Dojo Etiquette

This page is meant as a guideline for proper etiquette within the dojo. Information will be added as it becomes available. If you have questions or would like to see specific topics added to this list, please bring to the attention of your instructor. Domo arigato.


  • It is proper to bow when entering or leaving the dojo, asking a question, or addressing a black belt.
  • When bowing to a higher rank, lower your eyes. When bowing to a lower rank, keep your eyes up. When bowing to someone of the same rank as yourself… you’re on your own on that one!
  • Always bow before and after working with a partner, which shows proper courtesy and respect to the person with whom you are working. We also bow before and after performing a kata, to show respect to the kata. (Kyoshi wasn’t kidding when he said that your kata should be like an old, dear friend.)
  • In kumite, always bow before and after each match. In this case, always keep your eyes on your partner, regardless of rank.
  • When someone has been promoted, congratulate them by first bowing, then by shaking their hand.

Entering the Dojo

  • Always bow when entering and leaving the dojo. In both cases, this is a standing bow and is done while facing into the dojo. It is most proper to lower your eyes when performing this bow.
  • Every part of a karate class is important – right down to the opening meditation and bows. It is therefore important to be on time for class, so that you don’t miss anything.
  • If you are late for class, stand quietly at attention and wait to be invited to join the class. (In our dojo, you will need to open the door slightly so that the instructor will see you there.)

Class Protocols

  • If you are asking or answering a question, it is proper to raise your hand and wait to be acknowledged. This is not necessary outside of class, or if the class is very small (two or three students).
  • If you are asking a question, it is proper to bow first. Even more courteous would be to say, “Onegai shimasu” as you bow.
  • It is not polite to ask what we will do during class. The topics covered in class are the instructor’s choice – he or she will let you know when it is appropriate.
  • If you need to leave the dojo during class, it is most proper to ask permission first. During hot and humid weather, or particularly intense workouts, the instructor may say something to the effect of, “If you need to get a drink during class, go right ahead.” In this case, it is still courteous to check in before stepping off the floor.

Gi and Obi Etiquette

  • When adjusting your gi (uniform) or obi (belt), face the rear of the dojo.
  • Unless you are helping someone to tie their belt, do not handle another person’s obi.
  • Keep your gi neat and clean – remember that your appearance reflects on the dojo as a whole.
  • Wash your gi, but don’t wash your belt. Your belt is a reflection of all of the dedication and hard work that went into earning it.


  • Never bring money into the dojo. It is considered bad etiquette to do so. Instead, any tuition payments, testing fees, etc., should always be brought to the office.
  • Please note that students will not be allowed to participate in rank tests if any fees are owed.


  • Never ask when you will receive your next rank. Your instructor will invite you to participate in a rank test when you are ready. Asking for rank implies that you do not trust the instructor’s judgment.
  • Be on time for your test. Being invited to test for your next rank is an opportunity, given to you by your instructor, to display the fruits of your hard work and dedication. Being late to a test implies that you do not value this opportunity. In that case, you may not be allowed to participate in the test.
  • Testing is a formal occasion when you will be given the opportunity to display your knowledge of the martial arts. Your gi should be clean and neat, preferably pressed, and you should be on your best etiquette. Remember that you are there to represent the very best qualities of martial artists.