Etiquette, Bowing & Other Rules

Kouketsu Dojo Student Manual

RULES OF CONDUCT: Always be cordial and courteous to every person you meet, both in and out of the karate dojo. Only hard training and dedicated study can advance the karateka in his/her quest for perfection. Physical training and mental development coupled with good moral character must be equally sought after by the karateka. Personal spirit, community pride, respect of all races and cultures, and continued self-development are our strongest hallmarks. Respectful gestures and rules of etiquette vary from culture to culture. When a person enters a new situation, a new social group, a new cultural situation, or even a new friend’s home, a new set of behavioral rules (both spoken and unspoken) must be learned. In our dojo, where Japanese/Okinawan and American cultures come together, it can be confusing as to what to do or say and when to do or say it. There are a few simple rules to remember: First, do not throw away the rules of common Courtesy and second, observe the following:

  • You must bow towards the Shomen when you enter the dojo and as you step onto the training area.
  • You must bow toward the Shomen when you leave the training area and as you leave the dojo.
  • Bow to anyone you wish to speak to before beginning to talk (it does not matter what rank they are).
  • Remove shoes when entering the dojo.
  • Never walk on the floor with your shoes on.
  • The dojo must be kept as clean as possible.
  • Clothing and personal items should be placed neatly out of the way of traffic and classroom activity
  • Good hygiene must be observed.
  • Uniforms must be kept clean and in good repair.
  • Finger and toenails should be kept short to reduce the possibility of injury.
  • Jewelry, watches and rings must not be worn while training.
  • There are only two ways to stand while in the training area during class: attention stance or ready stance.
  • Use the same stance as the senior student in the training area.
  • When directed to sit down, remember that you are not to put your hands on the floor or use your hands to stand.
  • Never stand with your back to the instructor during class unless you are following instructions.

BOWING: What to say when bowing: When entering the dojo, you may say “Osu” or “Onegai Shimasu”.

When beginning an exercise with a new partner or bowing to the instructor before class, you may say either “Osu” or “Onegai Shimasu”.

When finishing an exercise with a partner you may say either “Osu” or “Arigato Gozaimashita“. When bowing before and after performing a Kata, you may say “Osu“ or nothing at all. When leaving the dojo or bowing to the instructor after class, you may say either “Osu” or “Arigato Gozaimashita”. All sayings are said at the maximum extension of the bow. Remember that in each case, it is probably safer to use the ”non-Osu” terminology. Also keep in mind (throughout the duration of this appendix) that not all clubs use Japanese terminology. If they don’t use it, do not use the Japanese terminology either.

When assuming the kneeling position, seiza, begin by standing in attention stance. Bend the left knee to the floor followed by the right. Keeping your back straight, sit back on your heels. The big toes of your feet should overlap (it is acceptable to have either foot on top). Your hands should be open with the fingers together. Rest them on your thighs (left hand on the left thigh, right hand on the right thigh; do not place them on your knees) with the fingers pointing slightly inward. Your shoulders should remain relaxed (i.e., they should not be supported by the hands). Men should keep their knees approximately two horizontal fists apart, while women should keep their knees together.

After lining up, the instructor or highest-ranking student will say “seiza.” Kneel as described above in the section on kneeling. The next command given will be “mokuso”. This is the command given at the meditation before the training session, which loosely means clear your mind in preparation to receive instruction. Close your eyes and relax. Again, either the instructor or the highest-ranking student gives this command. The meditation period should take at least thirty seconds. Following this period of time, the instructor or highest-ranking student will say “mokuso yame”. This means end the meditation period. Open your eyes, but remain motionless in the kneeling position. The next command is “shomen ni rei”. This means bow to the front of the dojo. The bow is a sign of respect to the instructors who taught before you, the art of karate itself, and to the training space. Bow as described in the section on the kneeling bow. The instructor will then turn around to face the students (everyone remaining in the kneeling position). “Sensei ni rei” will be the next command. This means bow to the instructor. When you bow, bow as described in the section on bowing and say either “onegai shimasu” or “osu”. On the signal of the instructor, get up quickly.

This follows the same sequence as above, with some minor modifications. The command “mokuso yame” will be given to end meditation. On the bow following the command “sensei ni rei” say either “arigato gozaimashita” or “osu”. Following the bow, the instructor will get up.

Keep in mind that not all clubs begin and finish in the kneeling position. Many will simply bow from one of the standing positions described above, however, in this dojo, members learn to utilize both methods.

As a note on kneeling, if you find yourself uncomfortable sitting in a kneeling position (i.e., injuries), it is okay to switch to a cross-legged position. However, before you return to a standing position, move back into the kneeling position, bow and then stand up. When you stand up from the kneeling position, immediately assume an attention stance. You should rise with your right leg first, followed by the left leg. You should stand without using your hands.

OTHER RULES:

Students should make every effort to attend all scheduled classes. If you will be missing a class, need to leave class early, or plan to stop training altogether, please let the instructor know in advance. Informing the instructor of these things are not required, but will be appreciated.

Students will be informed of class times in advance. Please be on time. In the event that you are late (due to work, flat tire, etc.), the correct procedure is to bow in, as you normally would, then quietly wait until the instructor acknowledges you. At that time, bow quickly and join the group. If the group is lined up in order of rank, join at the end of the line (at the end of class, take your proper position in line).

At all times during training you should maintain a serious attitude. The moment class begins your mind should be on learning karate and improving your technique. We expect that you give us 100% of your energy during class, and we in turn, will give you 100% of our energy during class. Pay attention to what the instructor is saying. If you don’t understand, it is all right to ask for clarification.

As in any classroom, only one person should be speaking at a time. All other students should be paying attention. It is bad manners to talk while someone else is speaking. It is also impolite to visibly display that you are bored. Occasionally, everyone gets bored. However, it is not acceptable to roll your eyes, groan, etc. Be polite. If you want people to listen to your comments, you need to listen to theirs.

Another general rule is that you should not make overt displays of how tired you are, no matter how tired you are. Again, rolling your eyes, groaning, panting, etc., is not permitted. In order to succeed in karate, you must work past your exhaustion. However, if you simply cannot continue, bow, step out of the way of others and kneel. Sometimes people are injured and may not be able to perform certain techniques. That too is acceptable. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.

No alcohol is to be taken before class. Eating food, candy, or chewing gum is not permitted in the dojo


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