go around beating people up. Fighting outside of the dojo in any but an unavoidable self-defense situation is not acceptable. Remember, the only fight you truly win is the fight that you manage to avoid.