In traditional martial arts, the dojo ("place of the way") is understood to be a special space, different from the other spaces of day-to-day experience. Dojo etiquette and protocol reflect our respect for tradition, our commitment to train together diligently, and our readiness to focus all our attention on the work at hand. It is important to learn these protocols, follow them, and contemplate their meaning.


Be prompt. Arrive before class begins. If you come in late, be seated by the door and wait for permission to join practice.

Always bow when entering or leaving the dojo. Direct your bow to the senior person present and acknowledge his or her presence with the greeting "Osu" (pronounced "Oos").

Junior students are expected to look to seniors for guidance, imitate their behavior, and treat them with respect and consideration. Sit and stand when your seniors do; always sit to the left of seniors.

Senior students are expected to set a good example for juniors, protect them from injury, help them learn, and treat them with respect and consideration.

Behave appropriately in the dojo (literally, "place of the Way"). Remove your shoes before entering. Speak quietly and maintain an attitude appropriate for serious practice. Eating, drinking, chewing gum, and using cell phones are not permitted in the dojo.

Do not teach new techniques or kata to other students unless asked to do so by your teacher.

Never throw or drop your obi (belt) on the ground, and never wash it. Your obi is a symbol of your spirit.

Never lose your temper during practice.

Pay attention; it is part of your training. Concentrate fully on karatedo while you are in the dojo.

Practice your kihon waza and kata consistently outside of class, even if it is just for a few minutes every day. This is the only way to improve your skill and physical conditioning.



            (Senior) X   X   X
                     X   X   X
NORTH (Sensei)  X    X   X   X  SOUTH
                     X   X   X
                     X   X   X   (Junior)


When the teacher assumes his or her place in the north of the dojo, all students immediately assume their rightful positions to prepare for practice. Sit calmly and quietly in seiza. Posture is erect and balanced (centered).

The teacher says, "Rei." All render a formal bow.

The teacher indicates a bow toward the head of the dojo (east); traditionally this is the sacred place occupied by a memorial to the founder. The class turns 45 degrees toward the east and bows as before.

The teacher says, "Otagaini rei," meaning "towards each other." The class returns to its north-facing orientation and again bows, asking, "Onigashimasu, Sensei" (meaning, "Please teach us, teacher").

Following the sensei, the class rises with right feet first, then left, to formal attention stance, and bows again, with an announcement of willingness to commence austere training: "Osu!"


Assume the same positions as for the opening of practice.

As before, on the teacher's command, the teacher and class bow to each other, then turn 45 degrees to the east and bow.

On the command "Otagaini rei," the class turns to face the teacher again. This time, however, the senior (if brown belt or higher) announces, "Sensei ni."

The next student (if brown belt or higher) announces, "Rei."

If no brown belt or higher is at the head of the class, the sensei or senior leading the class will dispense with the announcement and simply bow to the students. All bow at once, and the students say, "Domo arrigato gozai-imasu, Sensei" ("Thank you very much, teacher").

The teacher responds, "Iie, gokorosan" ("No, we all did what is expected.")

All students and the teacher cross hands with clenched fists, right over left, and at the command "Keoskite," all kiai strongly and pull their hands sharply to the sides.

Optionally, the teacher may call for the class to form a circle to thank each other for training.


Ranks are valid only as indications of one's current skill level, maintained through active training. Promotion or reduction of rank is a teaching tool.

Preoccupation with rank is understandable but misplaced. Anyone can buy and wear a belt. What matters are knowledge, experience, and character as demonstrated by conduct.

When returning to the dojo after a lengthy absence, or when visiting the dojo of another system, always wear a white belt. It is customary to wear a white belt while recovering from sickness or injuries, to signal your partners and teachers that you are recuperating.

8th kyu          White belt
7th kyu          Yellow belt
6th kyu          Blue belt
5th kyu          Green belt
4th kyu          Purple belt
3rd-1st kyu      Brown belt

DAN (GRADE) 1st dan Black belt 2nd dan Black belt 3rd dan Black belt 4th dan Black belt or red and white horizontally striped (White on top and black on the inside) 5th dan Black belt or red and white horizontally striped (Red on top and black on the inside) 6th dan Black belt or red and white vertically striped 7th dan Black belt or red and white vertically striped 8th dan Black belt or red and white vertically striped 9th dan Black belt or solid red 10th dan Black belt or solid red

The Pastmaster's double-width white belt signifies the complete "circle of life and of Karatedo." It is usually given posthumously.

The hakama (divided skirt) may be worn at the black belt level; the white hakama is reserved for Zen or Shinto priests. Tabi (2-toed foot covering) may be worn with the hakama.

Nidan (2nd degree black belt) and above are allowed to wear a black karategi.

The Hachimaki or head band may be worn at any rank. It signifies a willingness to work hard.