3 Tips for Visiting a Dojo 1


Every martial art, and every organization or school, within it, is going to have a different set of behavioral expectations for its students. Within Asian martial arts, especially, there are certain things that are expected that you wouldn’t necessarily think of. For someone new to martial arts, or someone visiting another school, it can be difficult to know what you are supposed to do. While there are no standards, there are some things you can do that will help. Since I will be visiting another dojo, this week, myself, I figured I would share some of my thoughts on the topic.

Introduce Yourself in Advance

When visiting a school for the first time, whether you’re brand new to martial arts or not, it’s important to introduce yourself in advance. If you already know someone who knows the instructor, it’s best to have them reach out for you. This helps establish a connection to the instructor, and they will usually be more willing to open their school to you. Once this has been done, you should still contact the instructor, yourself. Again, this makes you seem more like an individual, and less like a nebulous “prospective student.” As always, be polite and respectful, and use proper grammar and spelling if you are using email or a letter to contact the instructor.

When in Doubt, Bow

Asian martial arts make extensive use of bowing, so if you are ever confused about whether you should bow or not, you might as well bow. There are certain times when you will most likely be expected to bow, though. When you enter the school, it’s often customary to bow–exactly where, and to whom/what may vary, but however you choose to do it should be fine, as a visitor. It is also customary to bow before you step onto the mat, or workout floor. Again, where, and to whom/what may vary, but you can observe what regular students do to get an idea. Most classes will start and end with some type of group bow-in/bow-out, and you will be expected to bow to your partner before and after practicing any type of drill with them.

Empty Your Cup

If you already hold rank in another martial art, you should bring a white belt with you. Remember that, unless the school is within the same organization as yours, you have no rank there. Put the white belt on, and line up wherever the other beginners line up. The instructor may ask you to wear your regular belt (he/she should know about your experience from your introductions), but don’t assume that they will. If they do, it’s important to keep a white belt attitude while you are in class, regardless of the color the belt around your waist is. All that said, it’s also important that you don’t keep your experience a secret. If any of the other students or instructors ask about your experience, you should let them know how long you have trained, and in what art. Similarly, there are some situations (like sparring) where it is important for your partner to know what your experience level is. Be humble, but honest.

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About Noah

I began training in karate (Shuri-Ryu) in the Summer of 2006. Subsequently, I started training in judo, kobudo, and iaijutsu within the next 6 months. During my training there, I earned the rank of Sankyu (3rd Degree Brown Belt) in Shuri-Ryu, Gokyu (Green Belt) in judo, a certification in the use of the bo, and passed proficiency tests for the four tachigata of Shinkage-Ryu iaijutsu. I moved to Arizona in the Summer of 2008, and continued training and researching karate at home. I continued regular training in judo at a local club until 2010, when I was able to start training in Shorin-Ryu with Sensei Richard Poage. I have been training with him ever since, and currently hold the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shorin-Ryu under him. In addition, I began studying KishimotoDi under Sensei Ulf Karlsson in 2014.

One thought on “3 Tips for Visiting a Dojo

  • Anonymous


    Hi Noah. I commented on your MMA debut post a short while ago. First let me say thanks for posting my response. Please allow me to back up and give a short intro.

    IMO, my style is a sister of style Shotokan karate. While Shotokan is arguably the most widespread karate style, I believe my traditional karate style has certain advantages over Shotokan. Furthermore, I believe that your Shorin ryu style is a more sophisticated than my style. I chose the more basic style because I sought to focus on the principles of traditional karate and accomplish those. I have also trained in a generic Shaolin kung fu which has some measure of Chinese kempo mixed in.

    I have experience going on two decades, most of that part-time as I am not in the business of running a martial arts school or organization. I train @ the black-belt level and do not anticipate attaining Master rank in my style.

    You are looking forward to your next MMA bout. I agree with being “100%.” Furthermore, you expressed disappointment with your your 1st match performance in Round 1. I had a different perspective.

    My commentary was pointed & intense. That’s because karate fighting is pointed and intense. Your very extensive blog is a fine example of dedication in mastering traditional karate. Allow me to better explain my reaction to your Round 1 experience.

    Your guard looks to me to be a conventional boxing or kickboxing guard as compared to a traditional karate guard. Although this is the conventional wisdom so often used in sport karate sparring, I just witnessed a skilled Muay Thai fighter with that same guard get KO’d by his Muay Thai opponent’s left hook (within a combination) in little over 1 minute of, yes Round 1.

    You mentioned that you misjudged your opponent’s strikes. I witnessed him punch right through your hands up guard. I guess the objective question is, “… how are your going to address that issue in MMA Fight #2?”

    A second point on the jab. The use of the jab is a strong staple of boxing or kickboxing. My perspective here is that if your jab is so successful against your fellow karate sparring partners, then their level of traditional karate skill is wanting. Instead of deliberately acting in their defense against punches, they are only reacting to want they typically see in front of them. The risk is you, in your success against the home-grown sparring partners, underestimate a more capable MMA fighter.

    I believe there is a lot of sophistication in the Shorin Ryu karate style. Bringing out that sophistication, IMHO, is a very, very challenging task. Good luck in your next MMA challenge.

    To complete my Intro, my current school did in fact start me over as a white-belt. It took me between four, almost five months to attain my yellow-belt. The head instructor didn’t think I could make it.

    The yellow-belt test, the head instructor assigned me an advanced rank opponent–of the kickboxer style, one of the most feared-fighters at the school He lost in in less than 30 seconds. Most of the students were intimated by him. The head instructor didn’t think I could make it. Then again, he didn’t ask about my experience–he just assumed I couldn’t win and on Day 1 told me so.

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