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A dōjō (literally: “Way-place”) is a martial arts school or training hall. A dōjō is much more than a gym -- it is where one studies the Way. The dōjō is not a place to escape life’s rigors; it is the arena where they are confronted. The dōjō is a forge of the spirit, where students are constantly being pushed to their limits. Since this process can cause tempers to flare, a certain degree of etiquette and formality must be maintained at all times to ensure safety.


“Any place can be a dōjō.” Ideally, the dōjō's décor exhibits the wabi-sabi aesthetic (literally: “poverty and loneliness”) which regards contrived, superficial, and materialistic things to be worthless. Wabi-sabi accepts and prefers the ordinary, simple, rustic, hand-crafted, well-worn, untouched, imperfect, and old. A dōjō should have an unpretentious character, like a dive bar that serves good chicken wings. Anything else will distract students with reputation, ego, and classism -- all of which will ultimately result in a poor experience, like ordering chicken wings at TGI Friday’s. This is why many dōjō are tucked away in forgettable strip malls or disused racquetball courts -- because they aren’t supposed to be nice.

While “any place can be a dōjō,” an ideal dōjō has the following characteristics:

  • A large, open space, free of obstructions (e.g., trees, furniture, load-bearing columns, etc.)
  • Matted floors, to allow for tumbling and takedowns.
  • A slightly higher-than-average ceiling.
  • Bright lighting.
  • Plain white walls, except for some tasteful art (e.g., a portrait of the joseki, or some calligraphy) on the main (#1) wall. Ideally, this is the wall which is opposite of the main entrance.


Please note that protocol can vary greatly from dōjō to dōjō; the rules of another dōjō may not apply to us, and our rules may not necessarily apply to another dōjō. Failure to comply with most rules results in a verbal warning and/or being assigned push-ups by the head instructor. Afterwards, there will be no grudges; the offender will have a clean slate. Please be mindful of the following when inside a dōjō:

  • Wearing shoes is forbidden inside of a dōjō. The dirt and grime on shoes can contaminate the mats, turning them into a disease vector for impetigo, scabies, staph/MRSA, athlete’s foot, and ringworm. For this reason, the students must clean all mats and pads after every use, as part of their responsibility to provide all of the dōjō’s upkeep and maintenance.
    • The Japanese believe that the Way can only be studied in sanctified “pure” places. Even with their sweat puddles and occasional bloodspill, martial arts dōjō are not "impure" because of this constant ritual cleaning.
  • Do not make excuses.
  • Formally address all black belts while inside the dōjō. (e.g., John Doe is “Mr. Doe.”)
  • Treat all students and instructors with respect, both inside and outside of the dōjō.
  • Only the head instructor, or their designee, has the power to designate punishments.
    • Higher-ranked students are expected to set an example for the newer students by strictly adhering to the dōjō rules. However, senior students have no authority to punish others for rule violations. Seniors can only inform junior offenders of the rules.
  • Foul language is not permitted in any part of the dōjō at any time.
  • Always stand in a ready stance, unless you are told to do otherwise.
  • Students are expected to be on-time to class; this is considered part of your training.
  • If a student is late, they are to wait at the edge of the training area for the instructor’s permission to join the class.
  • Students must inform the instructor if they must leave class early.
  • Please inform the head instructor if you decide to quit or take a leave of absence.
  • Higher-ranked students should expect to be paired up with new students during class. Assisting junior students confers teaching skills; learning to train others is part of your training.
  • Do not interrupt the instructor, unless there is an emergency, or if you have a value-add question.
  • Whenever you are told move to another location within the dōjō, RUN!
  • Be sure to bow:
    • Before entering and exiting the dōjō.
    • When stepping on or off the mat.
    • After an instructor answers your questions.
    • Before and after practicing with another person.
    • While transferring weapons.
  • Only karate-related talking is allowed during class times.
  • Do not smoke or vape in the dōjō. Do not smoke or vape anywhere near the dōjō. Do not smoke or vape.
  • Dues are to be promptly paid at the beginning of the month. If there problems regarding payment, talk to the head instructor directly.
  • When visiting other dōjō, all students must fully comply with all of their rules, regulations, and protocol.
  • Do not use any equipment which you were not trained to use, or which your were not specifically told to use.
    • This is especially true for weapons.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Immediately report all injuries.
  • Do not come to class while suffering from contagious illnesses.
  • Maintain good hygiene.
    • Do not wear makeup or hair gel. Your sweat will cause these to smear, contaminating mats and uniforms, and eventually chemical burn people's eyes.
  • Refrain from criminal activities.
  • Do not bring your pets.

Some rules are especially vital. Violating any of these rules typically results in eternal banishment:

  • Do not take anything that is not yours from the dōjō.
  • Do not lose control and injure other students.
    • If a student is injured, the incident will be reviewed by the black belts to determine if the injury was caused by carelessness, by malice, or if it was just a freak accident. (Though exceedingly rare, accidents do happen.)
  • Do not come to class while intoxicated.
    • Do not drink any alcohol before class.
  • Do not poison the dōjō with drama. Drama only hinders everyone’s training. If you have problems with another student, speak to the instructor and/or resolve your issues outside of class.
  • Do not persistently disrespect any student, even outside of the dōjō.
  • Do not advocate or perpetrate existential threats to the survival and propagation of the human race.


Bowing is a fundamental part of all Japanese-style martial arts. All karate classes begin and end with a bow, as does any time one works with a partner. Like most things in karate, its purpose is twofold:

  1. Bowing expresses thanks for an opportunity. Bowing is the Japanese equivalent of a handshake, and everything is shaped by the culture which first created it.
  2. Bowing acknowledges and certifies the unspoken implied contract between training partners to take on a responsibility for the other’s safety. This mutual respect is what separates training and fighting. This professional courtesy is quite common; boxers touch gloves, fencer salute, wrestlers shake hands, jiu-jitsu practitioners fist-bump, and karateka bow.
[Video of a respectful bow, from the front and the side.]

To bow, simply bend forward at the waist. Japanese etiquette dictates that your bowing angle is proportional to the amount of respect you have towards someone; if they are admired, bend farther. In general, do not bow farther > 30°, since this breaks eye contact; always keep an eye on people. While some may consider stopping early to be rude, a breach of etiquette is a small price to pay to ensure your safety.

Always bow to other people, and not before other people. All demonstrations of respect must always be mutual and equal, or it is not respect. You always deserve the exact amount of dignity and respect which you show to others, because absolutely no one has any right or privilege to treat you any other way.

If your religion forbids bowing to others, consider turning 5°, so you are not bowing to anyone per se.

Goshin-Jutsu bow

The Goshin-Jutsu bow is a signature move performed at the beginning and ending of our kata, to identify our art. To perform the Goshin-Jutsu bow:

  1. Enter an attention stance facing #1, and raise both of your arms up in outside-to-inside arcs, until your hands are in front of your face. Both palms face you, with your left hand on top, and your fingers pointing up.
  2. Lower your hands to solar plexus level, while rotating your fingers 45° to the outside.
  3. Bend 30° forward at the waist, and push your hands out, palms down, pointing your fingertips to #1.
  4. Return to an attention stance.
  5. Use a nami-ashi to “snap” into a ready stance, facing #1.
[Goshin-Jutsu bow, fast and slow, from the front and side.]

Like all kata movements, the Goshin-Jutsu bow also has martial applications (bunkai). The most straight-forward is reaching behind the opponent’s head with your left hand to pull them into a meaty, backhanded slap to their face. The bowing portion pushes the opponent away, to ensure that they fall away from you, and not onto you (a "clear").