Monday, August 29, 2005

karate kid vs karate-ka (karate ranch guide to behavior)

The first time I stepped into a dojo (a place where karate-do and other budo are practiced) I was eight years old and believed that karate would teach me to fly through the air, pulverize wooden boards and defeat would-be assailants. While karate would teach me all these things, perhaps the most important thing it taught me was discipline. I had no idea what I thought a dojo would be like but I knew what kids were like- they played and squirmed and were loud.

Much to my surprise, there were kids attending that class that were much younger than me and none of them were acting like kids. They were acting like statues. The sensei (person who teaches karate) was leading them through exercises and although there were about fifteen people there, you could hear a pin drop.

Karate, unlike other sports that kids get into, teaches a great deal of discipline early on. Students are learning and practicing moves that can potentially harm or even kill. The responsibility that they take on in practice is more than a kid who learns to play t-ball for example, and as a result they are (generally) more serious minded.

Consequently, if a school does not teach all of the participants to act like men and women of responsibility, there is something missing from the lessons. Here is a list of basic items of etiquette that help promote learning and inspire discipline among practitioners:

- No hats, shoes or portable music devices in a dojo
- No gum, cigarette smoking (or other kinds of smoking) or eating in a dojo
- Portable phones should be turned off
- Guests should abide by these same rules to promote a good atmosphere for learning.
- Guests and students should keep voices low and restrict conversation unless necessary so as not to distract others
- Wear appropriate clothing to class, no jewelry (especially no rings, necklaces or earrings), no socks (unless otherwise specified), no jeans, inappropriate messages or images on clothing is strictly prohibited
- Students are encouraged to wear dogi to class (also known as gi)
- Show proper respect to fellow students and especially to instructors: rudeness cannot be permitted! Bow before and after each exercise. (other items will be included in later articles)
- If you are late for class (not a good idea), wait patiently in the “guest” area or another out-of-the-way spot until the sensei invites you to participate
- Don’t use inappropriate, rude, lewd or hurtful communication in the dojo
- Don’t shout or get angry in the dojo (if you find yourself starting to get hot, talk to the sensei and/or excuse yourself)
- Don’t correct a teacher’s or senior student’s authority or knowledge, and especially not in class.
- Don’t argue your point if you disagree (discussion and argument are different, however, class is not the time for either unless you are working privately with the sensei or a senior student and have a question)


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