Central Coast Shotokan Karate Dojo

A Member Dojo of Shotokan Karate of America

Dojo Etiquette & Guidelines for Beginners

ďForce is used as a last resort where humanity and justice cannot prevail.Ē - Master Funakoshi

Tsutomu Ohshima


Dojo Etiquette and Rules of Conduct:

Dueling is prohibited.

Bow when entering and leaving the room.

Keep yourself, your gi, and your dojo clean.

No training under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

No shoes on the training floor.

No leaving practice, except with permission of instructor.

No unnecessary talking while training.

No wearing of jewelry while training.

No gum chewing while training.

Always act in a respectful manner.

Report all injuries to your instructor before leaving the dojo.

Observers are welcome but must remain quiet and not distract participants.

General Guidelines for Beginners:

Practice starts and ends with meditation (mokuso) and a bow.† Mokuso is a chance to clear your mind and prepare yourself for practice; the bow is similar to a mass handshake. Line up by rank and then seniority. Beginners will line up on the left end of the line. Wait for the person to your right to kneel before you kneel. Kneel two fist-widths from your neighbor, with your back straight. Men kneel with knees apart, women with their knees together.


During practices: General practices are designed so that all ranks from beginners to experienced may benefit. Practice is a cumulative experience and everybody is awkward at first.† Do your best to copy what the instructor is demonstrating.


You will be using different muscles than you may be accustomed to. Sore, fatigued muscles are normal, even desirable.† This is how our bodies get stronger and learn.† You will also sometimes get minor blisters, cuts, scrapes, bumps, and bruises.† This is also common and should be ignored.† As we are practicing a martial art, we must learn to† ignore minor annoyances.† Our bodies are capable of much more than we think.† However, if you are experiencing serious pain, particularly in the joints, let the instructor know.† Many of these problems can be eliminated by correcting form. Karate is meant to be practiced for your whole life, it will not cause damage to your body when performed correctly.


In contact situations, it is the responsibility of each participant to remain fully alert at all times. Techniques will be realistic.† Maintain eye contact at all times.† Do not assume that your opponent heard a command to stop (yame).† In this manner, both the experienced and inexperienced will have a chance to learn without careless injuries.


Practice helps!† A habit of taking time to make a personal practice each day can make a big difference.


Alertness, awareness, foresight, and clear assessment of the situation at all times, are among the major goals of karate training and tradition. Accordingly, in the dojo (training hall) safety is uppermost in our agenda, and all participants are required to learn and practice the following:



1. Courteous manners are required by karate tradition. In feudal Japan, any sign of disrespect was a direct challenge for a duel to the death.

2. In addition to the physical form of karate, we also seek to learn about the culture of budo (the Way of martial arts) and bujutsu (the practice of fighting skills). Toward this end it is the responsibility of all new students to learn the basic Japanese vocabulary used in class.

3. When a student enters the dojo, it is customary to stop and bow as a sign of respect and mental preparation for serious training. Shoes must be removed at the door.

4. Horseplay, fooling around, or behaving carelessly in the dojo is strictly forbidden.

5. Smoking, eating, or drinking of any beverage is strictly forbidden inside the dojo.



6. Toenails and fingernails must be trimmed. Ill or injured students are not allowed to practice without specific permission of the instructor.† Make the instructor aware of any serious medical issues.† Make sure the instructor has your emergency contact information.

7. For safety reasons, no necklaces, earrings, bracelets, watches or other jewelry are permitted during practice.

8. A gi (karate uniform) should be worn during practice. Students may alternatively wear plain, loose comfortable workout clothing if they do not yet own a gi.

Ranking (Kyu) System in Shotokan Karate

Rank is an award of recognition presented to indicate the progress of the student with regard to both the physical and the mental aspects of karate, and is thought of as a learning experience for both students and instructors.

Grading for rank are conducted twice a year, as near to November 10th as possible, to commemorate the anniversary of Master Funakoshiís birth, and April 26th to commemorate the anniversary of his death. Each grading covers all the elements of karate kihon, kata, and kumite at the specific level of each student.

All SKA students begin with a white belt (unranked) and may advance through different levels of white, brown, and black belt. SKA does not award belts of other colors. The ultimate rank achievable, in this original ranking system created by Master Funakoshi, is godan (fifth-degree black belt), the highest rank ever awarded by him. SKA students should not confuse or compare this original ranking system, maintained by SKA out of respect of Master Funakoshi, to various other groups that award different color belts or higher black belt degrees.
.† Mr. Ohshima has said that one might draw a rough equivalency in that our 5th Dan would be equal to a 9th or 10th Dan in that ranking system, our 4th Dan would equal a 7th or 8th Dan, etc.

Because all students have different potentials, it is important not to compare your progress with that of another. Grading and ranks should only be used as a means by which to measure your own improvement. During grading, consideration in awarding rank, other than for ones technical level, is given to age, time practicing, previous experience, physical potential, personal situations, attitude towards practice, attitude towards others, concern for responsibilities, and number of special trainings.

It is important to remember that students have asked to be graded. It is, therefore, their responsibility to do their best during the grading, and to accept the rank awarded with dignity and humility. The most important part is the studentís attitude.


Belt Hierarchy

White Belt
8th kyu (
7th kyu (
6th kyu (
5th kyu (
4th kyu (


Brown Belt
3rd kyu (
2nd kyu (
1st kyu (


Black Belt
1st dan (
2nd dan (
3rd dan (
4th dan (
5th dan (

Benefits and Value of Karate Practice

Karate as Athletic Training:† The values of Karate to modern man are numerous. In our everyday lives we often forget the value of exercise to both our physical and mental health. The practice of karate tones the body, develops coordination, quickens reflexes, and builds stamina.

Karate as Self-Defense:† Karate is one of the most dynamic of all the martial arts. The trained practitioner is able to coordinate his mind and body perfectly, thereby allowing him to unleash tremendous physical power at will. Therefore, it is not the possession of great physical strength that makes a strong practitioner; rather it is the ability to coordinate mind and body. Upon developing this ability, even the smallest person finds within the power to deliver a devastating blow to any would-be attacker.

Karate to Develop Clarity of Mind:† The serious practice of karate develops composure, a clearer thought process, deeper insight into one's mental capabilities, and more self-confidence. In this, karate is not an end, but a means to an end. It is an activity in which advancing age is not a hindrance. Rather it encourages proficiency and the keen coordination of mind and body.


†††††††††††† Three Areas of Karate Practice:

†††††††††††† †††††††††††† Karate Practice is divided into three categories:

†††††††††††† †††††††††††† †††††††††††† Kihon (basic blocks, punches, kicks and stances);

†††††††††††† †††††††††††† ††††††††††††
Kata (pre-arranged forms simulating combat situations);

†††††††††††† †††††††††††† ††††††††††††
Kumite (sparring).

In each category the beginner is given instruction at the most basic level until the techniques become spontaneous to him. As the student progresses technically, he progresses physically and his practice demands greater stamina. At this stage he involves himself with the more intricate and difficult katas and more dynamic forms of kumite.† As the student approaches black belt level, technique, stamina, speed and coordination become natural to him as a result of strong practice. It is at this stage that the serious student discovers that he has only just begun his study of karate. The object of true karate practice is perfection of oneself through the perfection of the art.

9. Classic karate stances are taught for technical reasons. Moving from a strong, balanced foundation prevents injury during practice and allows you to control the situation during kumite (sparring). Pain is immediate feedback letting you know that you are not doing a technique correctly.

10. Practice for students at all levels emphasizes many repetitions of kihon (basic techniques ) in order to gain mastery of their application. Whenever a basic karate stance is introduced, the essential points of joint alignment and balance are emphasized by the instructor. Pay attention to these points.

11. Consistent attendance is essential to development in karate. Prolonged absence can only jeopardize the thinking of other students leading to a weak dojo. The first step to improvement is practice. The first step to practice is showing up.

12. All students must take part in the warm up and stretching routine which begins every class or event.

13. In the martial arts tradition that we must finish what we begin.† Students may not leave practice without the permission of the senior leading the class. If injury occurs during practice, notify the instructor immediately. If a student has an obligation that requires leaving class early, he or she should notify the instructor before class begins. You may not stop to get a drink of water. Drink plenty of water before class.

14. During practice all students must listen for the command "YAMAE" (stop) and instantly stop whatever they're doing as soon as they hear it. However, do not let your guard down - your partner may not have heard the command and may continue to attack.

15. Injuries are rare in sparing (kumite). Most forms of kumite are formal exercises, with the target and the technique exactly specified. Nonetheless, in Shotokan practice attacks are "live" so that student will develop realistic fighting skills. Do not cheat your partner out of their chance to learn by punching short or off to one side.† Also, no hand-pads, gloves, sweat bands, arm or leg padding or protection should be worn unless the student has a serious medical condition.

16. Because of the combative mode of karate, sometimes people foolishly become angry. However, the concept is to learn never to loose control. Thus anger must be guarded against, and all students must stop if they become angry, or perceive that their partner is angry. In contrast, it is very useful to cultivate the appearance of anger (or fear, or resolve, or distraction etc.) to deceive your opponent.


Outside of Practice

 Donít brag about or show off what you think you have learned.

 Donít threaten or intimidate people.

 No fighting to settle disagreements or arguments.