Karate Ettiquette




The dojo is a sacred place. In respect for the  practice of Karate we must keep it clean and tidy.

A dojo is a building in which some sort of Japanese martial arts training occurs. The word do means way, road, or path. The word jo means place. Therefore, dojo means the place of the way. Some people refer to their karate club as a dojo, but a dojo and club are two different things. The word dojo only refers to the actual physical building in which the Karate training occurs. The word does not refer to the people practising the Karate.

Be in the dojo before class commences! Never be late!

Bow and say OSS on entering and leaving the dojo.

OSS ! What does this mean?

OSS (actually OSU!) is a phonetic expression, formed out of two characters. The first character osu literally means push or control and determines the pronunciation of the whole term. The second character shinobu has the literal meaning of bear, endure, suffer. 
The expression OSS was created in the Japanese Naval School and is used for expressions such as please, thank you, I understand, sorry, greeting someone, etc., as well as inside the world of karate nearly any time a response is required.
OSS must not be said loosely, OSS should be spoken by using the hara (tanden), in the lower abdomen. Spoken while performing a bow with the upper third of the body, the word OSS expresses respect, empathy and confidence in one’s partner. OSS also tells the sensei that the instructions were understood and that the student will do his/her

best to follow them.

In the following situations OSS must be used:

A- When bowing at the start and finish of the class.

B- Upon receiving any advice or command from the instructor.

C- Upon receiving OSS from instructors or students.

Students should address all Instructors as Sensei.

An instructor must not introduce him/herself or print business cards that say Sensei on them, it would be referring to oneself using an honorific expression, which is considered very rude in the Japanese culture.

An instructor can say that he/she is a sensei of karate but not he/she is a Sensei.

An instructor could also use the word kyoshi to refer to him/herself, it is a generic word meaning teacher . The word sensei is composed of two characters. The first is sen, which means before or ahead. The next character is sei, which means to be born or to be alive. Literally, sensei means that someone is born before us or lives ahead of us, so a better literal translation than teacher would be the word mentor. Sensei refers to a particular person as an expression of respect. Kyoshi is a job. To refer to yourself as Sensei is incorrect in terms of politeness, and to refer to your teacher at school by their name followed by kyoshi is not customary either.

RESPECT must be given to all instructors and students, and to any other high grade student which the Sensei has appointed to teach.

In karate SENIORS must be always respected.

Seniority does not always mean having a higher rank.

Seniority comes with years of training, age and a higher grade. Note that during photo session students should always remain one step behind the Sensei unless you have been asked by the Sensei to stay on the same line.

Entering the dojo saying OSS , then greet your fellow students quietly, warm up, practice kihon or kata until the lesson begins but never do kumite (sparring) without the Sensei's permission!

Members arriving late must take a seiza (kneeling) position at the back of the jojo and wait for the instructor's permission before joining the class. Upon receiving permission, bow and say OSS and then join the class. If you have to leave the dojo before class is over (because of another commitment or a problem) it is best to inform the instructor.

Always wear clean karate-gi (suit) – there are no excuses for a dirty gi, and make sure your obi (Belt) is correctly tied. When you secure the knot in your obi this symbolises that you are willing to train with your heart as well as with your body.

During class, students should not converse with each other. Questions should be kept to a minimum to avoid interrupting the flow of the class.

If it becomes necessary to adjust the gi or belt, students should turn away from the front of the class. Normally, this should only be done during a break in training.

Keep your fingernails and toe nails short and clean.

For safety reason, jewellery or similar things must not be worn during training; if you cannot remove jewellery then it must be covered with tape.

No smoking, drinking, eating, chewing gum, spitting, silly behaviour or idle chatter. This will not be tolerated during the lesson nor will committing any other act contrary dojo etiquette. It is considered very disrespectful to yawn during class, lean against walls, stand with crossed arms, or to be prone to undue restlessness and distraction such as looking at the clock or out the windows, as this suggests boredom. A big part of your training is learning to stay focused regardless of distractions. This will also a useful skill in situations outside the dojo.

The class commences and finishes with two ceremonies, all students line up in order of seniority, facing the front (shomen). Students line up in one row (space permitting, in order of rank! Within each rank, students also line up in order of seniority.

Note- During certain classes at the discretion of the instructor or the senpai (the most senior student) the student/guest may be asked to line up in a different order of rank.

The line should be centred behind the Instructor.

After lining up, the instructor will kneel first, then the senpai or the most senior student will announces seiza (kneeling) then the students kneel down together, and mokuso will be announced. This is a brief period of meditation. yame (stop) is announced first, then dojo kun will be repeated by all students.

The dojo kun should be recited at the end of each training section.

Following the dojo kun there will be three salutes of etiquette.

1- Shomen-ni-rie , the shomen is the front wall of the dojo. The word sho means true while men means face. Shomen is a sacred zone in the dojo for Japanese. it is simply the wall that everyone faces during class. Some clubs will hang the county's flag together with pictures of instructors as well as some awards on the showmen wall.

This salutation is to the front of the dojo and there is no OSS during this salutation. Only a silent bow is done.

2- Sensei-ni-rei, salutation to the Instructor.

3- Otagani-ni-rei , salutation to each other.

At the end of the salutes, Sensei stands up for training to commence or finish.

Students then stand, one at a time, in order of seniority. This should proceed quickly and appear like a wave rolling from right to left.

During certain classes at the discretion of the instructor students may be asked just to line up and bow while standing to start or class or finish the class. This is known as an informal bow in/out.

Note – Rei is not a religious bow, just a mark of respect.

Members MUST NOT use their karate skills in any OFFENSIVE way outside the Dojo!

A karate-ka must never lose sight of what karate is in the first place - it has no place for arrogance or ignorance.

BULLYING of any kind (physical or verbal) by students to anyone will not be tolerated at all and could lead to expulsion from the club!

If you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to ask!

If you have any medical problems, or are not able to attend the class, please make sure your instructor is aware of this.

If you become ill or injured during the class, do not hesitate to inform the instructor immediately

Strict following of Sempai / Kohai relationship must be observed.


Complete control of your technique is expected when sparing. Even if your opponent does not block, you must be able to control your attack fully and not hurt your sparring partner. You are responsible for their safety.


Karate training is not about kicking and punching but it is about bettering ourselves as human beings.











Kumite Ettiquette




A lower ranked student must always show respect to the higher rank during kumite.

A student must not show aggression towards a higher rank. The higher rank initiates and sets the rate and tempo of kumite.

There should be no contact during sparring and the lower rank student should be especially careful not to make contact on the higher rank.

You must not grab or hold the leg of your partner during kumite.

It is unnecessary to crunch the leg or arm of your partner with heavy blocks.

Wild and uncontrollable techniques such as spinning hook kicks should not be used.

If your partner gets one or more successful techniques in, do not ignore it by staying in close and continuing your own attack. Acknowledge them and then continue. If your partner executes a clean, well-timed technique, it is considered good etiquette to acknowledge it.

If accidental contact is made by you, stop, acknowledge your error, then continue.

If a student makes repeated contact, the instructor may ask them to discontinue kumite until they are satisfied the student has the required level of control to safely engage in kumite (This may be several weeks). The same applies to a student with an over aggressive or poor attitude.

A lower rank does not ask a higher rank to spar.

All safety equipment must be worn during the practice of Kumite. This includes, hand and foot protectors and a mouth guard. If a student does not have this equipment he or she must not participate in Kumite.

When sparring at slow or medium speed, grabbing and holding the attacker’s leg is considered extremely impolite.


Even an attempt by a junior to foot sweep his/her senior is rude and not accepted in Japanese karate dojo.


Men should “never” foot sweep women.


Complete control of your technique is expected when sparing. Even if your opponent does not block you must be able to control your attack fully and not hurt your sparring partner. You are responsible for their safety.