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Dojo Etiquette

At Renseikan Dojo, we follow a traditional practice of the martial arts. These traditions are identical to those followed by many traditional martial arts dojos in Okinawa and Japan. These traditions guide us in our training and help us to achieve the necessary discipline in the practice of our martial arts. They are also important because they emphasize the respect we must give ourselves, our fellow students, our instructors and our training.

All students are expected to know and follow dojo etiquette as a part of their martial arts training. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask a senior student (Sempai).

General Etiquette

Punctuality is encouraged. Try to be ready and on the mats at least five minutes prior to the start of class.
Never attend class if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if you are feeling sick. It is important to your training that you have the ability to be completely focused during class.
If you are unable to train and are participating by observing a class, please be aware that during the course of the class you should not ask questions or answer questions, nor should you exchange comments with students who are training. If you are present during the opening bow or the closing bow, please stand and participate with a standing bow.
Please remember to pay your dues on time. This reflects your respect for and your responsibility to your training and to the dojo.

When You First Arrive

When you arrive at the dojo and enter inside please remove your shoes and your hat and place them neatly on the shelves provided. This signifies that you have left the outside world behind you as you entered the dojo.
When you meet a fellow student or an instructor, greet them by bowing - bowing is a customary practice in Okinawan and Japanese Budo.
When you enter the main training area, seek out Sensei and, if he is not busy with someone else, greet him accompanied by a bow.

Before Your Class

If there is no class in progress, you should proceed to the changeroom and change into your dogi. Student discussions are encouraged, but should always be done in low tones. Always keep your eye on the time, so that you are on the mats at least five minutes before the start of class.
If there is a class in progress, you should proceed quickly and quietly to the changeroom. Change into your dogi with a minimum of noise. Please do not hold conversations in the changeroom while another class is being conducted, so as not to interrupt other students' training. If the class is still in progress after you have changed, chairs are available along the side of the dojo so that you can watch the class quietly. Note: If you are sitting on the side when a class ends, always stand up during the ritual bowing that ends every Renseikan class, and perform a standing bow (rei) with the class. This enables you to show your respect as a student along with the other members of the class.
It is important to be on the mats five minutes before the start of your class. Take this time to prepare your mind for your training and release any outside influences or interference.

Entering Onto the Mats

You should step onto the mats with your right foot first and then your left.
At Renseikan, we always do a formal bow when we enter onto the mats for the first time of the day, and when we leave the mats for the last time of the day. To perform the formal bow: Immediately after you step onto the mats, do a standing bow (rei), which will be the start of your formal bow. Complete your formal bow by kneeling onto the mats and bowing to the front of the dojo. This bow signifies your respect for the dojo, and the training you are about to receive.
After your formal entry onto the mats, you will greet other students in a formal manner, with a standing bow (rei). You should always seek out the most senior student first. Once you have bowed to the most senior student, and time allows, greet all other students in priority according to their rank. If there is more than one senior student of the same belt, the one with the more junior rank will indicate his or her senior (sempei). If, however, after you have greeted the most senior student, there is not enoug

Beginning of Each Class

The most senior student on the mats will call students to line up (Shyugo), or will instruct another student to do so. When you hear "Shyugo", quickly stop what you are doing and line up in seiza in a straight line at the rear of the dojo facing the shinden. You will be lining up according to your rank: the person to your right should be of equal or higher rank, and the person to your left should be of equal or lower rank.
If you arrive late for your class - a practice that is not encouraged - do not act in any way that would be disruptive to Sensei or to the class. After you have changed, quickly and quietly bow onto the mats and stay kneeling in seiza until Sensei instructs you to join the class.

During the Class

Always keep your attention focused on Sensei's instruction. Listen to Sensei and to the senior black belts, and move quickly when instructed to do so.
Talking on the mats during class is considered impolite, as it interferes with your fellow students' concentration. When discussion is necessary (and this will be rare), keep your conversation brief and your voices low.
Never shout, curse or become angry while on the mats.
When Sensei is giving general instruction to the class, or if you wish to listen to an explanation given to another student during the When you receive correction or instruction from Sensei, a bow (standing bow, or rei) and an "Osu, Sensei" or "Osu, domo arigato, Sensei" is appropriate. At times, Sensei may appoint a senior student to lead your instruction, and again, an Osu and bow is appropriate when you receive correction or instruction from the senior student.
Teaching is Sensei's responsibility, and the responsibility of any student he appoints to instruct during any portion of the class. Even if you are working with a partner who is less experienced than you, you should not try to teach them. Rather, your role is to be a role model to more junior students by showing them what to do through your actions and your focus on the performance of your movements and your overall technique.
It is extremely poor etiquette to question Sensei's or a senior student's authority or technical knowledge, especially during a class. Do not interrupt Sensei or a senior student. If you are confused about something, it is always appropriate to raise your hand or approach Sensei or a senior student, and wait quietly to the side until you have his or her attention.
Always be aware of and pay attention to where you and your fellow students are while training. When doing any technique, you must always ensure that neither you nor your partner will collide or hit other students while practicing.

In partner work, the senior student is always responsible for the junior student while training.
If you need to leave the mats during training, it is proper to show your respect to Sensei, your fellow students, and your training by first asking Sensei's permission. This is also very important to maintain safety in the dojo.

Ending of Class

Sensei will always signal the end of class. You will again line up (seiretsu) in seiza at the rear of the dojo, in order of your rank.
Once Sensei leaves the mats, you will perform a kneeling bow to each of your fellow students. At this time, it is appropriate to say "Osu, thank you" or "Osu, domo arigato gozaimashita" (thank you for what you have done, in Japanese) for the training you have just finished with each other.

After Each Class

If there are any dojo-related matters needing your attention, a senior student will address students on the mats after the class ends but before anyone has left the mats.
After class, you are expected to take part in a short (five to ten minutes) traditional after-class clean-up. Often this will involve a quick wash of the mats. If you are not sure what to do, ask a senior student.
If there is no class after your class ends and you wish to practice after class, please check with Sensei first. Sometimes he may have to leave soon after the end of class.
After the after-class clean-up, you should change as quickly as possible. If another class is beginning, you should keep conversations with fellow students to a minimum until you have left the dojo, in order not to disturb the students on the mats.
While we encourage students to discuss classes and get to know each other outside of class time, try not to get involved in long discussions with other students after class. Instead, students will often arrange to meet after class somewhere in order to continue their discussions.

Social Events/Outside of the Dojo

Students of the martial arts always refer to their teacher as Sensei, regardless of the setting. It is not considered proper etiquette to call your Sensei by his or her first name even when you meet outside of the dojo.
During dojo social events, senior students are responsible for making sure Sensei and any special guests are always served first and always have something to eat and drink. Junior students are expected to assist the senior students in this responsibility by helping out whenever possible.
Kampai! It is customary to offer toasts before social events, so it is important that everyone has a drink (water or juice or pop) to toast with before drinking.
At Renseikan Dojo, our community of students is very important to us. We offer many social activities, and many of our students (and students' parents) have developed enduring friendships as a result of their training at our dojo. If you are new to the dojo and feeling a little hesitant about attending a dojo event, don't worry - come out and have fun. Getting to know your fellow students is a great way to participate in the dojo community and will enhance your training on the mats.


Parent's Guide

Benefits of Watching Your Child's Classes

At Renseikan Dojo, we encourage you to watch your child's classes on a regular basis. Children enjoy seeing their parents involved in what they do, and watching a class from time to time will signal your involvement in your child's martial arts training.

Watching the classes also provides you with an excellent way to keep up-to-date with dojo events. Notices are always posted on the bulletin boards, and Sensei often announces upcoming events or changes at the end of class. You can also check with any of the assistant instructors if you have any questions.

By staying to watch your child's class, you will also be able to monitor your child's progress. Of course, you may not know what to look for to see if he or she is doing well, but you can usually get a good idea based on the techniques of other children of similar rank. All children are different, with some children having special needs, but on the whole, you will be able to get a basic feeling as to how well your child is doing in class. You can also ask the instructors after class for more specific information.


In the martial arts, punctuality is considered a discipline. All martial arts students are expected to strive for self-discipline, regardless of age.

Punctuality in the martial arts is also a sign of respect. Punctual students signal their respect for the dojo, for Sensei, for their classmates, and for their own individual training.

The martial arts always begin and end with courtesy and respect. Parents can assist their children by making sure they arrive on time for class. Being on time means being changed and on the mats before the actual time the class starts. This is very important, as it shows respect for your child's training, as well as for his or her classmates, the dojo and the instructor.

Shoes and Hats

One of the most important lessons that martial arts training at Renseikan Dojo instills in students is the concept of respect for their own individual training, for their instructor, and for the dojo, the place in which they train. One of the first signs of this respect is the removal of shoes and hats on entering the dojo.

When you arrive at the dojo, please remove your shoes and your hat if you will be going beyond the front lobby into the dojo. If you are just dropping your child off for class, and are not planning to come into the dojo proper, there is no need to remove your shoes. However, if you intend to go into the dojo for whatever reason, even if just for a "quick word" with Sensei, you must remove your shoes.

Please also ensure that both you and your child place your shoes neatly on the shelves. Even if you are in a hurry, and it seems much easier to simply slip off your shoes and run in to ask something or do something - after all, you're only going to be a few minutes - it's important to take the extra seconds to place your shoes on the shelves. This reinforces to your child and to the other children the importance of respect for dojo rules and etiquette.

Placing shoes and hats neatly away on the shelves should be the first act students do when they arrive at the dojo. As with all of life, how we begin something is a good indication of how we will continue in the activity. Children need to see that their parents are also showing the same respect and discipline that is expected of them.

Food and Drink

No food or drinks are permitted in the dojo. Please use the front lobby if you will be eating or drinking.

Viewing the Class

Parents and spectators are asked to respect the same rules as everyone else when viewing classes. Please watch your child's class with the same quietness and respect as you would the symphony or the theatre. While we encourage all parents to watch their children's classes, children do find it disruptive if spectators are loud or otherwise distracting.

Students will need to walk from the changerooms to the mats, so please sit in the chairs provided and not on the floor where you may impede movement.

Monitoring Your Child's Progress

We encourage you to take advantage of our viewing area and watch your child in class, if not on a regular basis, then at least from time to time. While some activities discourage parents' observation during their children's classes, at Renseikan we know how important it is to children to have their parents take an interest in what they are doing. Children are proud of what they are learning, and by being there to watch the occasional class, you will help them develop their self-confidence.

Staying Current

We also recommend that you come into the dojo from time to time when you are dropping your child off for class or picking him or her up, so that you can read the notices on the board. We send home notices of important events but often they get lost somewhere between the dojo and home. We hold many dojo events, and it is important that children not feel like they have missed out on something, so we ask parents to personally check our notice boards at least once a month. We also post notices of all dojo-related events on our dojo Blog at This Blog is a complementary Web site to our main site at


Uniforms should be purchased through the dojo to ensure correct uniforms are worn and to support the dojo. This also applies to all the martial arts equipment and supplies that are purchased to be used at the dojo.
The following directions are based on wearing the dogi: The dogi (uniform) top is closed with the left over the right. The dojo crest should be sewn on over the left side (heart). Any ties should be tied up and not left loose. The dogi should be clean and neat, and free from odours. The pants should be in good repair, clean and odour free. They should be tied up tightly so they will not come down during class, nor interfere with your movements. You may have to hem the pants if they are too long after washing. After doing up the pants, the excess of the ties should not hang down below the dogi top, but should be tucked away inside the pants.

Please help your child keep his or her uniform clean and neat. A clean uniform makes children feel more confident and allows them to participate in class without self-consciousness about the way they look. If you are unsure of the proper cleaning methods for the particular brand of uniform your child is wearing, please do not hesitate to ask Sensei or an assistant black belt instructor.

Parents of younger students should also learn how to assist their children in putting their uniforms on correctly, as well as the correct way to tie the belt. All ties should be hidden from sight and not hanging down. If you are unsure of the correct way to put on your child's uniform, any of the senior students should be able to help you.

It is also important that uniforms fit properly. In our experience, a uniform that is too big will produce sloppy techniques, while a uniform that is too small will be uncomfortable and in some cases cause children to not want to go to classes. If you have any concerns about the fit of your child's uniform, please ask at the dojo.

Practicing at Home

As an additional benefit to staying to watch some of your child's classes, you will become familiar with the techniques that your child needs to master in order to progress to the next level. Your observation, as well as the descriptions in the techniques section of this manual, will help you assist your child if he or she wants to practice any of the techniques at home.

Family Training

For parents who are considering participating in a physical activity to get fit or stay fit, we encourage you to sign up for classes with your child. Training with your child is an excellent way to become involved in your child's activities. You will also become more comfortable with the techniques your child is learning, as you will be learning them yourself, and you will be able to practice together at home.

In addition to helping your child's training and supporting his or her growth in the martial arts, you will have the added benefit of learning a new set of skills yourself and getting into, or staying in, shape.


Late Students

(1) If you arrive after class has started: Change and warm up quickly in the changeroom, then proceed to the entry point of the mats. Bow onto the mats and sit in seiza. Wait for the sensei to invite you into the class. Once invited, take a position at the back of the class (regardless of your rank) and join the class.
(2) If you arrive after everyone has lined up but before the class has started: Change quickly. If the sensei is not seated on the mats, bow onto the mats and take a vacant position in the line up of students, walking behind the other students, who will have already begun their zazen. If the sensei is already on the mats, bow onto the mats and take a position behind the first person (in a second row) sitting in seiza. This way you will not disturb the formal zazen by trying to find a spot in the line.

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