Good etiquette starts before you even enter the dojo. Being respectful of others is a cornerstone of society, religion and the martial arts. It is important to show respect to your seniors, those that have gone before you, respect to your training partners and respect to the man or woman that made your uniform. You should always start your training session wearing a clean, neat uniform and adhere to simple practises of good personal hygiene. Remove jewellery to protect yourself and others from injury, although exceptions can be made for items of personal significance with the permission of your instructor.
Removing your footwear before entering the dojo is a common practice, immediately familiar to anyone that has entered a religious temple. Those that follow religions in colder climates may be more likely to instead remove their hat. In practical terms, removal of footwear is simply an act of showing respect for others by not bringing dirt into the place in which you are about to train. This practice is not always possible in many Western dojo, so instead you should remove your footwear as soon as possible and certainly never walk on matted floors with heeled shoes as these can damage the soft surface.
Bow on entering the dojo. This simple gesture marks your respect for the dojo but also serves as a transition point as you leave the outside world behind in order to commit yourself to your time to practice. Bow again as you leave the dojo, offering your thanks for the time spent in the dojo.
The instructor, or a senior student, will call “shugo”, which translates as “gather together” and signifies the time for the students to line up. In principle, this simply means that the class is going to start; the students must pay attention to the instructor. Modern karate has been influenced by the military importance of orderly lines and standing in rank and thus the senior grade will stand at the front of the class to the right. This has a practical benefit of similar graded students training together and the junior grades knowing where to look for guidance.
The class will start with everyone facing “shomen”, the front of the dojo. The instruction “shomen ni rei” will be called, asking students to bow towards the front of the dojo, which may have a shrine or a photo of the Chojun Miyagi Sensei, the founder of Goju Ryu. The instructor and students will then turn to face each other and the instruction “sensei ni rei” will be called. While bowing to the instructor the students should clearly say “onegaishimasu”, which is simply an act of courtesy translating in the dojo as “please teach me”. This short ceremony is often performed in a kneeling position, seiza, and includes a brief period of meditation with eyes closed, mokosu. In the IOGKF Honbu dojo, and elsewhere, the Dojo Kun is also repeated out loud. This is the dojo oath and whilst it can be found in your licence book it is rarely spoken in Western dojo.
During the class there will often be times when you will practice with a partner. Before beginning you should bow to each other and say “onegaishimasu” and once your time together is finished you should bow again and thank each other by saying “arigato gozaimashita”.
Once the training time has finished, keiko arimasu, the closing ceremony is performed. As you started the class with a neat and tidy uniform you should make the effort to straighten your gi before the class finishes. The closing ceremony differs from the start of the class with the words “arigato gozaimashita” being spoken during the bow to the instructor to offer a sincere thank you. This is followed by an additional bow facing towards your training partner (the person kneeling next to you) “otagai ni rei”, accompanied by the words of thank you, “arigato gozaimashita”.