It may be difficult to know what to expect for the very first class if you have never taken a Karate class before. Even if you have done some type of Karate before, you may also find the first class to be very different from what you expected.
This page gives you an idea of what to expect in the first JKA Shōtōkan Karate class.
You will learn many Japanese words through Karate-Dō practice, some of which are general words that Japanese people use on a daily basis, and others are specific to Karate-Dō practice. Similarly, some behaviour that you may find odd at first are common in Japanese culture, e.g., bowing. You may go to “Terminology” page to find out the meaning of the words used in Karate-Dō practice – Note that this page contains a lot more words than what you will use in your class.
White uniform for Karate-Dō practice (Karategi) is available for purchase at the registration desk. They are made up of a top, a pair of pants and a belt (Obi). Karategi is worn to show clean of mind and body for practice and should be kept for that purpose only. It is to be maintained clean and in good condition.
Manners are very important in Karate-Dō practice. Pay attention to your Senpai (senior students), and you will be able to learn how you are expected to behave when you come to class and in the Dōjō (practice hall) quickly.
Bowing (Rei) in Karate-Dō practice is a way of greeting as well as showing respect to the person you bow to. Follow the three (3) steps below and you know how to bow in class!
Step 1. You stand with your back straight, your heels together and toes pointed out slightly outwards, and your fingers straight at your sides with your palms touching the outside of your thighs.
Step 2. You bend slightly forward at the waist, keeping the back straight.
Step 3. You go back to the first position.
When a student see Sensei (instructor) for the first time in a day, bow to Sensei to greet and to show respect. It is common to say “Oss” at the same time as bowing. “Oss” means a formal way of saying “hello” among those practice Karate-Dō.
Before entering the Dōjō
Remove socks and shoes. Karate-Dō practice is only done in bare feet.
Remove jewelry, watch, necklace, or anything other than Karate-Dō that you wear. These items may hurt yourself or other students. For the same reason, finger and toe nails should be trimmed short.
Remove anything in your mouth (e.g., gum, candy).
Entering and Leaving the Dōjō
Bow at the door of the Dōjō just before you enter the Dōjō floor, to show respect and appreciation to the physical space that the practice takes place. When you leave the Dōjō floor, stop just before the door, and bow to the room for the same reason.
Leave promptly after class – there is another class waiting for their turn in the Dōjō.
If you arrive late, step just inside the Dōjō, kneel down by the door in Seiza (formal sitting position), and wait for Sensei to give you a signal to come inside. When she does, you stand, bow, then join the class. If you have to leave the Dōjō for any special reason during class, raise hand and ask Sensei for permission.
Before the class starts
Arrive a few minutes early so you are already in the room when Sensei arrives to start the class.
When Sensei enters the Dōjō, stop what you are doing and bow to her or him.
When Sensei says “Line up”, quickly make a straight line starting with most advanced belt student.
It is very important to follow promptly what your Sensei says in class, not only to be respectful but also to be safe for yourself and for your peers during class.
When Sensei is speaking, keep quiet and listen attentively.
If you have a question, raise your hand and ask for your turn to speak. To say “Yes!” in class, you also say “Oss!” – you may find yourself saying this word often in class!
If you get hurt or don’t feel well during class, raise hand and let Sensei know right away of your condition.
After the class ends
After bowing, Sensei may ask you what you learnt in class, so be ready to answer!
Immediately after class is a perfect moment to review what you just learnt, ask questions to your Sensei or Senpai if you did not have an opportunity to ask during the class. Don’t be shy, and remember that your Sensei and Senpai are there to guide you on your practice.