Respect & Etiquette in Karate

Respect is a fundamental and integral aspect of society. It acts as an important foundation in all relationships, whether that be family, business related or friendly and will often be the deciding factor in the way that people treat you.

Respect has many definitions. Most commonly it is described as 'a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something, elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements' or as having 'due regard for the feelings, wishes or rights of others'. Simply put, it means showing regard and civility to the people around you. As we are often taught in primary school, showing respect means 'treating other the way you want to be treated' and always showing consideration for an individual's feelings, interests and values.

But what does this mean, and how does being respectful in our everyday life differ from the respect needed inside our dojo?

"Martial Arts begins and ends with respect". These words were spoken by one of the most influential karate masters, Anko Itosu, who was also one of the biggest influences of Kenwa Mabuni, the creator of our karate style Shito-Ryu.

As is usual practice in many groups and sporting orgainisations around the world, Karate has rules for proper and polite behaviour within the dojo. Unlike some other sporting clubs however, these rules stem from the traditional teaching of karate in Japan and reflect the Japanese culture. As the skills and teaching of karate are very old, and at one time secretive, a certain level of respect and appreciation should be observed when passing on this knowledge generation to generation.

New students to karate are sometimes intimidated by the unique etiquette of martial arts and are unfamiliar with the customs of training within a dojo. These customs can include bowing (rei), the specific way of lining up during 'Seisa', and the occasional Japanese terminology. But, by understanding these traditions, we can begin to understand the importance of respect in the dojo.

At Liberte Karate, we believe that respect starts from even the smallest things. Therefore we always encourage students to respond with 'Oss' either after an instruction or when bowing as a sign of respect and acknowledgment. Additionally, during our bow ins, we encourage students to respond with either 'onegaishimasu' at the beginning of class, or 'arigato gozaimasu' to finish. These phrases meaning 'please teach me' and 'thank you for teaching me' respectively, uphold the tradition Japanese customs and beliefs passed down through generations.