Updated: Nov 11, 2019
There are a lot of things that beginners wouldn't know...obviously. However, aside from techniques there are things that are considered "dojo etiquette" that sometimes even the most seasoned "karate moms" wouldn't know.
Kneeling before class shows respect and helps to clear the mind
1. Arrive For Class On Time
I cannot tell you how many times I have been teaching and a student comes in late. Now we get it, it happens from time to time, but don't make it a habit.
By being late, not only are you doing a disservice to yourself but you are disrupting the class when you stroll in late.
When you come in late, the instructor now needs to take time from helping the other karateka (students) to catch you up with what is going on at the moment.
So please...try to arrive on time. Even better? Try to arrive early. It allows you time to get changed if you need to as well as a little time to say your hello's and warm up a bit. There is a saying that goes "Early is on time. On time is late. Late is...something that shouldn't happen." So don't be late and arrive on time!
2. Respect, Respect, Respect
Now I'm not gonna sit here and tell you that you have to respect your elders and all this stuff...no no. Not only do I firmly believe that respect is earned and not just given (that doesn't give you an excuse to treat people like poop) but it's not what I am referring to right now.
Right now I am talking about showing respect to your dojo, Sensei (instructor), and partners. How is respect shown in karate aside from being a decent person? Bow. Yep it's that simple. Before entering and exiting your dojo, ensure you bow and that you do so always facing the dojo itself. Most Sensei start the class with a line up where they will bow in all the karate
before the start of class. By bowing, you are showing respect for your Sensei. Some sensei will have the class kneel and take a moment to meditate as well to help clear your minds. When I was training we had the younger kids face their parents and bow as well.
3. Keep It Clean
Nothing is worse than being partnered with someone who you know either didn't wash their gi (uniform) or didn't shower...or both. Se here's a tip: DON'T BE THAT PERSON. You'll know your that person because no one is going to want to be partners with you...ever. So shower, wash your gi and your gear!
Now...shoes. In all my years of practicing karate there has alway been the one student or parent that does not understand this simple rule...NO SHOES ON THE DOJO FLOOR. This isn't because we don't want to clean. It's a matter of germs. When you're outside and you come into the dojo with your shoes still on you're bringing all those germs on the floor with you and for those students that practice barefoot, its gross. The only exception is if you have training shoes that are only worn in the dojo. I find it helpful to keep some sort of wipes in your gym bag.
Finally, trim your nails. This goes for guys and girls. Hands and feet. The last thing you want to do is cut either yourself or your partner. They get hurt and than you feel bad. It really is loose loose. Don't just stop at trimming your nails as cutting them can still leave them sharp. Make sure you do some filing too.
4. Take Your Time To Learn
Starting karate or any martial art is one of the best and worst things that you can go through. No joke.
You come into your first class and you are excited and pumped and ready to learn some wicked new stuff like all those spin kicks you've seen on T.V....and than class starts. Now, as a younger karate this won't have the same effect on doubt if you're older...you'll definitely feel this: you're bored, you think this is childish, you feel awkward and stupid. Do you want to know my secret? It is completely normal!
There is going to be a lot of information thrown at you during your first couple classes and that is okay. No one expects you to remember everything you were taught that day. If you join just before a grading time for that dojo, there will be a lot of prep going on for the students that know their required belt level things so this will be even more true, but don't worry.
No matter what time of year it is for the dojo, take the time to learn and ask questions. A good Sensei will know how to correct you and teach you all these new things without making you feel over whelmed or incompetent. Take your time. If I had only one tip to give you it would be this one. Only time and practice will get you to where you want to be.
"How long does it take the average person to get a black belt?"
The average person does not get a black belt. There is no time frame for karate. That is the beauty of the art. You learn at your own pace.
5. Be Humble
Ohhhhhh man! If I had a nickel for every time I have seen someone get cocky over things like belt level....I wouldn't be writing this blog...kidding!
But seriously! Be humble. No one likes the "well what if..." person. Karate was never originally about achieving the rank of black belt. Karate was a means of self-defence for farmers in Okinawa. So that they would be able to defend their land and their families.
The ranking system was only introduced after Karate expanded to main land Japan and became more popular and even still, they were only used as a way to track progress so that students weren't overwhelmed. It wasn't until karate made it to the West and was modernized that it became the big deal to be a black belt. What I am trying to say here is this: Always have the mind of a beginner....