American Shotokan Karate Federation
American Shotokan
Karate Federation

Dojo Etiquette

Dojo and Class Etiquette

The dojo (training studio) is any place where instruction in Karate-do is conducted. Whether this is a studio owned by the sensei (instructor), a school gym, or a basement it should always be treated with respect.

There are some basic courtesies that should be observed in the Dojo. When entering or leaving the Dojo the karateka should bow facing into the Dojo. This shows respect to the instructor, your fellow students, and your school. It is also customary to bow when you are dismissed by the sensei. In Asian culture the bow is simply a way of saluting someone you respect.

A proper bow is done by standing with your feet together and your hands resting palm down on the sides of your thighs. You then bend calmly at the waist until your fingers are just touching the tops of your knees, then straighten up again.

Class will normally start with the students lining up in order of rank; highest to lowest; left to right. The highest ranking student, called the dai sempai, will bow to the instructor and then direct the class to kneel (saiza). After everyone is kneeling the dai sempai will start a minute of meditation (mokuso). During this time the students should clear their minds of all distracting thoughts so they may better focus on the training. Then everyone will bow to the front (shomen ne rei), followed by a bow to the instructor (shomen ne sensei). This kneeling bow is performed by placing your hands on the floor in front of you and then bending at the waist until your head is nearly touching the floor.

In large classes you may also have several assistant instructors who are lined up a a 90° angle to the left of the class. When there is an instructor line the dai sempai will also instruct the class to show respect to the instructors. The command otaga ne rei will be given, at which time the students should turn 45° to face the instructor line and bow to them.

Class ends with a similar ritual, however in place of meditation the dai sempai leads the class through a recitation on the Dojo kun. Each Dojo has a set of statements that reflect the school philosophy. This philosophy should guide students not only in their practice of Karate, but also in their daily life.

Your sensei on occasion may opt to do an informal ritual to start or end the class. In the informal ritual the bows are performed standing, and meditation or recitation are omitted.