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Dojo Etiquette

Dojo etiquette is probably one of the most difficult subjects to understand. New students will always question why they need to do these things like bow to someone or something, show respect to  someone they don’t know, be polite and courteous, etc, especially if they are not taught these things at home.


If the rules of etiquette are not taught correctly, or explained correctly, the student will never understand, and especially in our society today where many folks feel “I’m paying, I can do and act as I please”, they meet this thing called Dojo etiquette head on with total disregard. There are also instructors out there with egos a mile high and they feel they have the right to demand this respect. To a point that is true, and not true. Most instructors have worked very hard to get where they are and part of their training is learning humility, and gentleness, and then there are some who have missed the boat completely.


When new students come into the Dojo, we sit with them and do sort of an interview, we explain the rules, the etiquette, and the reason for these things. From that conversation they learn that I am Sensei, that I have certain expectations from them and that there are consequences for not meeting those expectations. Along the way there are usually gentle reminders about etiquette, and they learn. One can always increase the level of the reminder if folks forget or take advantage.

Written below are the rules of etiquette we follow at our Dojo.

Before entering the Dojo, put out any cigarettes, (you shouldn’t be smoking anyway), dispose of chewing gum, and turn off your radio, or ipod, and refrain from any other distracting practices which could interfere with your concentration to train. When entering the dojo, take off your hat and shoes. Visitors are expected to maintain quiet and respect during class.

When you greet a fellow student or an instructor, greet them by bowing and saying hello. This is customary in the practice of Japanese Budo, and just plain common courtesy.

When coming onto or leaving the practice floor, bow to the front of the dojo. This expresses your intent to concentrate fully on Goju training, and provides an opportunity to remind yourself to be grateful for the chance to train in Goju.


When the class is ready to begin, before the teacher comes to the front, all students should line up in a straight line. The person standing to your right should be of equal or higher rank; the person to your left, equal or lower rank.

The highest ranking student will command “Seiza” this means to formally sit. Then the student will say "Moku so." This means to close your eyes and prepare yourself mentally for class. A brief period of time is observed for quiet time. The same student will then say "Moku so yame" (open your eyes). Then the instructors will turn and face the front. The student will then say "Shomen ni taishite rei" (bow to the front). The instructors will then turn back around and the student will then say "Sensei ni taishite rei" (bow to Sensei). The Front row of students will turn and face the rest of the students and say “Otagi Ni rei”  (bow student to student).

If you arrive for class late (a practice that is not encouraged), it is proper etiquette to wait standing just off the main floor quietly, until Sensei invites you to join in. Once you enter onto the floor, you should kneel at the back of class, close your eyes and meditate for a few moments to calm your mind to prepare for class.

If you arrive late for line-up, but before Sensei has come onto the floor, you should take your place in line after the white belts so as not to disturb the class.

When Sensei is instructing the class, or if you wish to listen to an explanation given to another student in practice, you should stand quietly until spoken to. When corrected by Sensei or another senior student, bow and say "Thank you!"

During the class, any student wishing to leave the floor or to practice something other than what the class is practicing, must first ask the permission of the instructor.

Always begin and end your training with your partner by bowing to each other.

Never shout, curse, or become angry on the floor.

Talking on the floor during class is impolite and interferes with the concentration of other students. When discussion is necessary, keep it brief and quiet.

It is very poor etiquette to question a teacher's or senior's authority or technical knowledge, and especially so during a class. If you are confused about something, ask respectfully. Don't insist on your point of view.

When the class is ending, you should quickly line up quietly and wait for instruction from the senior student. The instruction will be the same as the opening ceremony.

Other important aspects of etiquette deal with more commonplace concerns. Please remember to pay your dues on time. It is easy in our enjoyment of Goju to sometimes forget our responsibilities to Goju, and to our instructors.

Dojo Kun

Dojo kun is a term literally meaning Dojo (the place of the way) Rules. They are generally posted at   the entrance to training halls or at the "front" of the dojo and outline behavior expected  and disallowed. There are variations of the kun (rules) depending on the Ryu which you practice, though most of them all have the same principle and goal for the student. Some are more subtle than other as comparing the two lists below.

Be humble and polite.
Train considering your physical strength.
Practice earnestly with creativity.
Be calm and swift.
Take care of your health.
Live a plain life.
Do not be too proud or modest.
Continue your training with patience.


The way inhalation and breathing out is hard and soft, it requires giving and taking. Goju-Ryu is a balanced style.

In karate there is no first strike.

Train a hundred times, train a thousand times! Techniques are developed only by hard work and sweat in the Dojo.
The hidden techniques come from a good heart, rein in your spirit in order to be good humans.

Flowing water competes with nothing, when you are good, humans will come to you automatically.
The tree bends itself in the wind, the bamboo defies cold weather, stability results from the combination of hard and soft.

Karate and Zen are one.

Click here for a slideshow of Reflections.





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