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Entering and exiting the dojo

Standing at the entrance or exit of the dojo, execute a standing bow towards the centre of the room or the Shomen if there is one. This should be done whenever entering or exiting the dojo.

Try not to be late. If you are late, bow in, and then quietly kneel near the entrance. Wait until the Sensei acknowledges you. Once he has, execute a kneeling bow, get up and quickly join the group. If you arrive just as everyone is kneeling at the beginning, wait, don’t move and don’t make any noise. Wait until warming-up starts, and bow in as described above.

Standing bow

Stand in Musubi Dachi with heels together, feet pointing slightly outward (like a “V”). Keep knees straight but relaxed; elbows straight and relaxed; hands open and at the seams of your gi bottoms (the outside of your legs); fingers together. Bend at the waist, about 20 degrees forward. Unbend. The whole bow takes about a breath’s length.


Kneeling (Seiza)

Place left knee on the floor; then right knee. Sit down on feet. Big toes of left and right feet should overlap (right on top). Keep back straight and shoulders relaxed. Rest left hand (hand open, fingers together) on left thigh and right hand on right thigh, so that fingers point inward. For purely anatomical reasons, men should have about one or two’s fist widths between their knees, women should have knees together.


Bowing in Seiza

Slide the left hand from the thigh to the floor immediately in front of the left knee (not too far in front, i.e., left elbow shouldn’t touch the floor). Do the same with the right hand, so that the right hand motion is slightly behind (in time) the left hand motion. Palms should touch the floor to show respect. Bow at the waist, taking a little longer than for a standing bow. The eyes should always be capable of seeing to the front which limits the depth of the bow. Slide your hands back up to their initial position on the thighs, this time the right hand moves first..

Opening sequence

When you hear “Line up!” or “One line!” stand shoulder to shoulder facing the front of the dojo, in rank order. Rank order is normally senior grade to the right when facing the shomen to novices at the opposite end of the line. In a large hall line up so that the instructor is level with the centre of the line. If the class size is big, the senior student may ask you to form more than one line, in which case, you should try to line up so that the lines are approximately of the same length and students are stood one behind the other. “Seiza!”: kneel down in seiza, so that knees are aligned with the person on your left. “Mokuso!”: quite meditation – just lower your gaze, relax, and breathe. “Mokuso Yame!”: stop. “Shomen-ni-rei!”: Bow to the Shomen or front of the room (this is to recognise that the dojo is a place of reverence and serious practice). “Sensei ni rei!”: Bow to the instructor. When you’re bowing, you can say “onegaishimasu,” which, roughly translated, means “Please,” i.e., please teach me, please help me, please hold class, etc. At the instruction “Kiritsu” or “Tatte” from the senior student get up quickly. Normally this is without waiting for the person on your left, however some dojos the rising is done in grade order from senior to junior.


Closing sequence

Same as the opening sequence, except that after mokuso, there may be a recitation of the dojo kun. Repeat after the senior student, loudly (but not so loud that your voice stands out) and in unison. During the final bow to the instructor, you can say “arigato gozaimashita,” which means “thank you.” “Thank you” in English is okay, too. At the end, the instructor will get up. Wait until the person on your left bows and gets up before you do the same.

General Etiquette Guidelines During Training

  • Most importantly, the moment class starts, your mind should be on karate and on trying to improve your own technique. Concentrate, give spirited kiai, don’t talk unnecessarily and practice hard! (This is under “etiquette” because doing otherwise is disrespectful to the instructor and to yourself.)

  • Don’t wear jewellery, watches, piercings etc. Don’t chew gum.

  • Whenever you’re told to move from one part of the room to another, do it quickly (i.e., run or trot). Don’t pass in front of anyone – go behind and around – be mindful that this is a martial arts dojo and walking in front of someone might trigger an attack.

  • Whenever you’re asked to move back off the floor and watch, do so in a normal standing or kneeling position, silently, without leaning on walls or distracting others. If you’re ever in a kneeling position and you’re uncomfortable, it’s generally okay to bow and then switch to sitting cross-legged.

  • Whenever standing up from a sitting position, switch to kneeling, bow and then stand.

  • If you ever need to leave a class early, let the instructor know beforehand.

  • When switching partners bow to both the old and the new partners, to thank the old one and signal respect to the new one

  • Don’t make overt displays of tiredness, no matter how tired you are. Remember in combat any sign of tiredness will encourage an opponent to redouble their efforts

  • If asked to count, count in whatever language you feel comfortable with, but make the counts short, sharp, and spirited.

  • Individual dojos may have variations on how strictly they apply the rules. If visiting a new dojo err on the side of being overly courteous but adapt where necessary 

Other things you should know

  • Don’t say any words when you kiai. “Kiai” itself, is a Japanese word should NOT be used as a kiai. Common kiai sounds include “Ya!”, “Ei!” & “Hut”

  • Don’t be afraid to kiai! If you have a strong kiai, it will often spur others to work harder, as well. The overall tone of a class is set by the level of spirit of the class, which can be raised with better kiai. On the other hand, if your spirit is poor or your kiai weak, you might bring down the class spirit.

  • Do not hesitate to ask senior students and instructors for help before, during or after class. Time permitting, you should try to learn kata outside of class so that during class you can practice to improve and the instructor can evaluate and provide constructive critique.

Breathing in mokuso

Mokuso & Seiza

MOKUSO (Silent Meditation) – is normally performed whilst in SEIZA (Kneeling Position).

​Inhale slowly through the nose, visualising the breath travelling up through the forehead, across the crown of the head and down the back of the skull & spine toward the base of the spine. Imagine the breath collecting in the HARA (Lower Abdomen), winding into ever smaller circles until finally disappearing into a miniscule point. Hold the breath for a brief moment (but not until it becomes uncomfortable) then begin to exhale slowly, concentrating on the breath as it emerges from a single point in the HARA, gradually winding outwards and upwards towards the Navel, through the solar plexus & throat, and finally out of the mouth. Keep the HARA (lower abdomen) relaxed whilst breathing in & contracted when breathing out.

A single breath cycle (In & Out) should take between 10 & 15 seconds. More advanced Students should develop this process as part of their daily stretching & practise. Over time, if used correctly, MOKUSO will enable a Karateka (karate Student) to control the ebb and flow of their emotions.


SEIZA - From SHIZENTAI (Natural Standing Position - back straight, standing tall with your hands held gently by your sides and your feet together)

​Inhale & bend your knees, keeping your back straight, looking forward and squatting down onto the balls of your feet. With your hands held palm down gently on the front of your thighs, Exhale as you lower first your left knee to the floor then your right knee. Move your feet from a position of squatting on the balls of your feet so that you sit on your heels with the tops of your feet on the floor. Your back should remain straight and slightly extended, your chin tucked in with your nose in line with your navel, looking directly forwards and towards a point approx. 45cm in front of your knees.

Your Do-Gi & Obi

DO-Gi means training uniform and is an extension of yourself. As such it is important to always keep it clean and ironed. Turning up to class in a dirty Gi is deemed as disrespectful to your Sensei and fellow students.

Here is the correct manner in which to fold your Gi:

OBI means belt. During a lesson, should your OBI come loose or your Gi come untucked do not adjust it whilst facing your Sensei. This too is a sign of disrespect. Bow to your Sensei and turn your back then kneeling down on your left knee adjust your Gi or Obi and then stand, turn and bow again to your Sensei.

Here is how to tie your OBI:

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