The protocols of our class follow those of the Japan
Karate Association (JKA) and are deri ved from the
practices of traditional karate training. Below is an
overview of the protocols. Please note that this list
is not necessarily comprehensive and we follow all of
the rules as es tablished by the JKA.
Bow Each Time You Enter and Exit the
- Before entering the dojo, we take our shoes off.
Upon entering, one must be ready for class (thus, for
example, the belt must be put on and all jewelry
removed, including watches, necklaces, rings, and
earrings, prior to entering the dojo). Removal of
jewelry is for safety purposes.
- Any time we enter or leave the dojo, we bow
toward shomen, as a sign of respect for everything
that the dojo means to us. Shomen is the
front wall of the room; sho means
“true” and men means
“face”. In traditional dojos, the
kamiza (miniature Shinto shrine),
hata (club’s flag), and dojo
kun are placed at shomen, thus making it into a
somewhat sacred area. Bowing is a Japanese custom for
displaying respect, humility, and lack of arrogance.
It is not a matter of “bowing down” to a
superior; as you notice, black belts bow to lower
belts and vice versa.
Sweeping the Floors Before Each
- Considering that we train barefoot, the floor of
the dojo must be cleaned prior to class. This is a
task fulfilled by all members of the dojo before
class. Usually, we line up in rank order and sweep.
If you come in late and you see that higher-ranking
dojo members are sweeping, you should take the broom
from a higher-ranking club member and sweep.
- When class begins, we line up shoulder to
shoulder in rank order, i.e. with higher ranks to the
left (furthest from the main door), lower ranks to
the right (closest to the main door). The reason is
that in Japanese society, the person of highest rank
always sits furthest away from the door (the place of
greatest safety) and the person of lowest rank sits
closest to the door. Actually, at the Hand Chapel, we
line up with higher ranks to the right and lower
ranks to the left, but at the Fitness Center, we line
up with higher ranks to the left and lower ranks to
- Seiza (“kneel down”):
done in rank order, starting with the higher
- Mokuso (“meditate”): we
take one minute to empty our minds and prepare
for maximum concentration during class.
Meditation should be done with eyes closed, body
relaxed, and exclusive concentration on your
- Mokuso yame (“stop
meditating”): gently return the focus from
your inner self back to the environment you are
- Shomen ni rei (“bow to
shomen”): we bow as a sign of respect and
thanks to the founder of Shotokan and the
ancestors. This tradition has its roots in Shinto
religion. We all bow down at the same time, but
we come up in a wave. Come up only when you see
the person on your left come up. Never come up
before Sensei (it is considered rude to come up
before the Chief Instructor comes up). Because
Sensei has bad knees, we come up quickly so that
we are not sitting in the seiza position for too
- Sensei ni rei (“bow to
sensei”): the entire class bows to the
teacher. If sensei is not present, the command
will be senpai ni rei, thus bowing to
the leader of that day’s class.
- Otagai ni rei (“bow to the
others”): we all symbolically bow to each
other by bowing forward. This is a way of giving
thanks to everyone for being present and helping
us learn karate.
- After we bow, Sensei will instruct us to stand up
and form a circle, for warmups. Please go to the
edges of the room (even if there are only a few
people). Sensei prefers a big circle, not a small
circle, during warmups.
- Sometimes we just do standing bows. Sensei will
simply turn around to face the front of the room. He
will call out Shomeni-rei. We will all bow from a
standing position (heels together feet out, hands
straight at our sides) together and come up together
(after Sensei comes out). Sensei then will turn to
face us and will say "Rei" (which simply means
"bow"). We will then all bow at the same time and
come up at the same time (again, not until after
Sensei comes up first).
If You Arrive Late to Class
- If you arrive after class has begun, warm up and
stretch on your own prior to entering the dojo. When
you enter the dojo, bow upon entry, put your things
down, then sit in seiza position and do your own
mokuso. Once you have finished
meditating, open your eyes and look towards Sensei
(staying in seiza position). Wait for Sensei’s
permission to join the class. When he motions you
into the class, bow and say “osu,” then
if the class has finished group warm-ups, go to the
end of the line to the right of the beginners,
regardless of rank. If the class is still doing
warm-ups, then just join the circle wherever there is
room (usually where others of your rank are warming
up) and when the class lines up, take your usual
Other Rules to Follow
- During class, all karateka should concentrate on
what is being taught and on practice, avoiding
- One should not leave the dojo floor unless
something is wrong (e.g., you are injured, you feel
like throwing up, etc.). It is improper to take
a break whenever you are simply tired or thirsty and
then rejoin the class. You should only leave
the dojo floor if you are seriously ill.
- If you are sitting and watching class, do not
lean against the back wall as that is very rude.
- Do not enter or exit the dojo from the side door.
Only use the main door to enter and exit the
If You Need to Leave the Dojo During Class
(or if you need to leave early)
- If you need to leave the dojo during class, bow
out after the set, then stand in front of the exit
door with feet together, heels together, toes pointed
out and hands at your side. Look directly at
Sensei. When Sensei motions for you to leave,
bow and say “osu,” then exit the
- If you need to re-enter during class, please bow
and say “osu” upon entering the dojo,
then sit in seiza position and look at Sensei.
This will signal to Sensei that you wish permission
to rejoin the class. If you simply wish to
watch the rest of the class, then after sitting in
seiza position, you may cross your legs and sit
comfortably cross-legged. It is improper to
simply rejoin the class without sitting in seiza
position and getting Sensei's approval to re-enter
End of Class (strengthening
- When class is over, Sensei will say "make a
circle." He will then ask one of the students to lead
a series of strengthening exercises (shikodachi,
knuckle pushups, leg raises, mountain climbers, and
hip switches) and warmdown exercises. Please note
that of the 5 strengthening exercises, the first,
shikodachi, exercise is done slowly (imagine youself
as a sumo wrestler trying to strengthen your leg
muscles). All of the other exercises (knuckle
pushups, leg raises, etc.) are done quickly to
improve our fast muscles.
Lining Up at the End of Class (Dojo
- After warmdowns, Sensei will say “line
up.” We’ll line up again in rank
order and do seiza and mokuso. Then the highest
ranking student will recite the dojo kun
(“rules of the dojo”). These are a set of
five rules that were passed down from the masters of
Okinawan karate, and are an affirmation of things we
believe in and must keep in mind at all time.
After the senior student says each precept, the rest
of the class should repeat the precept loudly.
Seek perfection of character
Refrain from violent behavior
- After the dojo kun, we do the three bows: to
shomen, sensei or senpai, and otagai. After that we
stand up. Upon the senior student’s
direction, we’ll turn to face the (exit) door,
and bow to Sensei. After that, we’ll face
front and class will be over.
- Everyone should stay for announcements and
roll. Please say “osu” loudly when
your name is called to show good spirit.
- The traditional karate uniform is the dogi or gi.
Members are expected to train in white karate gis that
are clean and in good condition (i.e. not torn, etc.)
Beginners may train in workout clothes when they start,
but should obtain a white karate gi shortly after they
decide to join the club.
- All must wear a white karate gi
when taking a kyu or dan examination. Brown and black
belts should have at least one karate gi with the
official JKA patch on it since this is required if you
participate in tournaments, dan examinations, and other
official JKA events. No other organization or dojo's
patch should appear on the karate gi.
- No shoes are allowed in the dojo. Shoes should be
removed before entering the dojo floor.
- All jewelry should be removed before the start of
training. This is for safety reasons. Jewelry includes
necklaces, rings, earrings, bracelets, and watches.
- Men should not wear undershirts beneath the gi.
Women should wear a sports bra under their gi and may
also wear a t-shirt or similar garment under their