Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Etiquette in the Dojo

Dojo etiquette, the way we behave in our training hall, isn't just ritual for the sake of ritual. There is meaning behind it. By conforming to the norms of the dojo, we put ourselves into a certain state of mind to train and study. More practically, our observance of etiquette insures that everyone is in a safe, stable state in potentially dangerous situations, like when edged weapons are being used.

Below is an excerpt from a post at The Dojo Shorinkan blog on dojo etiquette. The full post may be found here. Enjoy. 

One of the most unusual and hard things for both students and parents to adjust to when beginning martial arts training is the etiquette in the dojo. A dojo is a place of learning in which students as well as instructors place a great amount of emphasis on what can be referred to as traditional values. Most authentic and good dojo will have their Dojo Rules poster somewhere that is visible to both students and visitors in their dojo. To help new students / parents to the dojo understand how things are handled in the dojo it is important to cover several topics on this.
First understand what a dojo is. A Dojo is not a gym. It is not a place a student comes to the hang out or play. Students are there to train, improve and build self confidence, self discipline and perfect their martial art. It is also not a soccer field where parents can yell, complain and tell the coach what to do. 

In a good dojo there will be none of that and most parents struggle with this ideal but this is Karate, not kiddie sports. A Dojo is a sacred place full of etiquettes, tradition, sweat equity and improvement. It is held sacred to every student and black belt that trains there. Students and visitors will adhere to strict guidelines, treat the Sensei with respect at all times and help keep the dojo looking clean and in good repair. A Dojo is considered the home of the Sensei so it is important that students and visitors act accordingly.
In any good Karate dojo one of the most important rules is etiquette. We are human and we learn by trial and error. Many things in the dojo are forgiven when it comes to training but misbehaving, disrespect and unruliness are definitely not forgiven nor taken lightly. This rule applies to every student from the white belts to the black belts equally. In fact the higher rank a student becomes the more strict the guidelines for etiquette are held. It is the responsibility of each student to make sure those who follow behind them do so in proper fashion and with great respect to the etiquette rules of the dojo. It is important to note that corrections to one’s behavior comes from the top down, never from the bottom. In other words the Sensei is in charge and no one else should assume they can discipline a student without the Sensei’s permission.

The first lesson a student will learn is proper placement of their shoes and how to enter the dojo. As we stated earlier the dojo is a very highly respected place. A new student will be lead to the entrance to the dojo by their Sempai (Senior). They will receive instruction on how to bow before entering and exiting the dojo. This is the first lesson as all Karate training begins and ends with respect, no exceptions. The next lesson is learning how to “bow in” before class and “bow out” after class. This can be both informal and formal depending on the class structure and what is taking place that day in the dojo. Regardless of the level of formality a student should always bow their best, most humble at all times.
To bow the student stands with their feet together, placing their hands at their sides. The bend at the waist (no hunching) to a 45 degree angle with their eyes looking downward. The only time we maintain eye contact is when we Kumite or do not trust the person across from us. Looking a senior rank in the eyes while bowing is very disrespectful. The second way we bow is in Seiza, or kneeling posture. To sit in seiza one steps backward to their right knee, followed the left knee. Males sit with their knees apart and females with their knees together. The belt is placed on the outside of the thighs. 

Hands rest on the thigh and the back is upright in posture. To bow your left hand touches the mat first and the right hand touches second forming a small triangle. You bend at the waist getting close to your hands but you do not have to touch them. Standing up from seiza is the reverse of kneeling…left comes up then right and stand up.
If you find yourself in a large group of students studying and class is over always be patient, allow senior ranks to exit first and then take your turn. Never cross in front of senior ranks or push, shove your way to leave the dojo. This is very rude, discourteous and will result in discipline measures by the Sensei. It is important to remember that every bow is done with the utmost courtesy and humbleness. Anything less is never acceptable.

Yes we live in a hustle and bustle society but that never is an acceptable excuse for poor manners. 

Arriving late for scheduled things is considered disrespectful both inside and outside of the dojo. 

Proper manners dictate you arrive early, at least 10 minutes before class. You should have your required uniform and items for classes ready before the bow in of the day’s session. If, for some reason, you are to arrive late wait at the door until you are permitted to join in the session by the Sensei. Never just walk into the dojo because you may walk into a punch, kick or worse…a weapon strike. This is a safety measure, not a disciplinary one.

About a minute before class is set to begin the senior student will call out for everyone to line up. 

Lining up for classes consists of the junior ranks in the front and the most senior in the rear facing the front of the dojo where Sensei stands. It is also important to note that the lowest ranking student stands to the right in each line. If you are the same rank as others just get in line…it doesn’t matter who earn it first! Taking too long to get into line up position is not respectful and can result in the entire class being issued discipline by the Sensei. This happens mainly because you are wasting valuable class training time which is a major do not do in the dojo.

Many people fail to understand this concept but in Karate there is NO other way for you to learn. 

Upon joining the dojo you will quickly find out that no one gets favored or special treatment. Even if the Chief Executive of a major business joins a dojo they will begin at the bottom. Whatever they have accomplished outside of the dojo has no bearing on their training and they are no better than each student standing next to them. Like I said everyone begins at the bottom in the dojo…no exceptions.

Mokuso is a meditation time before class and sometimes after class. During this procedure, which can be done kneeling or standing, students are to close their eyes, relax their breathing (in nose out mouth) and allow their mind to prepare to receive instruction. When done at the end of class the mind is to focus on retaining what the lessons of the day were about. During this time we learn to “quiet our mind”. This is a time to dispel negative thoughts, fears and to build our focus and attention.

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