"The ultimate aim of the art of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants." -- Master Funakoshi Gichin
In traditional martial arts training, the etiquette of the dojo (training hall) is an important aspect of the practice. Etiquette makes the dojo a special place, and allows us to show love and respect to each other. It is an important way of keeping our own egos in check, and promoting good relations. You will learn the details over time and they will become natural, but here are some starting guidelines.
Bowing is a standard gesture of respect in Japan. It is not an act of subservience, and has no religious significance. A bow should never be rushed; take the time to properly acknowledge the person to whom you are bowing.
"Osu" is an abbreviated form of the Japanese phrase "oshi shinobu", which means "to have patience" or "to persevere". It can have several layers of meaning in different contexts, but in Seido it can be used to mean "yes", "I understand", "hello", "goodbye", and most importantly, "I'll try my best". (It is pronounced something like "oh-sue" without the "oo" at the end -- "oh-ss". Note that the use of "osu" is not universal across martial arts schools.)
Our space is only a dojo when we are in it. What makes it a dojo is our agreement that it is a special place. Please show respect to the space by bowing to the shinzen (symbolic front of the dojo) and saying a loud "Osu" when you enter and leave.
Do not wear shoes or outerwear (coats, etc.) on the dojo floor.
Bow and say "Osu" when you step on to or off of the dojo floor proper.
Please remember that you will be "up close and personal" with your classmates. I wish it didn't have to be said, but it does: please shower or bathe daily. (Even if you're not coming to class!) As an absolute maximum, if it has been more than 48 hours since your last shower, please shower before coming to class. Please do not be that student that no one wants to partner with because of poor personal hygiene.
Please keep your fingernails and toenails trimmed and clean. Untrimmed nails can scratch or cut your training partners.
Please wear a clean gi (uniform). The gi must be washed regularly -- if you sweat like I do, after every time it is worn. Do not use chlorine bleach, it will eat the fabric, and do not wash your obi (belt). The obi wears naturally, this is an important part of the "wabi sabi" aesthetic.
Please avoid strongly scented body care or laundry products.
Please remove all jewelry (including piercings) prior to class. This is to prevent injury to you and your training partners, as well as to preserve the proper aesthetic. (If piercing jewelry cannot be removed, place a band-aid or tape over it.)
If you arrive late for class, sit down in seiza (kneeling posture) just inside the door, in a meditative posture with your eyes closed, until acknowledged by the instructor.
If you have to leave class early, please speak with the instructor before class. Never just walk out of class.
If you come to class with an injury, or sustain one during class, you must inform your instructor.
When moving across the dojo floor, always walk behind the line of students -- do not walk in front of or cross through the line.
If you are instructed to sit during class, always sit in seiza first; if instructed to sit and relax, bow first, then change to a cross-legged posture. (If you have knee problems, you may sit with your legs crossed at all times.)
Avoid idle chatter in class. Speak only to ask a question, in reply to your instructors or seniors, or to your training partner during a partner drill. Respect your instructors by focusing your attention on them.
If you are in the room when another class is starting or ending (for example, you are waiting for your class to start while the previous one ends), sit respectfully in seiza while they perform the opening or closing bows.
If you are unable to attend class for some unusual period of time, please let your instructor know.
Addressing instructors and senior students
The instructor titles used in Seido Karate are:
- Kaicho -- the chairman of the World Seido Karate Organization, Tadashi Nakamura
- Nidaime -- the vice-chairman of the World Seido Karate Organization, Akira Nakamura
- Hanshi -- 8th degree black belt
- Suseki Shihan -- 7th degree black belt
- Sei Shihan -- 6th degree black belt (upper division)
- Jun Shihan -- 6th degree black belt (lower division)
- Kyoshi -- 5th degree black belt
- Sensei -- 4th degree black belt
- Senpai -- 3rd degree black belt, or lower
Always address and refer to instructors and black belts by their title, such as "Jun Shihan Kate", "Kyoshi Sandy", "Sensei Tom", or "Senpai David." Or just "Jun Shihan", "Kyoshi", "Sensei", or "Senpai". (Some prefer to be addressed by their last name -- e.g., "Sensei Swiss". Please follow their preference.) Always address your instructors by their title in the dojo or at dojo-related events; even outside of the dojo, only address them by name alone if invited to do so.
When you greet or say farewell to your instructor, bow and say "Osu, Jun Shihan", "Osu, Kyoshi", "Osu, Sensei", or "Osu, Senpai" as appropriate.
When an instructor or senior student gives you an instruction or corrects your technique, acknowledge it with "Osu, Jun Shihan" (or Kyoshi, Sensei, or Senpai).
You should never ask to go for promotion; your instructor will know when you are ready.