Dojo Etiquette

JKA teaches traditional Japanese Karate. We observe the guidelines of behavior and etiquette as though we were studying in Japan. We strive to incorporate the ideas of respect and responsibility outside of the dojo.

Entering the dojo

Announce your arrival at the dojo by bowing and saying “Osu”, loudly.

Bring a pair of clean sandals to use exclusively inside the dojo. Use them after you have changed into your gi. Leave sandals neatly placed beside the training room floor, toes pointing outward.

When going onto the training area floor, bow to the front of the classroom (this has no religious significance).  This signifies respect for the dojo.

Always be on time. Try to arrive at least fifteen minutes before the scheduled class time. Tardiness implies disrespect and irresponsibility.

When you know that you are going to be late, try to call Sensei and let him know. Go to class anyway. It is better to be late than to miss training. If the student needs to leave early, they must let the instructor know ahead of time.

If you arrive after class has started, go to the back of the training area and sit in seiza, meditating for a couple of minutes. Open your eyes and remain in seiza until the instructor motions to you to start an abbreviated warm-up before joining the class. However, if the class is already in mokuso (meditation), quietly wait off the floor until they are finished and Sensei has told everyone to stand.

Students are not allowed to leave the training area without asking the instructor. They should use the restroom and drink plenty of water before class. The instructor will take appropriate action should a student become ill and need to sit out. Students should not make comments to their parents during class.  Likewise, parents should refrain from making comment to their children during class.

In the dojo, students should show proper respect to the sensei, bowing and saying “Osu” when he comes out of the office to teach.

Students should also show respect to senior students (senpai). All adults are considered a child’s senpai, regardless of rank. It is disrespectful to talk back or question or make suggestions. Usually, the only correct response is “Osu” (oss) which means ”yes” or “I understand”.

It is appropriate for a senpai to correct a lower rank (kohai). Any questions should be directed to the senpais before Sensei. If they do not know the answer, they will find out for you.

Before class begins, students need to warm up by jumping rope, practicing kata, doing push ups or stomach crunches, as instructed. Warming up before stretches helps prevent injuries.

When class begins, students line up according to rank, making sure that the line is straight. Late arrivals go to the end of the line, no matter what their actual rank.

The senpai will indicate when to kneel in seiza for meditation (mokuso). The students sit in a kneeling position, feet flat on the floor, spine straight, hands on the lap. Meditation is practiced to mentally prepare for training. Students must learn to sit perfectly still and to be silent, clearing the mind and relaxing one’s breathing as part of the process. The senpai will say “mokuso yame” to signal the end of meditation and to open the eyes.

Senpai will say “shomen ni rei”. The class bows to the front of the room to show respect for Masters Funakoshi and Nakayama. (There is no religious significance). Sensei will turn and face the students. Senpai will say “Sensei ni rei”. Sensei and the students bow to each other, saying “Yoroshiku onegai shimasu”, which means “ please teach me something”.  At Sensei’s signal, students stand and begin stretches. Students should refrain from moaning and groaning sounds and comments. They should all join in the counting.

During class, proper respect must be maintained at all times.

When moving around the floor, always pass behind other people. If students need to move more than two steps, they must run.

When the instructor is speaking, the students should immediately stop what they are doing and pay attention. “Paying attention” means to stand still. Refrain from fidgeting, grimacing, shifting position, or looking around. It is considered rude to stand with arms folded in front or with hands on the hips. It is also very rude to lean against the wall.

Unless Sensei asks for a specific answer, the only acceptable answer is “Osu”. The student should not talk back, contradict, or offer suggestions. If they have a question, they must raise their hand. This does not mean that they will be called on.  They can always ask after class.

Sometimes, Sensei will ask a student to come up front and show an example. The student should say “Osu” and run to the front of the class. He should bow to Sensei before starting to demonstrate and again when he is instructed to return to the line.

At the end of class, Sensei will direct the students to line up as for the beginning. Senpai will again go through the meditation. The Dojo Kun is then recited. This is the creed of the dojo. In beginners’ class it is recited in English. Students should begin to learn it in Japanese as soon as possible.

After the Dojo Kun, the senpai will continue with “shomen ni rei” and Sensei ni rei”. Sensei will motion to any attending blackbelts. Senpai will say “senpai ni rei” as the black belts and kohai bow to each other. Facing Sensei again, he and the students bow to each other, saying “arigato gozaimashta” which means “thank-you very much”.

Sensei will motion for the class to rise. Stand up in rank order. Do not stand until the person on the right is standing.

After Sensei leaves the floor, the dojo is cleaned. Follow the lead of the upper belts. Cleaning duties change as you progress through the ranks. This is also part of the training.

Personal Appearance

Your gi should always be clean. It shouldn’t smell bad BEFORE class! It is recommended to have at least two gis. Girls should always wear a white tee shirt or a sports bra underneath their gi.

Fingernails and toenails should be clean and trimmed. Long nails are dangerous and will also keep you from making a proper fist.

Feet must be clean. Please be aware of offensive odors, especially after wearing sneakers.

Try not to have bad breath. Breath mints are handy to have in your gi bag.

Hair should be pulled back.

Jewelry can be dangerous while practicing karate, Remove all jewelry before class begins.