Dojo etiquette

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As Master Funakoshi used to say, “Without courtesy you cannot practice Karate-do”. Etiquette is defined as “the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group”. Accordingly, karate has its own set of rules for proper and polite behavior within the “dojo“. This is the first step to practicing Karate-do. All of the manners and etiquette learned in karate training should also be used outside the dojo.

Here are a few guidelines that every student should strive to follow:

Before the lesson

Always bow respectfully upon entering the doorway of the dojo. This is called ritsu-rei and shows deep respect for the teachings of Master Funakoshi as well as the seriousness of your study;

Always arrive on time and be ready before the class begins. Try to arrive to class 15 minutes early so that you have time to stretch and practice;

Alwayd remove jewelry, watches, earrings, etc. prior to training. These items can cause injury to yourself and others;

When the Sensei starts the class, take your position as quick as possible; the class will formally start in a lineup by rank – seiretsu (整列). The most senior student will set the line, and everyone else will line up to their left, by rank order. If two students have the same rank, the student who trained longer at the dojo is the senior (senpai);

If you do arrive late, enter the dojo and bow; kneel in seiza on the sideline and wait for the sensei to acknowledge you. Bow to the sensei and join the class.

During the lesson

Always try your hardest in the dojo;

Remain courteous and helpful to each other at all times; the proper way to greet other karateka is by bowing (also called rei 礼 in Japanese);

Always face the Sensei when he is talking. When he gives a command, acknowledge your understanding by saying Oss!

Never talk when the lesson is in progress. If you have a question, raise your hand and wait to be acknowledged;

Follow the instructions of both seniors and instructors, quickly and respectfully;

Do NOT leave the dojo (or class) without prior premission from the Sensei if the class is in progress;

If you do need to adjust your gi or belt during training, wait for the right moment, then face the back of the dojo;

Bow when entering or leaving the dojo, at the beginning and the end of class, before and after sparring with a partner, before and after performing a kata, and when greeting the instructor.

Showing Respect to Seniors

In karate, like in many Asian societies, there is an explicit social order;

An instructor is called a Sensei (先生), which literally means “person born before another”;

Students who started before you are called Senpai (先輩, and sometimes spelled sempai). This is a compound word composed of sen, meaning “before” and, pai meaning “fellow;

Students who started after you are called Kohai (後輩);

Students show respect to their senpai by following the senpai’s lead. Senpai show respect to their kohai by being compassionate and helpful to them.