Dōjō manners (Reigi-sahō) are the fundamental requirements expected of every student. Observation of etiquette indicates a student’s sincerity and willingness to learn. It also signifies student’s trust and respect for himself/herself, his/her peers, Senpai and Sensei.
Karate-Dō begins and ends with courtesy and respect, not only in form, but more importantly, in the heart and mind. The word Dōjō literally means “place of the way” and it is the place where students cleanse and enrich their mind, body, and spirit. A Dōjō offers effective use only when it is filled with feelings of respect, proper attitude, and positive mutual support.
All students who have been practicing at JKA Migenkan are expected to know aspects of Dōjō manners on “For New Students” page. Additional information more relevant to Intermediate/Advance class is listed below.
These etiquette rules were not developed for JKA Migenkan but are used in traditional Karate Dōjō all over the world. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to walk in and feel at home in any Dōjō anywhere in the world.
Starting the Class
At the start of a class, Sensei will tell Senpai (in this context, the most senior student in class) to have the class lined up. After Sensei sits down in Seiza facing the front, the Senpai will say “Seiza“, and students will sit in sequence from highest rank to the lowest, keeping their knees in a straight line. There should be a distance of only one fist between each student at their knees. The Senpai will then say “Mokusō” (“close your eyes and meditate”). This is the time for everybody to put aside all the thoughts outside the Dōjō and focus on the practice. Breathe through your nose and allow the air to expand your stomach. Exhale slowly through your mouth. After a brief moment the Senpai will say “Kaimoku” (“open your eyes”). The students will bow once when the Senpai says “Shōmen ni Rei“ (“bow to the front”), and then again when the Senpai says “Sensei ni Rei” (“bow to Sensei”). After Sensei stands up, the Senpai says “Tate” (“stand up”). Students stand up sequentially by rank.
At the time of bowing to Sensei, the students say “Onegai Shimasu”, which means “Please (teach us)” and by saying it, it indicates students’ willingness and readiness of learning, i.e., “We are ready to follow your instruction and learn”. It also shows appreciation of having the Sensei to follow, and be given the opportunity to be taught.
There is a proper way to do Seiza is, to first lower your left knee to the floor, then the right. Simultaneously, pointing your toes back and sit on your feet with the soles of your feet up. Your knees should be at about shoulder width and your feet together, crossed at the balls of your feet or toes. Rest your palms on your thighs keeping fingers together pointed toward your inner thighs. Your back should be kept straight.
To bow in Seiza, place the palm of your left hand on the floor just in front of you, then the right. Your fingers should form a triangle on the floor without touching. Lower your forehead toward this triangle by bending at the waist, keeping the back straight and without touching the ground. Then, straighten up your upper body bringing the right hand back to the thigh, then the left.
Finishing the class
The similar process as the start of class follows except for one part. During a brief moment of meditation (Mokusō), students focus on calming the mind and release any tension from the practice. After the meditation (Kaimoku), the students repeat the Dōjō Kun (the Dōjō motto) aloud, which is a standard process in most Karate-Dō Dōjō around the world. The Senpai will say each line first and the rest of the class repeat after.
After repeating the Dōjō Kun, the students will bow to the front (Shōmen ni Rei) then to Sensei (Sensei ni Rei) saying “Arigatō gozai mashita”, which means “Thank you very much (for teaching us)”. When the Senpai says “Tate” (“Stand up”), students stand sequentially by rank, bow to the front of the Dōjō, then all of the students except the Senpai turn towards him/her and bow.