A strong family values oriented dojo

Dojo Etiquette

The Importance of Dojo Etiquette

Etiquette plays an important part in our training in Seido Karate.

It makes us aware of what is going on around us as well as reminding us of our responsibility in being part of society.

Etiquette is just common courtesy – a basic feature of life, which is noticeably missing from society today.

It is also important to remember that this must not be seen or interpreted as an act of subservience or religious intention.

“You cannot respect others unless you can respect yourself first”

For those of us who have little difficulty in practising etiquette in the dojo, we must be aware of the discomfort of others who may feel a little uneasy or self conscious about putting it into practice for themselves.

We must encourage them to progress with the practice of dojo etiquette as best as they can and at their own pace.

The following rules for etiquette in our dojo are important as they ensure that we all continuously demonstrate our courtesy and respect to each other and our dojo environment.
– Ken Szeto, Principal Instructor, Lower Hutt Dojo

1. Entering and Exiting the Dojo

  • Remove outer clothing (overcoat, hat, gloves, shoes etc) before entering the dojo floor.
  • Bow facing the Shinzen (symbolic front of the dojo) and say “Osu” when entering and exiting the dojo area and dojo floor.
  • If higher graded people enter the dojo with you, you should let them go first as a sign of respect for their grade. This includes going in and out of the changing rooms.
  • Always say “Osu” when a black belt enters the dojo or walks past you as a sign of respect. This is an acknowledgement of their experience and dedication, and in most cases, for passing on their knowledge to you when they instruct the class.


2. Lining up for Class

  • When going onto the dojo floor, always let your senior go on before you and say “Osu” as you enter the dojo floor.
  • Always line up in order of grade, according to rank.
  • If someone is in the same grade then line up in the order of date graded and age (eldest first).
  • When lining up always make sure that you are not standing ahead of your senior grade i.e. always make sure your lines are straight.
  • When kneeling for the bow in for class always go onto the left knee first then right. Your senior grade should begin kneeling before you.


3. Bowing In- Before and After Class

Bowing In is a very important part of our dojo etiquette.

It acknowledges the fact that we are privileged to be able to enjoy our training in a wonderful dojo environment where we are able to share the support and encouragement of each other during our training.

Everyone must be seated in kneeling position or seiza before Bowing In commences.

For the instructor taking the class the commands for Bowing In are:

  • Shinzen ni rei  – bow to Shinzen (symbolic centre of dojo)
  • Kaicho ni rei  – bow to Kaicho Nakamura
  • Hanshi ni rei  – bow to Hanshi Renzie Hanham and Hanshi Andy Barber
  • Sei Shihan Ben ni rei – bow to Sei Shihan Ben Otang
  • Kyoshi Ken ni rei  – bow to Kyoshi Ken Szeto
  • Sensei ni rei – bow to Sensei 

All students must acknowledge each command with a loud “Osu” as they bow

After these commands are completed the instructor taking the class will ask a kyu grade student (usually the highest graded kyu grade in attendance) to Bow In on behalf of all students by identifying the particular student by calling out their name.

For the kyu grade student asked to Bow In on behalf of all students:

The kyu grade student acknowledges the instructor taking the class with:

  • “Osu” Sensei or Senpai

then progresses with the following commands:

  • Mokuso  – close your eyes (all students)

After a short period in mokuso the instructor taking the class will clap his hands loudly, upon which the selected kyu grade student will continue with the following commands:

  • Mokuso yame  – open your eyes (all students)

A series of bows must then be completed, firstly for the instructor taking the class and then for each individual assistant instructor that is present one at a time. The first name of each instructor present must be included with each command.

For example:

  • Kyoshi Ken ni rei – bow to Kyoshi Ken (instructor taking the class)
  • Senpai XXX ni rei – bow to Senpai XXX (assistant instructor present for the class)
  • Otagai ni rei  – bow to each other


What happens when senior Seido Black Belts visit our dojo?

Sometimes higher ranking black belts from within the Seido Juku system may visit and/or train with us from time to time. On these occasions we must show our respect to them by acknowledging their attendance and changing the order of the Bow In.

The instructor taking the class must introduce himself/herself, the assistant instructors and the students present before beginning the class.

Senior kyu grade students must be aware of their attendance for the class, know their names and be prepared for the change in order for the Bow In.

For example:

Should Hanshi’s, Shuseki Shihan’s, Jun Shihan’s, Kyoshi’s or Sensei’s visit our dojo to train with us or supervise a senior grading they will be invited by the instructor taking the class to Bow in the class

For the kyu grade student asked to complete the Bow In on behalf of all students they must follow the following commands and steps:

When asked to complete the Bow In on behalf of all students the asked kyu grade student must acknowledge their selection with:

“Osu” Hanshi, Shuseki Shihan, Jun Shihan, Kyoshi or Sensei depending upon who is present and then follow on with the usual Bow In commands

  • Mokuso  – close your eyes (all students)
  • Mokuso yame  – open your eyes (all students)
  • Hanshi (first name) ni rei  – bow to Hanshi (if present)
  • Shuseki Shihan (first name) ni rei – bow to Shuseki Shihan (if present)
  • Jun Shihan (first name) ni rei  – bow to Jun Shihan (if present)
  • Kyoshi (first name) ni rei  – bow to Kysohi (if present)
  • Sensei (first name) ni rei  – bow to Sensei (if present)
  • Senpai (first name) ni rei  – bow to each Senpai that is present
  • Otagai ni rei  – bow to each other

What happens when senior ranking visitors from other styles visit our dojo?

The instructor taking the class must introduce himself/herself, the assistant instructors and the students to the visitor before beginning the class.

The visitor is invited to line up with the black belts according to the black belt rank held in their particular style. As a visitor they must be guided to line up at the end of the black belt line that would be equivalent to their given rank.

If the visitor is a higher rank than the instructor taking the class they must be guided to line up to the left of but in line with the instructor taking the class.

The instructor taking the class then commences the Bow In as normal.

The kyu grade student asked to complete the Bow In on behalf of all students must be aware of the visitor, their name and their position in the black belt line up.

The kyu grade student asked to complete the Bow In must include the visitor in the commands for bowing in before and after the class.


4. General Class Etiquette

  • If you cannot train for the whole duration of the class, then arrange with the instructor of that class to be excused at the requested time. The instructor then will ask you to leave the class at an appropriate time so that you do not disrupt the class when doing so.
  • No talking in class unless asked. It is a sign of respect that you listen to the instructor taking the class.
  • When moving to your place during the class always go around the class, never cut through the middle of a line
  • When told to partner up always partner your senior grade first. If they have a partner (i.e their senior grade) then partner your nearest junior grade.
  • When in partners the junior partner should always be the one to collect and return the equipment e.g. punching bags.
  • When joining or leaving your partner always greet and shake hands as a way of thanking them for the opportunity in working out together.
  • When told to sit down in class sit seiza unless told to sit relaxed.
  • When addressed in class personally (this includes being corrected) acknowledge that you have heard by answering “Osu Sensei or Senpai”. This is also a way of appreciating the fact that your instructor has taken interest in seeing that you do the techniques properly. There is nothing worse than being ignored in class, especially when you have been doing the techniques incorrectly.
  • When told to line up, do so quickly and in order of grade. Always ensure that lines are straight in class.


5. Being late to Class

  • Always endeavour to be at class on time, it disrupts the class when someone is late. However, there are times when being late is unavoidable for genuine reasons so being late to class is better than not being there at all.
  • If you are late, get changed and sit in seiza at the back of the dojo floor. Ensure that you are facing away from the shinzen but that your back is not facing the shinzen and wait to be acknowledged to join the class by the instructor.
  • When the instructor acknowledges you to join the class, answer by saying “Osu Sensei or Senpai”. Sometimes, you are told to do a few press ups before you join the class. This is done as a way of saying to the rest of the class “I’m sorry I’m late but I’m here to train hard with you”.
  • When joining in, go to your normal place in the line up order.


6. Keeping the Dojo Clean and Tidy

  • Dojo comes from a word meaning “place of enlightenment”. We respect this place by keeping it clean and tidy.
  • All equipment and gear should be removed from the dojo floor after the class and put away.
  • The dojo includes the changing rooms the toilets and any social areas. These should be kept clean and tidy at all times.
  • The dojo floor is wiped with rags after every class. It is the responsibility of the senior kyu grade in the class to start the cleaning of the floor.
  • If you see a senior doing any cleaning etc offer to help or do the work for them.


7. Tidying up your Gi

  • If you find it necessary to tidy up your Gi, bow and go down onto your left knee and ensure that you are facing away from the Shinzen but that your back is not towards the Shinzen.


8. Personal Etiquette

  • Always keep your Gi clean and tidy. Repair any rips or tears.
  • No jewellery is to be worn during class as it may injure yourself or another person.
  • Fingernails and toe-nails should always be kept short.


9. Sparring Etiquette

Sparring gear consists of:

  • Head guard
  • Gloves
  • Mouth Guard
  • Groin Guard
  • Footpads (toes must be covered)
  • Chest Protector for women
  • When putting your sparring gear on, do so as quickly and quietly as possible then return to the dojo floor lining up in one straight line in order of grade. You should have on all the correct sparring gear before walking on to the dojo floor.
  • If you do not have on all the correct sparring gear then you should try to borrow some, failing that you must advise the instructor who has the discretion to excuse you from the session or allocate an alternative form of training.
  • When told to partner up always turn to your senior first.
  • When joining or leaving your partner always greet and shake hands to acknowledge their help during that session.
  • In a sparring situation the senior grade must adjust their level of sparring to suit their partner. Dojo sparring is not about who is the best. Instead, it is an opportunity to exchange techniques so that everyone can learn and develop.
  • Should you be tagged with an effective technique it is courtesy to acknowledge your partner with “Osu, mita” and likewise if you are the one to make the tag, you must also show courtesy.
  • Another important aspect of sparring etiquette is that you should participate in the class prior to sparring rather than just turning up just for sparring.
  • If this is not possible you should ask permission from the instructor to join in.


10. Social Etiquette

  • Just as etiquette plays an important part of our training, it is equally important outside the dojo. The principles and values of Seido Karate such as love, respect, obedience, patience and courtesy are all completely transferable.
  • Seido Karate is known to be a strict traditional Japanese style and that is why we practise these traditions today.
  • An example of this when offering or receiving any object. This could be a weapon or in a more social environment a glass. It is Japanese tradition to offer or accept using two hands which demonstrates trust and openness.
  • When addressing a Black Belt outside the dojo you should call them Senpai, Sensei, Kyoshi, Jun Shihan, Shuseki Shihan or Hanshi unless otherwise told by that person to refer to them on a first name basis.
  • If you notice one of the seniors waiting in a queue behind you, offer to get their order.
  • When sitting for a meal or having drinks, it is common courtesy to wait until Kaicho, Shihan or your head instructor (who ever is present at the time), has started first.


11. Absence from the dojo

  • If you are unable to train for a period of time you should let the instructor know so that he/she is not left wondering if there is a problem.
  • Senior students should make an effort to have your apologies passed on if unable to make your regular class.
  • If you stop training for six months or more, it is a sign of courtesy to wear a white belt upon your return. You should first contact your senior instructor by telephone and arrange to return to the dojo. In some circumstances the student may not be required to wear a white belt. Your instructor will advise you on the protocol and inform you when you may wear your coloured belt(s) again
  • Learning and practising etiquette inside and outside the dojo is as important as the syllabus you learn, therefore it should be reviewed on a regular basis.


If you are unsure about any part of the dojo etiquette rules, please ask a black belt to explain them to you.
Ken Szeto
Seido Karate Lower Hutt Dojo

  • Station Village Complex
    Upstairs Studio (next to Laughalots Play Land)
    499 Hutt Road
    Lower Hutt
    Ken Szeto, Instructor