Dojo Etiquette

The following guidelines are similar in most if not all dojos. Proper observance of etiquette is as much a part of your training as is learning techniques. Dojo etiquette and rules are not empty formalities but rather serve to create conditions essential to good training. All members are expected to be familiar with the following guidelines and take them seriously.

1) It is proper to do a standing bow in the direction of O Sensei’s portrait / the kamiza / the front of the dojo when entering or leaving the dojo, and a kneeling bow when entering or leaving the mat. It is also proper to bow to Sensei / the class instructor.

2) Students should be seated according to grade at the beginning and end of the class, with the most junior on the left and the most senior on the right. The line should be straight, spaced appropriately and centralized with reference to O’Sensei’s portrait.

3) You many sit in seiza or cross-legged while you are in the dojo / on the mats. You must not lean against the walls, lie on the mats or sit with your legs stretched out during practice. Avoid sitting on the mat with your back to the picture of O Sensei / the kamiza.

4) No footwear should be worn on the mat. Please place all footwear neatly at the designated area in the dojo.

5) Do not change your clothes on the mat. Keep your gi clean, in good shape, and free of offensive odours.

6) For safety reasons, remove watches, rings and other jewellery before practice. Avoid wearing makeup for lessons. You don’t want to stain your or your fellow students’ gi during practice.

7) Please keep your finger and toe nails short.

8) Do not bring food, gum, or beverages with you into the dojo. Do not consume any food or drinks during lessons.

9) Be punctual for class (10 – 15 minutes earlier is advised). In most dojos where there is a need to set up or clean the mats before the training session, all students should arrive early (20 minutes before class) to assist in the preparation process. Similarly, at the end of the training session, all students are to assist in the removal and storage of the mats. The assembly and removal of mats require the cooperative efforts of all students.

10) If for whatever reasons you do happen to arrive late, sit quietly in seiza on the edge of the mat until Sensei / the dojo instructor grants you permission to join practice.

If you come in late during the warm-up, do a kneeling bow, wait at the side of the mats and raise your hand to request for permission to join in. If Sensei / the dojo instructor has already started teaching the class (or if he is present during, but not leading the warm-up), approach him and do a kneeling bow to seek permission to join the class. Similarly, if you should have to leave the mat or dojo for any reason during class, approach Sensei / the instructor for permission and bow before leaving the dojo.

11) You may do your own warm-up exercises before the class begins.

12) Classes begin with everyone bowing towards O’Sensei’s portrait. Students then bow to Sensei, and say “Onegaishimasu” (please teach and/or guide me). They end in the same way, except students say “Arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you very much).

13) Always carry out the directives of the instructor PROMPTLY. Do not keep the rest of the class waiting for you! Training time is precious and should not be wasted.

14) Practice with everyone in the class; do not keep to the same partner all the time.

15) During practice, bow to your partner before and after each technique / exercise.

16) Do not engage in roughhousing or needless contests of strength during class.

17) When receiving personal instruction during class, sit in seiza and watch intently. Bow formally to Sensei / the instructor when the personal instruction is finished. When Sensei / the instructor is instructing another, you may stop your practice (only if necessary) to watch. Sit formally and bow when (s)he has finished.

18) Respect those who are more experienced. Never argue about technique.

19) You are here for practice. Do not force your ideas on others.

20) If you know the movement being studied and are working with someone who does not, you may lead the person through it. But do not attempt to correct or instruct your training partner if you are not of senior yudansha level (unless you’ve been told by Sensei / the instructor to do so).

21) Remember that you are here to learn, and not to gratify your ego. An attitude of receptivity and humility (though not obsequiousness) is therefore advised.

22) All senior students present must be ready to fold Sensei’s hakama at the end of the class. Be in seiza while waiting to receive / return Sensei’s hakama.

23) Other students watch to learn how to fold the hakama may do so by offering to fold the hakamas of the yudansha. Remain standing while waiting to receive / return the hakama.

24) Preserve common-sense standards of decency and respect at all times. In terms of etiquette, when in doubt, always be thoughtful, courteous, and polite.

25) Please pay your membership and training dues promptly. If for any reason, you are unable to pay your dues on time, you are advise to speak to Sensei of your situation. Sometimes special rates will be granted by Sensei for those experienceing financial hardship.