Dojo & Budo Etiquette

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“The Martial Way begins and ends with courtesy”

Sosai Mas Oyama


Bowing is a sign of courtesy rather than worship. It indicates humility or lack of arrogance. There is no religious significance in bowing or in any of the other movements in Shidokan.

When to Bow

Bows are required when entering or exiting the dojo (facing the front of the dojo), at the beginning and end of class, before and after engaging in any partner work (including sparring), before and after performing a series, and when greeting the instructor. Bows may also be required at other times indicated by the instructor. Unless specified by the instructor, a standing bow is usually sufficient.

Bowing to a Partner

When bowing to a partner, maintain all of the rules indicated above. It is polite for the lower-ranking person to hold their bow until the higher ranking student returns to the upright position.

Using “Osu”

When entering the dojo you may say “Osu”. When beginning an exercise with a new partner or bowing to the instructor before class.When finishing an exercise with a partner. When bowing before and after performing a series. When leaving the dojo or bowing to the instructor after class.


Some instructors allow their students to ask questions during class while others do not. I personally encourage anybody to ask questions. However, it is important to think about your question before you ask it. Asking a question that was answered two minutes earlier will try the patience of the instructor. It is also important to ask questions that are appropriate to your rank. Generally, limit your technical questions to subjects that you have been introduced to previously. During class, please limit the questions to the topic being taught or discussed in that particular class. You may ask questions on any topic you like before or after class. As a final point, if you have a question, ask the instructor directly.

Health Care

Personal cleanliness is essential. Finger and toenails must be clipped short. People with long hair should tie it back so that it does to interfere with training (i.e. getting in your face or the face of others). Any injuries or medical conditions you are suffering from that may have an impact on your karate training should be reported to the instructor. If you are cut or injured during class, stop and immediately inform the instructor of the injury. Although major injuries are extremely rare, minor injuries (cuts, bruises, sprains, pulled muscles, etc.) do occur. It is important to notify the instructor of any injury sustained in class, no matter how small. All students are encouraged to check with their doctor prior to enrollment.

The Uniform

Appropriate dress for beginners is a white/black pair sweat pants and a white/black T-shirt. There should be no logos or buttons on either article of clothing.

Students ranked white belt (6th kyu) or higher wear a Shidokan uniform. The uniform may be purchased from the dojo. The uniform should fit properly. The jacket, when tightened around the waist with the belt, must cover the hips, but not extend past the middle of the thigh. Women may wear a plain white T-shirt underneath the jacket. The pants must be long enough to cover at least two-thirds of the shin. However, the pant legs should not extend past the ankles. The pant legs may not be rolled up (but maybe hemmed for children).

All students who wear a uniform must also wear a belt. The belt should be about 4cm wide and should be a length sufficient to allow approximately 16 to 20cm free on each side of the knot. Uniforms must be kept clean and in a good state of repair at all times.

Other Items

All jewelry must be removed before class. Metallic clips of any kind are prohibited. Those students who tie their hair back should do so using a non-metallic hair clip or hair slide. If you must wear a bandage, use a non-metallic clip. Glasses may be worn during class. However, during any free sparring exercises, glasses are usually removed. Soft contact lenses may be worn at the student’s own responsibility.


Students should make every effort to attend all scheduled classes. If you will be missing a class, need to leave class early, or plan to stop training altogether, please let the instructor know in advance. Informing the instructor of these things is not required, but will be appreciated. Students will be informed of class start times in advance. Please be on time. In the event that you are late (due to work, flat tire, etc.) the correct procedure is to bow in as you normally would and then kneel near the entrance (please do not kneel directly in front of the entrance). Sit quietly and wait until the instructor acknowledges you. At that time, quickly get up and join the group. If the group is lined up in order of rank, join at the end of the line (at the end of class, take your proper position inline).


At all times during training, you should maintain a serious attitude. The moment class begins your mind should be on learning karate and improving your technique. We expect that you give us one hundred percent of your energy during class, and we, in turn, will give you one hundred percent of our energy during class. Pay attention to what the instructor is saying. If you do not understand, it is all right to ask for clarification. There is no place in the club for swearing or loud talking. Save the jokes for after class. As in any classroom, only one person should be speaking at a time. All other students should be paying attention. It is bad manners to talk while someone else is speaking. It is also impolite to visibly display that you are bored. Occasionally, everyone gets bored. However, it is not acceptable to roll your eyes, groan, etc. Be polite. If you want people to listen to your comments, you need to listen to theirs. Another general rule is that you should not make overt displays of how tired you are, no matter how tired you are. Again, rolling your eyes, groaning, panting, etc. is not permitted. In order to succeed in karate, you must work past your exhaustion. However, if you simply cannot continue, bow, step out of the way of others and kneel. Sometimes people are injured and may not be able to perform certain techniques. That too is acceptable. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.


It is okay to criticize. Shidokan is not perfect and neither are the instructors who teach it. There are flaws. Kibo-Tae can be improved and so can the teaching methods. However, the only criticism that is accepted in the club is constructive criticism. Disagreeing with the instructor or other students is okay if it is done in an intelligent manner. We do not expect you to regurgitate everything we say and do as if you were a robot. Think for yourself. Remember though, if you criticize something, be prepared to back it up with evidence. Criticizing something you know nothing about is dangerous. In other words, if you are going to criticize, make sure you know what you’re talking about and you are capable of defending your position.


Kancho: Head Shidokan

Shihan: International Instructor – 4th, 5th and 6th Dan Black Belts.

Sensei: Teacher / Assistant Instructor – 1st, 2nd and 3rd Dan Black Belt, Title is by award and teacher certification or letter, not by rank alone.

Sempai: Senior Student &/or Teachers Assistant – Junior Black Belt or 1st or 2nd Dan Black Belt who did not do teacher training

Uchi Deshi: Personal Student


Remaining courteous at all times is one of the keys of training in a Shidokan club. It is important that common courtesy is displayed between student and student and also between student and teacher (both ways). Remember that you do not demand respect, you must earn it. Actions speak louder than words on this point. Treat everyone, whether you outrank them or not, as you would wish to be treated.


Fees will be paid prior to receiving any instruction. Generally, fees are due on the first class of a new session. However, we do not wish to turn any student away because of financial limitations. If you are having financial difficulties, talk to the instructor about an alternative payment schedule.


All classes are not “full-contact.” This, however, does not mean that there is no contact between the participants. There will be contact when one student blocks another students attack. However, this contact must always be controlled and limited to the areas specified by the instructor. Under no circumstances will excessive contact be permitted other than to block an attack. Contact to the joints, instep, back, throat, neck, face, head, groin, chest, abdomen, and ribs must be done in a controlled manner. It is extremely important that you learn to control your distance. Your safety and your partner’s safety depend on it.

Food and Drink

No alcohol is to be taken before class. Eating food, candy, or chewing gum is not permitted in the club. These rules are easy. Follow them.

Terminology and Counting

Both English and Japanese words might be used in the club. Whatever language you chose to use, ensure that your count is short, sharp, and spirited.

Bullies need not Apply

Under no circumstances will any Shidokan student provoke violence outside of the club. Shidokan techniques taught in class is to be used only in self-defense or other exceptional circumstances.


Sparring will only occur under the supervision of a qualified instructor. Unless otherwise indicated by the instructor, you do not have permission to spar on your own in the club. You must also obtain permission to compete in any tournaments, clinics, seminars, or examinations. You do not require permission to participate in any event not sanctioned by Shidokan. However, it is strongly recommended that you discuss any desire to participate in another organizations event with your instructor. If you wish to attend another club, it is your decision. You do not require permission from the instructor to do this. Membership in a specific club does not preclude any other memberships. However, informing the instructor of your decision will be appreciated.


Failure to comply with the rules of the club will result in suspensions and/or loss of privileges. The rules are intended to protect you, your fellow students, and your instructors.

General Comments

No two clubs are exactly alike. Some may do things very similar to what we do, while others will do things completely differently. When in doubt, act as if you were in a University classroom. Be polite and treat others courteously.

The following are rules and etiquette that are to be adhered to by all instructors and students:

  • When entering the club, training area or fighting area you are to bow and say “Osu”. This is to show respect to these areas and your instructor.
  • Students are to keep quiet and must not run around in the club.
  • Equipment must not be used without the supervision of the instructor, to prevent injury.
  • No shoes are allowed on the mat or training area.
  • When the class has started, students are to keep quiet, execute only the techniques shown, listen and standstill when a technique is being demonstrated and answer “Osu” if they understand.
  • The bathroom is to be visited before or after class and not during class.
  • The necessary respect must at all times be shown to senior grades.
  • Excuse in writing is to be made to the instructor, should a student not be able to attend a class. The instructor must file this for further reference.
  • Make sure suits are clean and ironed, feet clean and nails short.
  • Training times must be strictly adhered to and students who are late are to be punished as such.
  • No foul language or jewelry is to be allowed in the school. Use words that build up others. No cursing or put-downs. No horseplay. Self-control is to be used at all times.
  • Queries and suggestions are to be discussed with the instructor before or after class.
  • No jewelry is to be worn during class. Long hair must be neatly tied back. Long fingernails should be trimmed, as this is a safety issue.
  • Help to keep the club clean and in good repair.
  • All students must keep the Club dressing rooms and bathrooms clean.
  • Wear a white T-shirt under the GI (women only).
  • Wear the belt of your earned rank.
  • Avoid chewing gum or any other form of food in the mouth while on the mats.
  • Do not participate in idle talk while in the training area.
  • Remain quiet and attentive when not practicing.
  • Be courteous and helpful to all other students at all times.
  • Use the correct forms of standing and kneeling bow.
  • Sit in an acceptable manner while on the mat.
  • Obey the instructions of your instructors and address them in an appropriate manner.
  • Accept instruction from an authorized instructor only.
  • Practice only these techniques that are appropriate to your age, aptitude and ability and that of your partners.
  • Seek to practice with higher ranking opponents.
  • Engage in competition only when authorized by the instructor.
  • Follow the rules of the contest.
  • Respect the referee’s, evaluators, and sensei’s at all times.
  • Obey the Club rules relating to the first-aid treatment of injuries.
  • Absent or tardy from a class: a phone call and an explanation is necessary. Members going on vacation, taking a leave of absence, etc., are responsible for making timely payments. There will be no refund for classes missed.
  • If at any time you are notified of a missing payment or balance due it is your responsibility to remit payment.
  • Students must sign in before each group and/or private class.
  • Remove outdoor shoes before entering the Club.
  • When Kancho enters the Club, all students should stop what they are doing and come to attention in the front position. The highest-ranking student in the Club then says, “Bow to Kanco” (Kancho Ni Rei).
  • No one is allowed to train in the Club while a private lesson is in session unless permission is given by the Sensei.

“The ultimate aim of the art of Shidokan Karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.”

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