The regular bowing in a traditional karate class is seen as a form of austere acknowledgement. It is a practice that almost all traditional Japanese martial arts follow.
Times when you bow include:
- Entering/leaving the dojo – silent bow.
- 3 bows at the beginning and end of each class:
- “Shómen ni rei” – silent bow to the front;
- “Sensei ni rei“– bow to instructor(s) accompanied with the word “Oss”;
- “Otagai ni rei” – bow to everyone accompanied with the word “Oss”;
- At the beginning and end of each kata – silent bow.
- Before “Yoi” (Ready) and after “Yame” (Stop) commands – silent bow.
- When beginning and ending a partner exercise or kumite bout, accompanied with the word “Oss”.
- When addressed by a Sensei or Sempai, accompanied with the word “Oss”.
- Kneeling bow if late for a class, accompanied with the word “Oss”.
Bowing To Seniors
It is courteous for all junior grades (kohai) on entering the dojo prior to training to bow to senior grade (sempai) 1st Dan Black belts and higher. Japanese Karate operates in a similar manner to the military does with saluting. Kohai should bow to Sempai as a sign of respect.
Late arrival for a class
If you arrive late for a class the following procedure should be followed:
- Take a position at the dojo entrance and kneel in the ‘Seiza’ position.
- Be sure that it is possible for the instructor to be aware of your presence.
- When the instructor acknowledges your presences usually by way of a quick bow and or the word “Oss”, you return the bow from the Seiza position and quickly join the class.
- This is a good opportunity to practice posture, etiquette and readiness.
Sóji (Cleaning the Dojo)
It is general practice in the dojo to clean the floor at the beginning and/or end of each training session. Often this is looked towards as an unfavourable chore however, the underlying sentiment is that when you use something it should be maintained so that whoever uses the facility after you can experience the same sense of comfort as you experienced.
Excessive Contact (Kumite Training)
This is perhaps one of the hardest protocols of all to follow. When practicing Kumite a “boundary of limitation” must be adhered to. What this means is that when striking your opponent, the right amount of force and contact must be applied. If your techniques are too soft neither you nor your opponent get the benefits of training. If you are too hard then the same can also be said to be true. It is all too easy to hit too hard and cause injury. Apply as much force as your opponent can comfortably handle. A common sense rule applies here when squaring off against different opponents of different sizes and strengths.
Expressing Undue Emotion
If you are feeling discomfort from the arduousness of training then it is considered impolite to express this openly. There will be opportunities to catch your breath during class time but this does not mean you can drop your guard or demonstrate bad posture. Remain still and breathe deeply while still maintaining class format. It is important in the beginning to remember to train within your limits.
The one emotion which will not be tolerated is aggression; this must be controlled at all times in the dojo.