Dojo Rules

Every dojo has it’s own set of rules. The following encompasses many of the rules for dojos I have encountered during my years of training.

  1. Students will bow before entering and before leaving the dojo.
  2. Students will not walk on the workout area with shoes on. Students must wear shoes or sandals to and from the dressing rooms and the mat area.
  3. Students will behave appropriately at all times, both inside and outside the dojo.
  4. No Karate student will provoke violence or allow himself to be provoked into violence.
  5. Higher belts will aid lower belts in their training.
    Lower belts will follow the instructions of higher belts in the dojo.
  6. No alcohol or non-prescription drugs will be taken.
  7. No chewing gum or eating in the dojo while training.
  8. Students must refrain from criticizing other Martial Arts with which they are not familiar. All Martial Arts have the same basic aim within their teachings. To cultivate the individual’s mind, embody his mental culture, and above all, to perfect his character.
  9. Personal cleanliness is essential. Finger and toe nails must be kept short.
  10. Students will arrive for classes at the designated time.
  11. No rings, watches or other jewellery may be worn during classes for the safety of your partner and yourself.
  12. Karate uniforms must fit the student properly and will be kept clean and in good repair.
    (Jacket must be on unless specific training requires it to be off.)
  13. Under no circumstances will any Karate be taught by any member to any non-member.
  14. The Club Instructor and other black belts are called “Sensei”.
    In some dojo, the rule may be to address Black Belts as Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Miss. and only the chief instructor is to be addressed as “Sensei”.
  15. For dojo etiquette and mutual respect students must bow to one another.
  16. During formal classes, students should not leave the dojo without permission. It is a safety issue.
  17. During formal classes, students must be attentive to the instructors at all times. Students must not idly sit lean against the walls, or lie down on the mat.
  18. All students share in the responsibility for keeping the Dojo safe and clean.
  19. Students must remember that the teachings are safe as long as one keeps in mind the dangers and harm that can come from these teachings if not controlled.
  20. Students will maintain a serious attitude at all times. No profanity or loud talking is permitted in the dojo.
  21. There will be no sparring without permission and being under the direct supervision of a Black Belt or the Sensei.
  22. Students must approach and correct others not abiding by the Dojo rules. Anyone who violates these rules will be subject to disciplinary action as directed by the chief instructor.
  23. Visitors are welcome, but must be made aware of the dojo rules by the student.
  24. Any student using his skills outside the Dojo irresponsibly will be expelled from the dojo.    

Karatedo begins and ends with courtesy.

Karatedo wa rei ni hajimari rei ni owaru

Karatedo begins and ends with courtesy.


How do you show your courtesy and respect in your culture?

In Japanese culture, they bow. They bow a lot actually. Bowing is an ancient practice and is a sign of mutual respect and trust. Bowing in the martial arts is not showing of subservience, as it is in Western culture (i.e. bowing to royalty).

Even if you are not in Japan, being in the dōjō there many Japanese traditions, customs and rituals that are followed today. Historically they had (still have?) meanings but somewhere between then and now, we have lost the meanings and even outside of the  dōjō in modern Japanese society, some of these may not be performed any more.

Whenever or wherever you train karate, judo kung fu, kendo, jiu jitsu or any martial art, you are expected to follow certain etiquette and manners. The rules may vary from place to place , however these etiquette and manners are basically to “show respect”.

When you enter the dōjō , remember that the other people who are there too came for the same reasons as you, so you must show respect to them, to the teachers who are present and to their teachers as well.

The bow is one of the first things you learn to do in Shorinjiryu Karate.


Usually the entrance to the dōjō  (training area) is placed directly opposite to the shomen (place of honour) at the front of the dōjō . Depending on the Shorinjryu school or club, the shomen  would have a picture of our founder and the current chief instructor, flag of your country, calligraphy, and in some dōjō  a religious symbol like a crucifix or

 a Kamiza (a little shinto religious altar with flowers).
When you enter at the beginning of class you are in a position to bow. We bow before we enter the training room to the people inside the dōjō  that you will be training with. If there is nobody is inside, you must still bow. But you are not bowing to an empty dōjō , you are bowing to the spirit of those who may be away right now or who will soon be coming to the dōjō.
We bow before we step onto the mats, as part of the opening ceremony  we bow to the Shomen (place of honour), we bow to the Sensei (instructor), we bow to one another, we bow when we start to practice a kata by ourselves or to each other for a kumite or practice drill.
At the end of class, as part of the closing ceremony we bow to the Sensei and to the Shomen and one another, and again as we leave the mats and as we leave the training room.

Even outside the dōjō , when meeting a fellow student we would bow when we say hello or goodbye. If you meet your teacher or other instructor in a public place outside the dōjō you would bow.
It seems we spend a lot of time bowing, and the reason for it is because it is a symbol of respect and trust.
We were told we bow to show respect to our God, our country, our founder, our Sensei, to our training partners, and everyone who has come before.
Karate is a contact sport and our partners need to responsible for each other for each other’s safety and well being. Partners need each other to   learn and to progress.  Partners must demonstrate respect, a proper mindset, and a proper attitude when training. Bowing is your way of expressing your respect to others. After the exercise we bow thanking each other for not violating the trust and respect.
Bowing is also a form of meditation of sorts, you must have presence in bowing, you must be present in the time, in the moment. If it is done in sincerity, it is correct. If it is done absent-mindedly, it is incorrect. It is a good thing even if you have to rush to the bathroom to bow sincerely because it trains you in the right attitude and to keep your composure even in case of an emergency.


The Dojo


The dōjō is unlike any other place used for sports practice.

A dōjō (道場) is a Japanese term which literally means “place of the Way”. It is a special place (“jo”) where we study the Way (“do”). A place dedicated to not only our improvement in Karate, but the Way of life in general.


A martial arts dōjō is considered special and is well cared for by its users. Shoes are not worn in a dōjō. In many styles it is traditional to conduct a ritual cleaning (sōji) of the dōjō at the beginning and/or end of each training session. Besides the obvious hygienic benefits of regular cleaning it also serves to reinforce the fact that dōjō is supposed to be supported and managed by the student body.

Initially, dōjōs were adjunct to temples, so a respectful attitude is expected to be applied while in the dōjō.

The front of the dōjō is called the shomen. Japanese tradition holds that places, and even certain objects, should be respected. This is the case for such a place as a dōjō – and the shomen is the focal point of that respect. This is where important symbols are placed. Sometimes a kamidana is also present at the shomen. This is a shinto altar (shinto is the native religion of Japan), however, as we may not all be Japanese and have no such religious affiliation, there may be no kamidana . Instead other items of respect may be displayed.

The items at the shomen are unique to each martial art and each dōjō . Typically, a national flag may be hung or a photo of Sensei’s instructor or a scroll of the martial arts style.

The place for studying the Way requires the utmost respect. We bow when we  enter and exit the dōjō  and toward the shomen at the beginning and end of class to show our respect to the art, its history, and the contributions made by masters of the art – both past and present.

Because Karate begins and ends with respect.

Just like life.