Frequently Asked Questions
- Any tips on general etiquette?
Sure - the 'golded rule' applies here: as in your everyday life, please treat your instructors and training partners with the same level of courtesy, respect and comraderie as you expect from them. Try and foster an atmosphere of cooperation and good spirit when you are working out, after all, everyone is here to learn, regardless of their level of ability and dedication.
- Please keep your fingernails and toenails trimmed to avoid injury to yourself and to your partner.
- Please do not talk when exercises are demonstrated or while questions are being answered.
- Questions are always appropriate and you should feel free to ask questions whenever you do not understand an exercise. The best time to ask questions is immediately following a demonstration.
- Asking your partner questions while practicing is also appropriate. Though, excessive socializing while practicing is not appropriate.
- Do I have to bow in martial art classes...and why?
Bowing should be viewed as a small, symbolic gesture of respect. Bowing to an instructor indicates an essential level of appreciation for his or her knowledge and ability, and is a way of showing gratitude for the instruction you are receiving. Bowing to other classmates is a way of demonstrating mutual respect. You both bow to each other, showing you are on an equal basis.
The martial arts do encourage and instill a sense of humility in students, but not to the point of humiliation or subjugation. Humility comes into play in every class. A student should respect the knowledge of an instructor, and be open minded and ready to learn. Students should also respect the talents and abilities of their classmates, and recognize that everyone has limitations - but all are striving to overcome them and improve.
Humility also keeps people safe in training: When a student tries to show off, or uses excessive force in training simply to prove they are the best, someone can be seriously injured.
Mutual respect, humility and being considerate are traits that must be fostered in the martial arts.
Bowing should have nothing to do with being assertive, or submissive. It is simply a way of being considerate and respectful. When you are asked to bow in class, instead of considering it demeaning, think about the nature of the request, and respond with the same intention as it is offered.
- How should I address the teacher during class?
The terms Sensei (for Japanese arts) and Master (for Taekwondo) are normally used in Japan and elsewhere to address any 'teacher' and are required by many martial arts teachers the world over. This particular formality is encouraged – as a sign of appreciation and respect, and to clearly define roles within the class structure.
In some Japanese arts the Senior student is addressed as 'Sempai.'
Most of the time, since we strive to develop teaching discipline as well as the martial art discipline, the participants in classes will be of differing ranks. Because of this, the Sempai is often designated as the Sensei's assistant. It can be their job to guide the student's etiquette, formalities and, if there is confusion about specific techniques that cannot be addressed immediately by the Sensei, they may offer guidance on how a given technique is to be performed.
- Anything I should know about entering the school or the mat area?
Yes. It's a good practice to develop develop the habit of bowing toward the 'teacher's place' (joseki). This is not mandatory, but if you ever visit another school, you'll avoid any offense of etiquette if you do. When in doubt, bow!
The same advice holds true when entering the mat area (bowing towards joseki) to begin class, or when you are re-entering after leaving the mat for some reason. Again, bowing is not always required in American dojos because the custom is principally Japanese. However, one can never go wrong building the habit, and in particular this is a trait that will serve you well if you have a goal of traveling someday to visit a school in Japan.
- What should I do if I have a personal conflict with another student?
Any student who feels mistreated, misused, or misunderstood should seek to speak to the Sensei about the problem. Almost always the problem turns out to be a simple and solvable one.
- When is it appropriate to speak to the teacher?
Any student should feel free to speak to the Sensei or any other teacher or Sempai at any time about any subject important to them. We want to listen and help.