Sensei Mae here! I wanted to talk about Dojo Etiquette. We are a traditional Shotokan Karate dojo, so respect is very important to us. One of the most important rules of etiquette is behavior.
Since by nature we all learn by trial and error, many things will be forgiven in a dojo, but bad behavior is definitely not one of them. This rule applies to every student within the dojo society regardless of their rank, in fact the higher the rank, the less tolerance there is for any breach of etiquette whatsoever. It is very important to remember, however, that correction for acts of misbehavior always come from the top down, not the bottom up.
In our blog post on Dojo Protocol, we discussed how to enter the dojo. The point is that we should bow each time we enter and exit the dojo and teach fellow students to follow the same pattern. Maybe like me, you sometimes inadvertently bow entering other places. Bowing (rei) comes from our roots and it was rule number one for Funakoshi. “Karate-do begins with courtesy and ends with rei.”
Even the Japan National Tourism Organization explains that “In the Japanese bow, the bower expresses appreciation and respect to the person being bowed to by bending at the waist.” It is part of who we are in our karate dojo; we bow.
- Clear your mind when you bow at the door. When you walk in, relationship stay outside.
- Even when training with my family, I am always careful to address them with the respect they deserve.
Karate is an art about courtesy, manners, etiquette and attitude. In the dojo, regardless of your belt color and ability, as long as you work hard and show a determined commitment, you will always receive praise. However, if you show disrespect to anyone in the dojo, or to the dojo itself, you will be admonished and possibly asked not to return. Upon joining a karate dojo, you will find that no one gets special treatment as everyone starts as a white belt. I did not start at a belt higher than my younger brother. Everyone starts at the bottom.
So now that you know some basic cultural differences, please understand that a traditional dojo will strive to mimic the training in Japan. That includes the way kata is taught and how a student should greet their instructor.
Let’s talk about the black belts. Black belts are a rank all to their own. They should always be treated with the utmost respect. A few quick tips—it is disrespectful to:
- cut in front of a black belt
- photograph a black belt without their permission
In Japan, it is forbidden to watch the black belts train. This applies to us at the dojo as well if we are looking to learn courtesy.
- For example, if there is a class right before back belt class, you should never stick around to watch them train. This is because to become a black belt, much work is required. Then, when a black belt is achieved, we learn secret techniques. It is dangerous to try these techniques if you have not had proper training or correct supervision.
- It is good not to know what the black belts do in their classes. It will keep you safe. Even within the rank of black belt, we do not watch the higher black belts train.
- If a first-degree black belt cannot watch a second-degree black belt train, why should a red, yellow or brown belt watch a black belt train?
- Respect is essential in karate. All black belts must be treated with the utmost respect, regardless of how you feel about them outside of the dojo.
In addition to respecting all black belts, senseis merit a certain respect. For example, bowing to your senseis when they pass by is always a good idea. While training, be sure to respond with a “Yes, Sensei” or “yes ma’am”, “no, sir”, etc… whatever your Sensei prefers.
Each belt rank is special. In my dojo it goes from light colors to dark beginning with white and progressing to brown then black. Each belt gains more respect because of the time it takes to earn.
- In addition to respecting the belt grade, one should respect the belt itself.
- You are clearly a stellar human being for taking up martial arts so you should treat your belt appropriately.
- Not just anyone can obtain a belt. For that reason, my belt, obi, is never left on the floor.
- There are some pretty cool things that you can do with your belts as you progress. Several people I know have belt racks to display their success.
- Regarding the traditional uniform itself, sometimes during class it can start to come undone.
- When this happens, you should turn around (away from your Sensei) and adjust yourself quickly and without drawing attention to yourself.
- In addition to being rude to adjusting your uniform during class, it can make you appear distracted and undisciplined.
One thing that I really enjoy about karate is that it allows me to leave the outside world, well, outside. It is peaceful that way. In the dojo I am not a boss, a daughter or a sister. I am simply a student. This allows me to be completely relaxed and focus on learning. If you are having a problem, take it off the floor. Do not come back onto the floor until you are able to learn. This is healthy for you, and respectful to others around you.
Remember the dojo is here for you to learn. Ask questions, get a karate buddy and have fun!
Hope this has been helpful to you. It was helpful for me to write it. It is always good to go over dojo etiquette.
Have a great week!