Martial Arts Etiquette

Martial Arts Etiquette

Not all modern styles of martial arts pay heed to the traditional etiquette of the dojo, or training hall, but those that do will expect you to act with an impeccable manner, demonstrated in this video. Follow black-belt expert Steve Mortimore's guide to appropriate martial arts etiquette.

Step 1: The Bow

The act of bowing is a mark of respect for your sensei - this is your master or instructor. This goes back to a time in Japan when peasants had to avert their eyes from those of the lords and masters or samurai warriors.

Start by standing with your feet together and with your hands flat by your sides.

A good point to note here is that this is a non-threatening stance that shows no sign of aggression.

Now bend at the waist to perform the bow.

The depth of the bow depends on your grade. Senior black belts will all but nod, whereas those with lower grades will bow lower.

Step 2: When To Bow

When entering the dojo, it is important to show respect for your place of training. So bow at the door on entering the hall at the threshold.

If the dojo is fully matted, you will also be expected to remove your shoes on entering the room.

If your instructor is on the mat already, you will be expected to wait until he has acknowledged you. You will then bow to each other and you can now step on.

Step 3: The Formal Bow

For the beginning of the class, you will be expected to formally line-up in grade order, facing the sensei.

Adopt the bowing position and when the instructor calls the bow, go down onto your left knee, followed by your right knee, cross your toes behind you and sit on your heels.

Make sure you sit up straight with your hands above your knees.

Bring your right hand out in front of you in an arc and place it flat on the floor and follow with the left hand.

Also, make sure you always follow your instructor's moves - DON'T LEAD - he should always move before you do.

Now lower your head towards your hands.

And then reverse the steps, remembering that your right hand is the first to the floor and the last back up, as this is your sword-drawing hand!

Come up onto your knees, straighten your back, lift the right knee, lift the left knee and stand up.

Step 4: Review

It's important here to keep the movements smooth and slow, so as not to show aggression to your hosts. If you speed up, you could give the wrong impression! Don't forget you'll be expected to bow at the finish of class AND bow off the mat.

And finally you'll want to bow out of the dojo to show you have full command of basic martial arts etiquette.