The protocol we follow during our class is an expression of our attempt to uphold Japanese tradition in our karate training.

Bow Each Time You Enter and Exit the Dojo

  • Before entering the dojo, we take our shoes off. Upon entering, one must be ready for class. 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.
  • Anytime 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.

Lining Up

  • 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. The highest ranking student (sempai) will then issue the following commands:
  1. Seiza (“kneel down”): done in rank order, starting with the higher ranks first.
  2. Mokuso (“meditate”): we take a moment to empty our minds and prepare for maximum concentration during class. Meditation should be done with eyes closed, back straight, body relaxed, and exclusive concentration on your breathing.
  3. Mokuso yame (“stop meditating”): gently return the focus from your inner self back to the environment you are in.
  4. 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).
  5. Sensei ni rei (“bow to sensei”): the entire class bows to the teacher. If no sensei is present, the command will be senpai ni rei, thus bowing to the leader of that day’s class.
  • After we bow, Sensei will instruct us to stand and line up for warmups. Be sure to give yourself enough room to stretch and move without hitting others.
  • Sometimes we just do standing bows. Sensei will simply turn around to face the front of the room. He or a senior student 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

Every effort should be made to be on time as it is considered rude to come late. However, 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 wherever there is room (usually where others of your rank are warming up) and when the class lines up, take your usual place. If the class is already in progress, after the Sensei motions you to join, regardless of rank, you join in the most junior position of the class. It will be only once the class begins a completely new exercise or training will you fit in according to your actual rank.

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, notify Sensei prior to class. At the appropriate time, bow out after the set. 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 dojo.

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 the class.

Other Rules to Follow

  • During class, all karateka should concentrate on what is being taught and on practice, avoiding distractions.
  • 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 or are excused by Sensei.
  • If you are sitting and watching class, do not lean against the back wall and do not talk 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 dojo.

Lining Up at the End of Class “Seiretsu” and reciting the Dojo Kun

After warm downs, Sensei will say “line up.” Line up again in rank order. The senior student will say seiza and mokuso. Students will then 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 (Hitotsu, Jinkaku kansei ni tsutomuru koto)
    • Jinkaku 人格 – one’s character, self
    • Kansei  完成– to perfect, complete
    • Tsutomuru  努むる– to try, make an effort
  • Be faithful (Hitotsu, Makoto no michi o mamoru koto)
    • Makoto 誠 – sincerity, honesty, integrity
    • Michi 道- path, road
    • Mamoru  守る– to protect, uphold
  • Endeavor (to excel) (Hitotsu, Doryoku no seishin o yashinau koto)
    • Doryoku  努力– effort, endeavor
    • Seishin 精神 – will power, discipline, spirit
    • Yashinau  養う– Feeding, cultivate, nurture
  • Respect others (Hitotsu, Reigi o omonnzuru koto)
    • Reigi  礼儀– courtesy, etiquette, good manners
    • Omonzuru  重んじる– to value, respect, honor
  • Refrain from violent behavior (Hitotsu, Kekki no yu o imashimuru koto)
    • Kekki  血気– literal meaning is “youthful ardor” but in this case, it means hot temper or overly excited emotions (especially anger)
    • Yu  勇– courage, bravely
    • Imashimuru  戒むる– to admonish

After the dojo kun, we do two bows: first to shomen, and then to sensei. When instructed, all students will then stand and face the senior student. The senior student will first face Sensei and thank him for class and will then turn toward the students and say, “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. All students will bow and class will be over.

If there are additional announcements, everyone should stay for announcements and roll. Please say “osu” loudly when your name is called to show good spirit.


  • A properly tied belt must be worn at all times during class. Students who forget their belt may participate in class with a white belt or no belt, but they lose all privileges of their rank for that class period.
  • Female members should wear a blank white tee shirt under their uniform.
  • Belts and karate-gi jackets are not to be worn in public except for at officially sanctioned events.
  • Always wear a clean uniform.
  • Pay careful attention to personal hygiene. Keep fingernails and toenails trimmed. Feet may need to be washed before class and should always be washed after class. Long hair must be tied back.


  • No jewelry of any kind shall be worn. It can cause injury.
  • There shall be no eating, drinking, or gum chewing in class.
  •  There will be no horseplay or profanity allowed in the dojo any time.
  • When participating in sparring, all students must wear a protective hand gear.
  • Bring to the attention of the instructor any illness or injury that occurs during the class, or that occurred outside of class and may affect your performance in class.
  • Students will notify an instructor of any medications they may be taking that may impair their physical or mental capabilities.
  • Students will not practice any contact techniques or sparring in the dojo before or after class unless an instructor is present and has given permission.
  • It is essential to warm up and stretch before practicing any karate techniques to avoid injuries.
  • Young students MUST stay in Dojo once they get dropped off for a class.
  • Young students MUST be accompanied by his/her guardian when using bathroom during the class.