Dojo Etiquette

Training in karate is a great workout for the mind as well as the body, but in any activity that is potentially dangerous, appropriate conduct is required at all times. Karate dojos, as well as other martial arts, have their own etiquette which karateka are expected to observe.

Most of these points are matters of safety for yourself and your fellow students and could thus be described as common sense, for example waiting to be invited to join a class in order to avoid being accidentally struck by students unaware that you are passing. Others points, commonly ones that appear to be rooted in tradition, are intended to foster a sense of respect for the other karateka, as well as for the art itself, and to generate a good training environment. If the purpose of a rule is not clear, it is useful to consider in what way it assists training.

The points below are a short guide to appropriate behaviour in the dojo; it is a student’s responsibility to understand these principles and conduct themselves accordingly. Good etiquette in the dojo promotes safety and courtesy, but also helps to create a beneficial atmosphere to improve quality of training, and helps students to travel to other dojos around the world more easily. The list of points given here is not exhaustive, and dojos will have their own style and choice for how things are done to some degree. If you are a guest in another dojo, you are expected to follow their rules!

Learn to bow correctly – this is the first precept of the niju kun. You should bow to the centre of the dojo when entering or leaving, when greeting an instructor, at the beginning and end of the class (this is a formal kneeling bow), to a partner before and after engaging in an exercise (or sparring), and before and after a kata. It is, some sense, a tradition borrowed from Japanese culture, but in contemporary use is also a ritual that displays mental attitude and body control, as well as clearly signalling the agreed beginning and end of exercises that are combative.

Arrive promptly for training. If you are late, you do not simply join a class in progress. Warm up quickly and quietly before waiting at the side of the class (in the kneeling position seiza) so the instructor can see you and invite you to join in. If you know you will be late, it is a courtesy to notify the instructor beforehand. If you need to leave training early, notify the instructor before the beginning of training, so they are aware. When you need to leave, do not leave without the instructor’s permission.

Do not break lines while training; it disrupts the class. Additionally, maintaining discipline is an important exercise in making your karate effective. The instructor will pace the class and indicate whether breaks and/or drinks may be taken.

Proper attire. If you have a karategi, the uniform, it must be kept clean and in good repair. Dress properly before entering and after leaving the dojo; not while you are inside. Wash your uniform after each training (as soon as possible) to prevent it smelling. If you do not yet have one, appropriate loose clothing should be worn that allows full movement. Remove all jewellery, watches, etc that may cause injury (earrings/rings may be taped over to prevent them catching, if they cannot be removed). Long hair should be tied back.

Keep finger- and toenails short; they can cause injury to others, but also can be caught/ripped off during training.

No food in the dojo; only water is allowed for drinks.

Instructions from the sensei and/or senior grades should be followed quickly and respectfully. These are usually intended to keep from wasting time in the class, and to maximise training. Relatedly, it is important to practice only the techniques presented (no more, no less) for ability to be developed most effectively, and to not waste time. When not involved in training, students should remain attentive.

Lastly, it is the responsibility of the student to carry themselves correctly, to train to the best of their ability, and to draw the best from their training partners. It is only through the correct attitude that progression can be made.

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