How To Behave In A Traditional Dojo


79 thoughts on “How To Behave In A Traditional Dojo”

  • What if you want to help to clean up but the sensei said to you "no its ok you can go home". Can you still say "no please let me help"? or should you just do what your sensei says?

  • Excellent stuff.
    We have some traditional dojo in the US, and many students get on the wrong side of the Sensei and other members by not knowing or following proper etiquette.
    Some excellent things are brought out here. The Japanese culture places a very high priority on order, social and "environmental". Social has to do with respect of people: elders and leaders then equals. Then for their surroundings.
    Disrespecting an elder or leader is an almost certain way to get the normally relaxed Japanese (or any Asian) upset. Social order is what the Japanese culture is built on, and disrespect is a cultural insult.
    Social order could be things like mentioned in the video- placing your obi along the line with the tatami and not just throwing your gear down. Eating on the mats is considered disrespecting the school. Some won't even let you eat in the same room you practice. You could call it esthetics. Being clean, not messy. The Japanese tend to get offended by loud voices in public because it makes it difficult for others to communicate. Remember Japan is an island about the size of California with 1/3 the population of the entire US on it! "Excessive"(difficult to quantify, so keep it to a minimum) talking by students in the dojo as was mentioned, can be seen as disrespectful because it can be thought of as 'teaching', which is disrespectful to the Sensei, as well as possibly distracting to other students.
    When I was a brown belt a well known an internationally successful competitor suggested I visit a dojo in a Buddhist temple in Chicago where he trained. So, one Saturday I went with a friend who knew the area. The Sensei was not as explanatory in English as we would have liked. We tried to figure out how he was wanting us to practice as we did NOT want to get yelled at. One of his assistant instructors very sternly told us that we could either practice on the mats, OR talk off the mats. When we asked him to clarify what we should do, he said: "Just do your best" and then walked away. We never went back because we didn't want to be considered disrespectful and didn't get much from the practice as most of the instruction was in Japanese and for the Japanese students. We seemed to be in the way. (The Japanese often want you to prove yourself to them before they will waste time with you. They get annoyed with "boutique" students just looking for an experience. Our problem was it was a 90+ minute trip early on a Saturday morning and we couldn't do it often enough to be taken seriously. To be honest, their students, while well disciplined, did not usually do any better in competition than the dojos I regularly trained at. I believe that is largely do to the uniformity and not getting clarification/understanding because of the cultural restrictions on questions)
    That said, the standards for conformity can change slightly as your status/rank changes. You can get away with some infractions of the rules as your rank increases, i.e. the Sensei CAN talk as much as he likes (although in a traditional dojo it isn't much) and the other black belts in proportion to their rank. As they say: "Rank has its privilege(s)".

  • At the risk of sounding like a keener, Dojo etiquette is a big deal for me. I try to do everything listed in the video (I learned a few things I need to make a habit which is nice.) and I think this comes from being ex-military. It drives me nuts when I see students talking while Sensei is talking. I get goofing around and keeping some training segments fun but when Sensei or someone else is speaking I believe people need to show respect and keep quiet till they are done. Thats my largest beef when it comes to this subject.

    Great video Jesse!

  • This was an excellent video. I run a classical tradition school in the U.S. I trained in Ninpo/Ju Jutsu with Tanemura Soke of Saitama Japan. I love everything you had to say. Very well done, great points and great presentation. My dojo is We are proud to teach the way of Japan.

  • Great video as always Jesse San. I really appreciate you covering the details of proper Japanese dojo etiquette. I find it much more formal than Okinawan etiquette, although there are some similarities. Also I’m really enjoying the more frequent uploads😎🥋

  • Many many people in my club dont do this, such a shame, especially the younger ones who r also belt chasers, i often see the 2 go hand in hand.

  • Péricles José Dias de Faria says:

    Excelente! Vídeo muito esclarecedor. Muito obrigado por compartilhar informações e conhecimentos tão importantes. É realmente necessário que as tradições sejam mantidas para que a verdadeira essência do Karatê não se perca.

  • How To Behave In A Traditional MMA Gym: Pump your chest when you walk in, show your the alpha male in the place and don't forget to try to ripped out your sparring partner face.

  • Danielle Giacomim says:

    Arigatou gozaimasu Sensei Jesse, for your great videos!!! 🥋🇧🇷 Muito obrigada Sensei Jesse por seus excelentes vídeos!! Oss!!

  • Daniel Dos Santos Lara says:

    Olá Jesse,
    Realmente essa etiqueta deve ser seguida, pois os japoneses são muito educados, polidos e humildes.
    Aprendi esses protocolos no Dojo e no Bunkyo (escola de línguas japonesas) e são realmente muito uteis para o dia a dia e para uma boa relação baseada no respeito e na aprendizagem.

    Obrigado por dividir isso conosco.
    Daniel, Brasil, Paraná, Curitiba

  • Hello sensei Jesse. Thank you for sharing these information, it was a really nice video!
    I have a couple questions about how the tings work in traditional dojos in Japan.
    Is there any rule regarding the Karate gi, such as dirty, torn, oldness of the uniform?
    Are there any rules for the practitioners such as keep the fingernails/toenails short?
    Regarding the bow itself, is it unpolite keep looking into the eyes while bowing to each other?

  • I had thought my Sensei hated me. He never praised any student. He was always critical.
    Eventually, my Sensei started having me demonstrate techniques in front of the entire class, often with him criticizing my technique. It finally dawned on me that he was impressed enough with me, as a student, that he was using me as the example to other students of what they could achieve.

  • Sgt. Giggle Mittens says:

    I am a non-traditional martial artists (BJJ, MMA) and to me, all of this seems like cultural things. I understand why they exist, I understand at a japanese dojo this is how its done, but im not japanese. I do not train martial arts to become japanese, I train them to become an efficient fighter and to gain a skill. If I spend the majority of my class bowing and speaking a language that is not my own, im wasting mat time in my eyes. If it takes me 5 minutes just to get in the door, im wasting mat time. Why should we do these things in japanese, when the japanese definition is clearly just common words? This entire traditional mindset seems to be wrapped in esoteric stuff with little purpose other then maintaining a aura of mysticism that tries to portray the act of kicking and punching someone as some sacred right of magic.

    I am not knocking karate, as Machida has clearly shown when you drop the esoteric and linear, it becomes an extremely dynamic and useful art, but I am knocking the McDojo feel the esoteric and traditional side of karate seems to promote. As a child, I took a year of Shotokan Karate, so I did train at a traditional karate school for a bit. I remember spending long hours kicking the air endlessly, but very little time actually learning how to strike a moving opponent, that was trying not to get kicked.

    I guess im going on an unwarranted rant, I understand your love of the art and your love of tradition, it is for you, I guess I am just giving my side of things (I know my opinion is not unique, I am sure you have heard all of that before)

  • Great stuff as usual! I was always attentive with the etiquette, but even more so when I started teaching myself. You really start noticing a lot of little points that you wouldn't have realized as just a regular student. Sidenote/question though, do you ever have an order for people to bow? For reference, I practice Niten Ichi Ryu. In our dojo, and also in others that also follow Soke's direction, when we do the beginning and ending bow, we watch sensei and try to come up from the bow one after another, from the most senior, to the most junior coming up from their bow last. Does anyone else have experience with this?


    I told my 13 year old niece that you said “hie” and she was as red as a cherry 🍒. She had a crush on you for 2 years now. I’ve been laughing 😂 all day because I think it’s hilarious 😂. She turns completely red every time she sees one of your videos Sensei. Haa haa 😂

  • This was interesting to watch, though I did think that most of what he shared was simply common sense, or at least to me. Interesting.

  • Taking your bag/ things off and putting it to the side before bowing was helpful. Does anybody else say ”お願いします” instead of "失礼します while entering their dojo in Japan??

  • Mine is the same even though my sensi is American he follows the same Japanese etiquette we have this sign and pictures of sensis we hang on the wall so each time class ends the white belts put the sign away while the senior students handle the pictures

  • We should learn more principals ethics for better quality in dojo, I'm grateful for your work Jesse.

    What are think about aikido?
    I'm practicing aikido and kyokushin karate.
    Do you think is great combining both martial arts?
    Please let me know.

  • lll•A_German_Ewok•lll says:

    My taekwondo school has a lot of the same etiquette when it comes to upper level belts. For basic class, its not that important.

  • My Sifu shared this with our group and I think it is totally on-point and relevant to most styles and learning environments. It all basically comes down to not being a dick and showing respect to those who have gone before you and done the hard yards and therefore have earned that respect regardless of their age, the colour of their belt or their sex. Most the people I train with are far younger but are so much better than me by a long way, it's their ability, and persistence, their openness and willingness to share that helps me hold them in high regard. They may not have the life experience I do, but their abilities on the Matt means they deserve all the respect they get and more.

  • ニュージーランド・スイサイド says:

    Excellent and important topic, that I have yet to see anyone cover on YouTube, regarding the dojo etiquette Sensei Jesse. I would say that 98% of what was said here in your video by Sensei Nagano Yusuke, is pretty much what we do, say and observe, when it comes to the dojo etiquette, in Kyokushin Karate dojos world wide.

    We ourselves upon entering the dojo at the entrance of the dojo, we bow and loudly exclaim Osu! Facing the front of the dojo, where a portrait of our Kyokushin Karate founder, Sosai Oyama Masutatsu, is hanging on the wall. Then we bow towards the direction of the Shihan (master) or Sensei (teacher), whose dojo belongs to, or in their absence the second in command, being the most highly ranked student the Senpai (senior) and we say Osu, followed by Shitsureishimasu as we bow, then we bow in the general direction of other students already inside the dojo, stretching or warming up and again bow to them as we say Osu!

    The person then proceeds to the back of the dojo, where the shoes and bags are placed, off the training area to leave their personal belongings there. Then when told to line up for the commencement of class, everyone does so in ranking order, the seniors at the front, the novices or intermediate students behind them. The teacher will say seiza (kneel down), followed by mokuso (closing one's eyes), during this time there is silence with a brief meditation of a minute or two, to forget all the troubles of the outside world, we empty our minds and worrying thoughts, to prepare to fully and focus only on the training ahead. The teacher will then say mokuso ame (open your eyes), then he will say Sosai ni rei (bow to the founder, of which everyone including the master or teacher bows as well saying Osu! Then the most senior student will say Shihan/Sensei ni rei, of which all other students will bow and say Osu to the Shihan/Sensei, again saying Osu! Finally the Shihan/Sensei in charge of the dojo (school), will say otagai ni rei (bow to each other), of which as was with the previous two times, we all oblige by bowing and saying Osu!

    Once the training begins, be it kihon (basics), idogeiko (up and down moving techniques of the syllabus), kata (forms), kumite (fighting/sparring), or stamina drills which include bag work drills, everything begins and ends with a bow and saying Osu!

    No food or beverage is allowed to be consumed in the dojo's training area. No jewellery is allowed to be worn, or t-shirts under the gi's (training uniform jacket), watches, etc, are allowed to be worn. In Kyokushin Karate be it Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn, the complete gi of pants and jacket, are to be worn during all training segments of the class. When it comes to sparring, stamina work with a partner, we say Osu, as well as bow at the beginning and end of each round, as we swap partners. At the end of class we all line up and then when prompted to do so, we kneel down in seiza, the same as in the beginning we close our eyes (mokuso) and the senior student reads out loud, the dojo kun (school oath/code of conduct), all the rest of the students, including the teacher/master of the school, repeat word for word what is being said by the senior student, during the dojo kun. Once that has been completed the master/teacher says mokuso ame (open your eyes), then exactly like the beginning of class, all the bowing protocols are followed, Soasai ni rei (bow to the founder), Shihan/Sensei ni rei (bow to the master/teacher), otagai ni rei (bow to each other), all followed each time by saying Osu!

    Then everyone stands up and from the Master/teacher, then senior student and so forth, everyone lines up in a semi circle, as they shake hands saying Osu, domou arigatou gozaimashita (thank you very much as they move along and take their place to the person next to them in the semi circle, in accordance to the ranking order, all the way down to the most novice student.

    The cleaning of the dojo is done with cloths or clean rags, all in a vertical straight line, started by the line of the most senior students, once they finish, all the other students do so again, in accordance to their ranking order in the dojo, all the way down to the beginner level students last. Everyone then as they head out to go back home, bow once again to Sosai Oyama Masutatsu's portrait at the front, saying Osu! Then bowing in the general direction of the master/teacher and other students, still in the dojo, saying Osu, Shitsureishimasu, then leave closing the dojo door behind them. Thank you for taking the time to film, edit and bring this dojo etiquette to us all Sensei Oliver! While mostly familiar, I also learned the meaning as well as the scope, of other things I was not aware, Osu!🇦🇺😊🥋👍

  • OK, here´s one funfact from our Dojo: you are not allowed, to enter the dojo without wearing a belt. If you are not wearing a belt, or you hold it in your hand for binding it inside, because you were late, or something (don´t be late! never!) you are equal to be naked. Big shame to everyone.
    On the other hand: If you are in fact rellay naked, but wearing a belt, it would be absolutely like you are wearing a Gi. Everything OK.

  • I find that the etiquette and protocol in a Karate dojo is much more casual and informal than in an Aikido dojo, despite the fact that both of the martial arts are Japanese.

  • Hello Folks, here a 43 old dude, who is starting Shotokan again from white belt and after being sho-dan 20 years ago. I have to confess that it is hard to start over again, especially when you might know advanced katas and, it is frustrating that my out-shape body is not responding like before. I don't have the same flexibility as before, and at my age, all I want is to enjoy Karate and get in better shape. Also, I came back to encourage and motivate my kid (eight years old) to join this amazing martial art by showing him that I am going along with him too. Unfortunately, I have to disagree with some Karate-cult senseis and culture. Don't get me wrong, as the video mentioned, it is about Japanese culture and respect. All the culture respect is great, however, I am with senseis and black belt students that are showing arrogance and even they try to talk with a "Japanese" accent like Mr. Miyagui. Senseis & sempais and other students pretending to impose arrogance and despotism in America are ridiculous. Maybe, I am the one wrong here but, I believe the respect is mutual and it must be earned. Cheers and great channel.. Any advice on my new journey will be appreciated.

  • Child of light 5778 says:

    Man, that was much stuff in short time! So complicate!
    But it's also interesting to find something out about other cultures and other people's habitations. Are these japanese phrases always spoken so fast that you don't even understand it acoustically? Concerning the stretching exercises I'm not worried, I dance a lot, stretching exercises belong to the basics there.

  • Question~ let us say an older person than me who just recently joined the karate class and still fresh. what do we actually call them or call us? senpai? or kohai? I'm kinda confused with this. or do we actually called them based on how long they were in the organization? or based on their age thank you in advance!

  • What is the correct etiquette when coming in late? I sometimes find it hard to make it in with my work & my sensei is fine with it! Occasionally i’m 30+ mins late unfortunately.

  • Cristopher Pereira says:

    Hi Jesse and everyone who follow this channel. I know that there is a term to ask to make up the karate Gi. Does anyone know the term/phrase?

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