Mind Body Spirit Martial Arts
"Enter into a time and place in history when harmony and inspiration were once a way of life. Experience old, traditional martial arts culture, etiquette, and lifestyle – reaching beyond ourselves in today's world."
- Grand Master Gene Perceval

General Martial Arts Etiquette and Procedures:

Etiquette: 

The code of polite behavior.

Protocol: 

Correct conduct and procedures.

martial arts etiquette
martial arts etiquette

Displaying martial arts etiquette is considered one of the highest levels of practice in the arts. The martial arts instructor who teaches etiquette in his/her classes is a special instructor who cares for his/her students at a higher level. Tests in etiquette in Mind-Body-Spirit Martial Arts are part of the testing procedure when being tested for higher grades and ranks. Having the ability to demonstrate proper etiquette is not only important in regards to refinement and elegance in the martial arts, but it also demonstrates to other people that martial artists can change a negative situation into a positive one.

Martial arts etiquette is not just about manners, it's also about training the mind, body, and spirit. Most martial art systems throughout the world follow similar ethics and rules of etiquette with respect for oneself, others, nature and the arts. Most martial art rules of etiquette however are unwritten. They are a code that have been passed down verbally from generation to generation. Etiquette is a very important aspect of the martial artists beccause as martial artists, we are consistently striving to improve ourselves in mind, body, and spirit.

We have a lot more information on each etiquette topic that's not listed on this page. You can request more information on any particular etiquette item by clicking here.

General concepts:

Section 1. Theory of etiquette:

To list and learn the etiquette rules for all the different martial arts systems in the world would be confusing and pointless, unless you had a special interest in doing so. Most martial art systems throughout the world seem to follow similar ethics and rules of etiquette which revolve around respect for yourself, others, nature and the arts. Most martial art rules of etiquette are unwritten, and are a code that has been passed down verbally from generation to generation.

Etiquette is very important because as martial artists, we are consistently striving to improve all aspects relating to the body, mind, and spirit – to reach beyond ourselves. As martial artists we are not the same as the average person. We spend a lifetime training to become highly skilled practitioners who have hidden abilities to defend and protect ourselves, our loved ones and our property, without displaying any kind of visible weapon. With that hidden knowledge and ability, we have to take a step backward to control any type of personal emotion, anger, or aggression. As martial artists, exhibiting and having the ability to demonstrate etiquette is not only refined and elegant, it demonstrates to other people that martial artists can change a negative situation to a positive outcome. Displaying martial arts etiquette is considered one of the highest levels of being a true martial artist. In traveling the many paths we take in life, each and every day, we exhibit constant awareness of the world around us that is natural to us as martial artists. The martial arts instructor who teaches etiquette in his/her classes is that special instructor who cares for his/her students at a higher level. Etiquette studies should be required for testing for higher grades and ranks.

Over my decades in the martial arts, I have seen many changes occur, including observing the changes in the character of children as they become adults. Teaching the martial arts has also changed, as it has been passed down from instructor to instructor through the ages. At one time the martial arts were a pure art, where money had little importance or value compared to the integrity and reputation of a black belt instructor. A black belt's reputation was his credentials, which were recognized and respected by his peers. But, as years passed and the founders and pioneers of the arts aged and took a back seat to the more aggressive and newer instructors, the newcomers found that a great deal of money could be made owning, teaching and perhaps franchising a martial arts school. Basement or garage learning places became obsolete and the more elaborate martial art training facilities replaced them, to become the way of attracting more students and earning higher prices for lessons. The original two to three hour classes several times a week at about $35.00 a month in the 1970s was reduced to an hour or less, so instructors could teach more classes and make a good living teaching the martial arts, sometimes enough to raise a family comfortably. But, with the changes, much of the purity and dedication of the martial arts was swept away as well. It was once considered a great honor to achieve black belt, which required several thousands of hours of hard training and lessons. Now, it has become watered down, along with the teaching and daily practice of martial arts etiquette. As a purist, I would now be out of place in demonstrating my etiquette skills when visiting a martial arts school or while leading a class. If my etiquette was recognized by the instructor, would he/she feel uncomfortable in not knowing proper martial arts etiquette and how to react or respond? Is there a future for martial arts etiquette? Personally, I would like to see the younger generations show more respect in every way.

In my presentation of martial arts etiquette to you, a lot of information is based on tradition from the past. I am undertaking the task of introducing and creating an additional, updated martial arts etiquette, based on what I feel should be practiced today inside and outside of the martial art schools, which can be carried over into our personal lives. If we practice daily and we walk on the path of becoming skilled at proper martial arts etiquette, we would not have to wear a martial arts uniform or belt in public. People would notice you by your actions and the way you conduct yourself, and they would know that you have been properly trained as a martial artist. Hopefully, with that said, parents and adults will take notice of the etiquette practiced by martial artists, as will public and private schools, and enrollment in all the martial arts schools will flourish. Not too long ago parents sent their child to a martial arts school to learn how to protect themselves against bullies. While that is still true in some cases, parents now also send their children to a martial arts school for the discipline that is being taught and all the benefits that come from it.

What I am presenting is awareness of etiquette in the martial arts. It can be rather elaborate and somewhat in depth and may be beyond what you wish to become involved in; that is your choice. But I assure you that if you begin slowly with the simple basics of etiquette training, and continuously add a little at a time, you will see the difference in yourself. You will also be aware of the changes in your students, and other people will also become aware of the changes in you. Remember, your students are a reflection of you and look for your guidance to teach them the right things. Etiquette is definitely the right path and a higher path to follow. A true martial artist who enters a class is well aware of the techniques that should be performed to perfection, but etiquette should also be taught. Martial arts etiquette is just not about manners. It is training the mind and spirit to react properly to any situation, including being prepared for a sudden attack by another person, so within a split second a correct defense and counter attack, with strength and speed, can be performed. The martial arts begin and end with courtesy.

No matter where you go in the world, regardless of its culture, politeness, courtesy and respect for other people is the true way of life. Yet, what is considered polite in one culture can be considered offensive to another. Without some form of etiquette, no matter how small, it would be difficult to survive peacefully as a citizen of the world. We would be existing without rules and not thinking or caring beyond ourselves.

Martial arts etiquette is not the same as it was a long time ago when travel was restricted to within a few miles of one's village or town. Martial arts classes were a part of life where hours upon hours were spent several days a week to perfect techniques and learn proper etiquette. Today classes have been cut much shorter due to the constraints of time and economics. Time is usually not allotted for the two hour plus classes anymore, so etiquette has slowly been pushed to the wayside. Today, one's precious time seems to be even more valuable and limited than before.

Today science, technology and information have become so advanced that all the information of the world, past, present and the future, is at our finger tips with a flick of the mouse or the remote control of the TV. In order to move forward and keep up with this vast influx of knowledge, other important things are neglected. I'm referring to physical exercise, be it sports or the martial arts. The martial arts have a lot more to offer than other sports. In most physical sports, as you become older, the more strain is placed on the body. As a result, the body can no longer perform in that sport. The martial arts is in a world of its own. While it is full of physical demands when you are younger, as you age, in its most advanced form, the mental aspect overtakes the physical, and a higher level of understanding is achieved. Understanding the harmony of the mind and body gives us a greater understanding than what may be learned from the internet or TV. The consistent daily practice of etiquette allows us to interact with each other at a higher level.

Section 2. Categorizing etiquette:

You must develop self-respect in a positive way for yourself before understanding and developing respect for others.

Respect is thinking and acting in a way that shows others that you care about their feelings and well-being by expressing and/or demonstrating your knowledge of martial arts etiquette. Depending on the circumstances, it may even include your admiration and respect towards another individual because of his/her past achievements and good qualities. If not properly taught by an instructor, and not having the opportunity to practice, little if any martial art etiquette is learned or displayed by the students in and certainly outside the martial arts school. The opposite of respect is treating another person as if he/she means less than yourself. It is an attitude that is rude and can be hurtful towards others.

Politeness is showing consideration for others. "It costs nothing to be polite." The opposite of politeness is rudeness.

Courtesy is a relative to respect. Courtesy is a considerate act. It is an outward manifestation of behavior of how you regard another person. The opposite of courtesy is thoughtless behavior.

Being humble is an admirable quality. It does not mean being meek, week, or submissive. Rather, it is a state of mind that allows a person to give credit and consideration to another person regardless of his/her status or position. It is demonstrated by a person who is secure with him/herself and so doesn't have to advertise or brag about him/herself. Knowing a person of stature and importance who is humble is uncommon, even rare. Being humble is usually a sign of a person who isn't concerned about himself and his ego, but instead is concerned about other people. The opposite of being humble is being boastful, self-aggrandizing, conceited, and similar antonyms of humility.

Being quiet and humble, not to brag or be full of yourself. A modest person does not like to talk about him/herself, or his/her achievements or abilities. The opposite of being modest is being arrogant, overbearing, showy, conceited and egotistical.

The quality of mind and /or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty or danger.

Etiquette refers to the guidelines which control the way we behave and conduct ourselves with others. Examples are: thoughtfulness, modest attitude and behavior, manners, courtesy, neatness, respect, values, self-control, ethics, cleanliness, personal hygiene, timeliness, and considerate interaction with others.

Section 3. Two Personal stories.

Over my many decades in the martial arts, I have experienced almost everything possible related to tournaments. In the United States, all tournaments were originally open tournaments, meaning that competitors of all punching and kicking styles and systems could enter. Back then, in the early 1960s and early 1970s, most black belts knew each other, since there were not that many black belt instructors or schools in New York City or the surrounding areas, including Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. When an open tournament was held, it was run with the utmost respect for each other, including other styles and systems. I remember on one occasion when I was refereeing a match, a brown belt competitor was losing his match by a single point for the trophy. Then, the only protection worn in tournaments was a groin protector, and everything was bare knuckles and feet. As an experienced and seasoned black belt, you can tell within a split second if a technique is controlled or malicious. To prevent losing the point and even the match, the brown belt intentionally and maliciously executed a hard, straight punch to the other competitor's face, and the other competitor was bloodied and went down. Needless to say, things started to get out of hand and one thing led to another. The master who ran the tournament came over and stopped all competition. He reminded everyone of the rules and stated that a lack of respect for each other will not be tolerated. He then told the attacking brown belt to get dressed and leave his tournament. During the incident, the instructor of the competitor who punched the other competitor in the face arrived at the same time as the tournament director. After learning the details of the incident and realizing that his student was totally in the wrong and that his student's actions reflected back on him, that instructor accepted all the blame for his student's actions. He humbly apologized to the injured competitor, his instructor and everyone present. After apologizing for delaying the tournament, he then bowed. Because of his proper martial arts etiquette and the way in which he conducted himself, we recognized that the competitor's instructor (whom we all knew) conducted himself with proper martial arts etiquette. Those who were not of black belt ranking learned a very important lesson of respect. I am sure that the next time that brown belt entered his instructor's school he received a valuable lesson in respect. This is a good example of martial arts etiquette. On one hand, the lack of respect was demonstrated where winning took priority over respect. On the other hand, respect and following of proper etiquette saved face and corrected any mistakes that were made. By punching the other competitor in the face, regardless of the tournament's rules of "no contact to the face "the brown belt disrespected the honor of the other competitor and his school by not competing fairly. Also, by wearing his system's patch, he disrespected his instructor and the system he represented.

Etiquette is a special lifetime gift from you, the martial arts instructor, to your student. He/she can carry it along with his/her self-confidence whereby people will notice that your student has something special that helps him/her stand out from all others. By teaching martial arts etiquette you are changing the lives of other people with whom your students make contact each and every day. On a personal note: I never realized the impact I made teaching my students martial arts etiquette until years later when one of my younger students, whom I had not seen for a long time, and who was now an established business man, approached me one day while walking towards me and bowed to me in the middle of Manhattan. Taking me by surprise (because I did not recognize him grown up), he refreshed my memory. During our short conversation he thanked me for teaching him the martial arts, but he especially thanked me for me teaching him proper etiquette, which served him well in the business world. You really don't realize how powerfully you impact someone's life when teaching. The short moment I spent with the student, whom I had not seen in years, was very emotional and rewarding. I mentally said: "Yes! I did the right thing."

Section 4. Different etiquette concepts.

At first, you may find trying to remember and performing all the etiquette procedures rather difficult. Martial arts etiquette requires a gradual process of learning and doing. I have broken down martial arts etiquette into various categories, although not in any particular order.

As a martial artist you have the ability to convey information, thoughts, or ideas to others with a simple physical action, without uttering a single word. With proper timing and presentation, there is a certain elegance and dignity that can be demonstrated and displayed. In time, you will begin to notice in yourself, both mentally and physically, that you are less interested in impressing others, but instead care more for the finer details when teaching, while exhibiting proper martial arts etiquette.

When practicing every fine detail in the martial arts daily, you will begin to notice a difference in your every thought and movement. You will see changes in your thinking and, over time, you will become more aware of others when reaching out beyond yourself, and you will begin to better understand others, both mentally and physically. This heightened awareness of others is a part of a series of steps in improving your martial arts ability. One of your objectives as you move up through the grades and ranks is to transform yourself from a two dimensional person to a three dimensional person, and begin living in a 360-degree spectrum mentally, spiritually and physically.

In learning and practicing to be a true martial artist, you are training your body and mind to be ready and prepared to defend yourself without thought (non-thought reaction time). In time, your awareness of everything surrounding you will increase your reflexes and will become naturally heightened as you become more experienced. That is only one side of the martial arts, but what about the other side? You should also be well trained and equally at ease when showing respect, politeness, courtesy, caring, thoughtfulness, graciousness and humility every day, as part of your life.

In martial art schools where the instructors practice and teach the more traditional (old school) martial art etiquette to their students, the students seem to be more polite and respectful than those schools where little, if any, etiquette is taught or practiced. There is something else that I noticed as a by-product: classes in schools that focus more on martial arts etiquette are usually more detailed and the students are more involved. They are more interested in learning and ask more questions on anything that involves the arts.

The difference between a grandmaster and other martial artists is that a grandmaster no longer thinks of him/herself; he/she has passed into another realm of harmony with everything surrounding him/her. This includes everything that involves general etiquette and martial arts etiquette. While there is a slight difference between the two, and in general they coincide with each other, martial arts etiquette is in its own separate world. Throughout this web site, see if you can begin to notice why.

In the martial arts, formality in etiquette is a path to perfection of mind and technique, thus expanding and strengthening the spirit. It sets a pattern of thought that determines your actions.

Imagine yourself in the position of others, and think about how they might perceive you. Awareness is part of your training of the mind. Look for what you cannot see, and visualize what cannot be seen.

Section 5. Being respectful.

Physically displaying respect and courtesy toward all other students, competitors and instructors is a must in a martial arts environment. As a martial artist, showing, giving, or displaying respect is a positive action, and not being respectful is a negative action. Showing respect is an outward expression of your feelings and reflection of your martial arts training and knowledge. When done properly, it is an art that requires knowledge and skill to perform correctly, precisely, and in a timely manner. Demonstrating respect toward all others, whether martial artists of higher ranking or students of lower grade, and all other people, regardless of age, position, or background, shows others exactly who you are and reveals your true character and training and is a reflection of your instructor, school and system. If there comes a time when someone treats you disrespectfully by being rude, insulting, or abusive, this is the time your training as a martial artist must come forward. Your actions must be displayed by showing self-control and dignity by responding like a gentleman or a lady. Each person is a human being, which means some people's moods change from day to day, and emotions can run deeply from personal situations. When you respond with respect, it is one way of reaching out and becoming a "human band-aid," and help to heal those around you.

No matter how important or wealthy the other person, even if he/she were president, each martial artist is always treated the same. Everyone bows to the black belt, and even black belts bow to each other, with the black belt of lower rank initiating the bow first. There is the exception: If an instructor of a student black belt retires, and that student black belt becomes, in time, a higher ranking active black belt, the higher ranking active black belt will always begin the bow first if his/her instructor enters the area. Even if the original instructor was a fourth degree black belt and his/her student became a ninth degree, the respect will always be there. This is always followed by the active black belt students as well.

In martial arts schools, most everything in which both sexes participate is equal, with few exceptions. During tournaments, both sexes can participate and complete in forms against each other according to grade and rank. When it comes to sparring/free fighting and breaking, the rules change: males compete against males, and females against females.

Most instructors will permit guests to join a class providing they are martial artists with some experience. Permission should be requested beforehand. Student guests must follow all the rules of that school and exhibit proper martial arts etiquette.

When visiting a martial arts school, the following procedures should be followed: You should not show up unannounced unless there are circumstances that prevent doing so. Instead, you should make arrangements with the instructor beforehand, by phone or by visiting ahead of time casually without your uniform in hand with intentions of working out. Once arrangements are made that are acceptable to both of you, you are expected to fall into class according to your ranking to work out with others. Depending on the school, the instructor may charge a small fee, but it is customary not to charge a onetime visiting black belt as a sign of respect. A wise instructor, after watching you work out, may see techniques that may benefit the rest of the class and ask you to teach or demonstrate. It would be proper compensation for you to do so, to consider it an honor. Just make sure that you don't degrade the instructor's techniques, but offer it as an alternative way or describe it as the way in which you do techniques.

If you are of master ranking and intend to visit a martial arts school, the following etiquette should be followed. There is the possibility that you may be higher ranking than the instructor, and by how many honorable degrees are you? It is advised to have some type of martial arts identification when presenting yourself to the instructor. We all know that there is a lot of false ranking claimed, as seen on many web sites. The instructor should be advised of your name, ranking, location and title before being presented to his/her class so the formal introduction is correct. Above all, you must be very humble when speaking with the instructor, not talking to the instructor as to intimidate, insult, dishonor, or disrespect the instructor. When it comes time to enter the school, be prompt, the students may be advised of your visit beforehand and be instructed and be advised what to, and what not to, do or say. It is strongly advised that that you call or visit with the instructor beforehand or between classes. Do not look for any compensation unless it is agreed ahead of time, such as for a pre-scheduled seminar. The instructor and you should discuss beforehand what you would like to present to the students and any changes the instructor feels would benefit the students, no matter their grade or ranking. (Grade is below black belt, ranking is black belt and up.) When presenting you to the class, the instructor does not want to be overshadowed by your presence in front of his/her students. At some point during the class, the instructor should turn the class over to you. Keep in mind that that you follow the format presented as discussed with the instructor. Any unusual changes while teaching or demonstrating should be presented to the instructor in the form of a permissible question. How you present yourself to the instructor and the students will determine after you leave how knowledgeable and respectful you were. The instructor should follow up at a later date with a thank you and another invitation when in the area if he/she is pleased with your visit.

Etiquette is learning to be constantly aware of the feelings, safety, goals, desires, wants and needs of others. Everyone has needs and wants. By becoming involved in the other person's needs and wants by listening, you are joining minds.

Whenever you offend another person, even if is by mistake, apologize as soon as possible. If you offend someone while others are present, make sure that those who are or were present are aware of your apology to the person whom you offended. This would also be proper even at a later time once you realize your error.

Section 6. Not being respectful.

You may have seen or met a person at a tournament who just didn't understand or practice any martial arts etiquette. He/she is the one who lacks proper conduct, the one who may cause disturbances or problems, and is looked upon as just being boisterous, rude and lacking any self discipline. He/she holds him/herself above others and feels that he/she must be seen and recognized by others, and perhaps may even wear higher, false ranking. You will find that this type of person has very little perfection or understanding of the techniques due to a lack of real knowledge or caring. This is one of many examples why etiquette is so important in the martial arts. Years ago such behavior and false ranking would not have been tolerated. It has no place in today's world either.

Negative criticism is the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of another person; the act of criticizing someone or something. Constructive criticism is to analyze the work of others at his/her request, for the purpose of improving the outcome. Unlike negative criticism, constructive criticism always identifies positive as well as negative aspects, with suggestions for improvement. Did you know that there are over 20 types of criticisms? The three that mostly relate to the martial artist are the constructive, positive and negative categories. The goal of the martial arts instructor's teaching of students is to instill in them a positive constructive energy. If you were to watch a class intently and break down the teaching methods of an instructor, there are a lot of different things happening within a class. Of course, there is the physical, to which all students can relate. If a martial arts student was asked by an outsider what he/she is learning, the initial response would describe the physical training. A subsequent response by a higher ranking belt student might then describe the mental aspects of the martial arts, such as mental training, focus, concentration, discipline, attitude and related items. Etiquette would be far down the list, and only a high-ranking black belt or beyond might think of mentioning it. Now that you are aware of where this is heading, the next time you go to class, listen closely to what the instructor is saying and how it is presented. How many times do you hear negativity? Compare that with all the constructive and positive comments. When is the last time, if ever, did you hear the instructor speak negatively? As black belts, we are mentally trained to think positively, so we should not speak negatively. By now, you should be sensitive to how criticism affects others and ourselves. Negative criticism is partially an effort to rid oneself of frustrations by venting inner feelings and transferring it to others. Think about today only: how many times did you complain about something or someone? Was it because you were frustrated over something you have no control over, such as traffic? Did it leave you feeling helpless, frustrated and perhaps even anxious? A true martial artist refuses to let him/herself be affected by anything negative unless it will have a positive or constructive result. Part of becoming a true martial artist is to learn to transform the negative and turn it into the positive. Did you also know that criticism and negativity affects your health as well as distancing you from harmony? It shortens your life span; you don't live as healthfully; it negatively affects your social life; it takes away from your enjoyment of life; you have less energy; it opens the door for increased pain; and it increases the possibility of disease or poor health. Criticism affects your overall behavior. In martial arts terms, your reaction to negativity will determine whether you will be a poor instructor or an instructor who inspires your students to do and say the correct things. Finally, when critiquing a student's faults with a negative comment, be sure that when giving advice that you balance it by following up with a positive comment, such as: "to help improve this technique you should try doing it this way, instead of "you're doing the technique all wrong, this is how it's done."

Bragging or boasting is a sign of insecurity and the need for attention from others. A martial artist should not let him/herself act in such a manner. If you brag or boast in order to enhance your image in front of others, this is a breach of martial arts etiquette. A true martial artist should always be modest and humble, and not feel the need to boast, brag, or be a show-off.

Most martial arts schools have strict rules against bullying. If you are a bully and are seen bullying, most likely you will not be able to attend any more martial arts classes because bad behavior of a student reflects negatively on an instructor's teachings. That said, a well-trained instructor can help take a bully and turn him/her around to become a more caring, considerate, kinder and thoughtful person. To be labeled as a bully as a result of being verbally and/or physically aggressive towards others is sad. Most of the time there is a reason for the aggressive behavior that caused the bullying in the first place. It is far more important to find the reasons why the bullying is taking place and to try to correct the cause of the bullying behavior. Children and adults have to learn how to control their internal emotions and frustrations without bullying or directing them outwardly toward other people. In some cases, professional counseling may be the only alternative.

Martial arts etiquette is something you carry with you all the time, just as you are training yourself mentally and physically to be prepared to protect yourself. Let me explain further: Insulting someone is to verbally attack someone and injure his/her feelings, no matter how slight or hidden it is within a conversation or statement. A true martial artist is always considerate of other people's feelings, be it verbal or physical. Instead of insulting someone, a true martial artist should always strive to make other people feel better about themselves.

Constructive complaining or criticizing in a positive manner to solve a problem or to resolve an issue has a time and a place. Complaining for its own sake serves no purpose because it focuses on the weaknesses and faults of others and provides no positive results. Finger-pointing or blaming others is also unproductive, and just demeans the other person. During your day, how many different things do you complain about? Constant complaining can wreak havoc on your relationships, health and mental attitude. The martial arts school is an environment for thinking positively, and this attitude should be carried over to the outside world. The instructor trains the student to follow a mental path of realism and positive thinking. Negativity is counterproductive, and is not a realistic response to a problem or to an attack. Therefore, complaining defeats the purpose of your mental training and can affect the way in which you progress in the martial arts and in life.

When speaking with others, speak positively, not negatively. Talking (or thinking) negatively, especially about another person is contrary to your martial arts training and is a major breach of etiquette.

Preventing a fight outside of a martial arts environment, in most cases, is very simple. By apologizing or admitting you have made a mistake, or by stating that you do not want to fight and would prefer instead try to work things out, works wonders. As a martial artist, learning how to prevent a fight is more difficult than having a fight, but it is an art that can be mastered. Leave the other person with his/her self-dignity, and earn your respect as well. Even knowing you can win in a fight, by having to fight you have lost the battle (with yourself).

Becoming a student, and students calling the school:

Section 7. Introduction of a new student.

After making the decision to join a martial arts school, and discussing questions regarding cost, lesson times, and expectations, you will most likely be shown around the school and given an introduction to the school's procedures, what is permitted and not permitted, and a preliminary exposure to the school's etiquette that must be followed. Ask for and read any literature that the school may have so you can study it. This way, when you begin your classes you can know what to do, and how and when to do it. This will allow you to feel like a member of the school more quickly.

When a young new student enters a class for the first time, he/she may feel nervous and isolated from the rest of the class. The instructor should introduce the new student to the rest of the class to make him/her feel welcomed. Senior and more experienced students are encouraged to help the new student whenever possible. The experienced students, if given the opportunity, should take turns in pairing off and working with the new student to help him/her become more familiar with the class routine. Helping to build confidence in the new student encourages him/her to continue to keep returning to classes.

There is something you must realize when joining a martial arts school. It is not your home, school, or workplace. The school mostly resembles a military training facility. Beyond purely physical training, the school trains the mind and the body to act as one, and also to understand all the sciences that relate to the mind and the body. That is why it takes decades to truly understand and learn the martial arts. It may take many years, but the journey is very rewarding.

If you have any physical disabilities, you must inform the instructor and staff about any disabilities, handicaps, injuries, medical conditions, or if you are on medication that may affect your physical performance. If you are a diabetic or have asthma, don't forget your medication. In private, you should inform the staff and your instructor what to do and how to dispense any medications in case of an emergency. It may be necessary for you to bring an extra supply of anything that you may require. Arrangements should be made between you and your instructor relating to difficulty when performing etiquette or other martial arts movements.

It is important that any sign in sheets or swiping of your ID card or any other means of keeping a record of your lessons should be taken care of before class begins. Some newer computer system programs not only keep attendance but also let the instructor know what classes the student has missed and what was taught in those classes. If the student is required to have so many hours of lessons and is required to know certain techniques or forms, the computer will inform the instructor of what was missed and whether it was made up when it comes time for promotion.

Be considerate of others. If you are sick or not feeling well, have a cold or anything that can be transmitted to other students, call ahead of time and cancel your lesson. You will be doing the instructor and the rest of the students in your class a favor. Calling the school and notifying the instructor shows that you respect everyone's well-being and also prevents the instructor from wondering where you are.

Martial arts students, both young and old, are expected to carry all of their martial arts equipment starting after their first lesson. Before leaving home, it is every student's responsibility to re-check their martial arts uniform and any training gear required for class or competition and make sure that he/she has everything that is needed. If the martial arts uniform and belt are carried separately, you should ask a senior student on how to properly fold and carry your uniform and belt. Traditionally, the martial arts belt should only be worn while on the training area or within the school.

You may walk into a martial arts school during a class because you have an interest in joining. One of the first things you notice is that there is an instructor teaching students, some of whom may be young, while others may be adults. Whatever the instructor says, the students do; it looks like a game of "Simon Says." It doesn't matter what kind of martial arts is being taught or how aggressive the students become; if you watch closely, you will notice the instructor(s) and the students always demonstrate respect and martial arts etiquette. Another thing you will notice is that it somewhat resembles the military, where everyone moves in unison, as if on a parade field. The students are grouped according to the color of their belts, which represent grades and ranks. This is how the instructor can teach individuals who come from different backgrounds. Everyone must understand that individualism is left at the door and that everyone works together to achieve the same martial arts goals.

At times a student from another school may ask permission from his/her present instructor to also join a second school to learn another martial art. Both instructors must be made aware of the student's intentions. Not notifying both of the instructors is poor martial arts etiquette. If the student from one school quits his/her present school, he/she should inform his/her instructor that he/she would prefer to take lessons elsewhere. Keeping your present instructor in the dark is disrespectful and not in your best interests. It may hurt your reputation in the martial arts world in the future. Also, if you meet the first instructor at some later date, it would avoid a very awkward encounter when it is discovered that you did not explain your true reasons for leaving the school.

Outside the martial arts school:

Section 8. Before and after school.

Personal valuables should not be brought to a martial arts school. Items such as: money, credit cards, jewelry and phones should be locked it up in the trunk of your vehicle or left at home. Martial art schools are not responsible for lost or stolen items. Most martial art schools don't have lockers where your valuables can be safely stored and secured.

  1. When driving your child to a martial arts school, for safety reasons, you should not drop your child off outside the school where the child has to walk where there are moving vehicles.
  2. Children should not be left alone to cross streets or walk in a parking lot.
  3. If you are early, do not leave the child standing alone outside the school to wait until the school opens.
  4. Stay with the child.
  5. Parents or relatives who drop off a student at the martial arts school should park their car correctly and not double park or block traffic.
  6. Children must be safely escorted by a responsible person into the school.
  7. Small children should be brought into the school by a parent or guardian.
  8. Once the child is inside the school, the parent or guardian may leave.

The instructor or staff of the martial arts school is responsible for the safety of your child while in his/her care. If someone other than the parent or guardian is to pick up your child, arrangements must be made in advance to inform the school's staff. The school should not release a student unless the person picking the child up is known to them or arrangements are made in advance for someone else to pick up the child. When picking up a young student, the parent or guardian should enter the school to be seen by the staff. Parents or guardians must understand that the martial arts school cannot close until each child is personally picked up, so it is important not to be late. When arriving at the school, do not block traffic or cause an unsafe or hazardous condition with your vehicle.

If you are going to be late in picking up your child, you should call the school, preferably well in advance, and inform whomever is in charge that you are running late and how late you will be. Running late and not calling presents a significant problem for the school's staff. The staff cannot leave until all children are picked up because the school is responsible for each child's safety until the child is picked up.

If you are in anyway impaired by prescription drugs, recreational drugs or alcohol, do not drive. Instead, make other arrangements to have someone else pick up your child from the martial art lesson/school. One of the most important things we teach in the martial arts is the safety of everyone involved. If this should ever come about, remember, the child's safety comes first. If you have a concern, see what your local laws are regarding not realizing a child to an impaired person. If you are a student or black belt, and if you are impaired by drugs or alcohol, or even have traces on your breath, don't attempt to attend any classes. If detected, you will be turned away by your instructor. Any type of open alcoholic beverage container is forbidden in or near the martial arts school. As a martial artist, there is a certain decorum or code of conduct by which you must abide. You should not tarnish your reputation or that of the school or the system with which you are associated by being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

As a martial artist, you are well aware of the damage that cigarette and/or cigar smoking does to your health and stamina. If students or guests must smoke, then they should do so at least ten feet from the martial arts school doorway or open window to prevent the smoke from entering the school. Remains of the smoked items should be disposed of properly. Each state has laws governing where and when smoking is permitted.

If there is a door mat outside the entry door or as you enter the martial arts school, you should wipe your feet on it several times, regardless of whether or not you think your feet are free from outside debris. If there is no mat, then you should wipe your feet again inside the door before entering. After you enter, do not block the entrance. Step out of the way, remove your footwear, and carry it to where it belongs.

Every human being is equal both in and out of a martial arts school. You must constantly be aware of other student's and other people's feelings and emotions. Once you open the door to the martial arts school, you have to leave your personal ego and negative thoughts outside. Change your way of thinking and just bring in your positive energy for inspiration, motivation and learning.

Etiquette and safety when entering the school:

Section 9. Entry area of school.

When entering a martial arts school, you should remove your hat or other head covering and leave it off until leaving the school. If you are training in a religious facility, or with an organization that wears some form of head covering, of course you should follow its standards. In general, a martial arts school is not a place of religious worship, nor does it follow any outside organizational policies. Removing your head covering for the martial arts is not lowering your religious standards nor is it a negation of the customs of the organization you are associated with. Traditionally, the martial arts have been practiced with a bare head. Nevertheless, sweat bands or tying back long hair is acceptable, providing it meets the rules of the martial arts school.

Do not make any loud sounds play loud music, or have a loud conversation while in the doorway of a martial arts school. You are entering a place of learning, whether or not there is a class in session. The martial arts requires intense focus and concentration, and loud conversations or noises may distract students and prevent them from completely focusing on their class. Decorum should always be practiced until it becomes a natural behavior.

It would be proper to hold the door open for the person behind you, or for someone leaving the school. However, do not hold the door open for too long; it can let out heat or air conditioning from the building, or bring in unwanted bugs, bad weather and outside noises. High winds can pull the door from your hands and cause it to slam, perhaps damaging the glass or putting excessive pressure on the door's hinges.

If standing at an entrance, always let the more senior student or black belt go in front of you when possible. However, no matter how high your ranking is as a black belt, master, or grand master, you should still offer to let a guest or colored belt pass before you, to teach martial arts etiquette.

It is impolite to hold a conversation while holding the door open at a martial arts school. It is inconsiderate towards others who are trying to enter or leave.

A martial artist should always be aware of safety and thinking beyond him/herself. You are required to keep all entrances and exits free from clutter including shoes, training bags, equipment and all other objects in case of an emergency, and to create the proper environment within the martial arts school.

In most martial art schools, you should remove your footwear before continuing past the reception area and carry your footwear to where it is normally kept, unless there is a pathway that allows you to avoid the training area. You should >not kick off your footwear, but remove it by hand. If there is no place to store your footwear, place it neatly out of the way of traffic so others don't have to walk around it or possibly trip over it.

Wet umbrellas and rain gear should not be carried past the reception area and into the martial arts school, especially around the training area. There should be a special place in the school for the storage of these items.

Kick or wipe off any snow that remains on your boots before you enter the school. Wet snow melts and can create a slippery surface in the martial arts school, which could result in an injury.

Etiquette in the reception area:

Section 10. Reception area of the school.

Do not enter a martial arts school or place of learning while chewing gum, eating, or drinking. If you are going to be at the school for an extended period of time and are permitted to bring fruit or other such foods, rinse your hands so items in the school do not become sticky. Make sure that all food items and packaging products are properly disposed of to keep the school clean.

If there is a water fountain or a machine with beverages, always allow the more senior person or guest to go first. Proper etiquette requires that the more senior colored belt or black belt, including master ranking, to respectfully decline the offer and to wait his/her turn.

When talking within the confines of the school, it is polite to keep your conversations at a low volume, whether or not a class in session. You are entering a world where calmness and harmony are an essential part of the learning process. The same attitudes should be followed on the training floor, where focus and concentration are imperative. The instructor has the floor and generally, should be the only one who is permitted to speak, other than a student asking a question at the proper time and in the appropriate manner.

If you are a student of the martial arts and you bring in a friend or family member, you should make that person aware ahead of time that the martial arts school is like a library, and that he/she must talk in a very low tone, if at all. Many times the assistant instructor has to advise guests that the instructor is teaching a class and loud talking disrupts the class and distracts the students' attention from the lesson. Crying babies and young siblings running around and making noise should be taken outside to avoid disrupting the class. Parents or guardians, should not leave non-students unattended.

Martial art schools are private. Do not bring your guest past the reception area without an invitation or permission from your instructor or staff. Guests are not permitted on the training floor for etiquette reasons and insurance regulations. Mats are an invitation to small children to play on, so they must be supervised. Your guests are your responsibility, so advise them of the school's rules and regulations beforehand. Guests should ask permission before using the school's bathroom. Walking past an instructor while he/she is teaching is disrespectful and can be disruptive, so it is not permitted.

At no time is anyone permitted to invite any visitor onto the training floor unless it is by the express invitation of the instructor.

When entering a martial arts school, traditionally and with proper martial arts etiquette, all martial artists should show respect towards the art and all who are in the school by bowing. The bow also replaces verbally greeting those who are present, thus maintaining decorum. Once inside the door of the school, the following procedure should be followed: Step forward, slightly to the side so you do not to block the doorway, and bow. Some martial arts schools require students to slap the sides of their legs with their open palms and give a verbal "oosh" sound when bowing. However, giving a verbal "oosh" sound or slapping the sides of your pants legs during class can disrupt a class or distract the students in the class. Traditionally, a quiet bow without any verbal or extra sound is the rule. Depending on the situation and/or circumstances, sometimes different depths of the bow should be performed. For more details on bowing when entering or exiting a martial arts school, go to the section on bowing, or view the different videos on bowing, including the videos on the 15-degree bow, the 30-degree bow, and the 45-degree bow. Note: Some schools may be on the second floor of a building or down the hallway. In that case, you should not bow at the entrance. Instead, you should wait until you arrive at the actual training area to bow in.

Why do we bow at the entrance as we enter a martial arts school? Before entering the place of training, everything that has taken place in your private world before entering is left at the door. Your bow reminds you that you are now entering a place where ego, anger and hostility do not exist. You are entering a world where humility reigns. Respect, composure and harmony toward all others, both physically and mentally, prevail. These traits and attitudes can and should be carried back to our private lives outside the martial arts school.

Once in the martial arts school or place of learning, when the instructor or another black belt is facing in your direction, you should politely bow at 30 or 45 degrees (the depth of the bow depends on the system or style) towards the black belt. If he/she is of master ranking, then you should perform a deeper bow, which is held at the lowest point for one to two seconds.

When entering a martial arts school, if a high ranking master is present but not facing you, you should first bow toward the training area (art) to show respect, and then turn and bow at 30 or 45 degrees (the depth of the bow depends on the system or style) in the direction of the master to show your respect if he/she is occupied on the phone, in conversation with another person or any other reason. Do not hold the bow at the lowest point at this time. After bowing, you should then proceed into the school as you would normally do. When the master (teacher of teachers) is facing toward you, you should also bow a second time; it is appropriate. To do the bow correctly, you should hold the bow at its lowest level for an additional second before beginning to rise. The bow should be sincere and not performed as an obligation, even though it is required.

If there is more than one black belt present when you first enter a school, and they are all within the same vicinity of each other, instead of making several bows to each individual black belt, you should direct your one bow to the highest ranking black belt present. Then you would turn in the direction of your instructor and bow. To make it clear, when entering a martial arts school, you should always bow to the highest ranking black belt (master) if he/she is facing you where the bow can be returned. If the master is not facing you where a bow can be returned, then you should first bow in the direction of the training area, especially if your instructor is on the training area. If your instructor is not on the training area but is facing in your direction when you first enter the school, then your instructor or the next highest master in command would deserve the respect of your first bow. If you should then come across other black belts, then you would bow to each in passing. One bow is usually sufficient; you don't want to overdo by constantly bowing. The martial arts code of conduct (etiquette) is almost the same as in the military: once an officer has entered the building and you salute once, you would not salute again, unless the situation calls for another one.

Some schools have a shrine within the martial arts school for the founder of a system. The shrine is reserved only for the memory of a founder of a system and is usually placed within the training area. If there is a shrine, it would be proper to first bow in the direction of the shrine when entering the martial arts school. If there is no class in session, then you would proceed to bow to any masters who are present when you enter the school. If there is a master higher than anyone else present in the school, you would bow in his/her direction after first bowing in the direction of the shrine. Otherwise, bow in the direction of the instructor when he/she is on the training floor. If the instructor or a black belt is not present on the training area when you enter the training area, then, when stepping on the training deck, turn the direction of your bow toward the shrine and respectfully do a high bow. If your instructor or another black belt is on the training deck, then turn your bow in his/her direction. Remember, always bow to the highest ranking black belt first. Then you would direct a second bow in the direction of your instructor before proceeding. Once on the deck, you may then proceed to bow each master or black belt individually. When a shrine is present, it is given the utmost respect. This respect is directed to the founder of the system or style who has passed away. If there is a shrine displayed, most likely the classes will be formal, following all etiquette procedures. Usually, the second in command or the instructor's assistant would give all commands once the class is lined up. This would include the deep bow ceremony. When in the deep bow position, a command would be given to turn in the direction of the shrine and respectfully bow. If you are a visitor and you join a class, no matter the grade or the ranking, it is respectful to show courtesy and respect by bowing.

There is a little secret in bowing that I'm going to let you know about first. I have to explain the circumstances, so you fully understand. There are black belts, and then there are black belts who have many years of experience. The experienced black belts are the masters and the grand masters in ranking, usually from fourth degree and higher, depending on the style, all the way up to ninth or tenth degree, again, the highest ranks of their style. When a high ranking black belt enters a martial arts school, he/she is not looking to be bowed to, because they are beyond the point of requiring everyone's attention and respect. However, it is their duty to follow tradition and formality, the same as when a general in the armed forces would enter a military building. When entering a martial arts school, the high ranking black belt must give every opportunity for the traditional bow to be played out, just as he/she had to do many years ago. It teaches all who are present that respect and tradition go hand and hand. It doesn't matter if there is a black belt teaching a class or if the black belt is not facing in the master's or grand master's direction. When a higher ranking black belt (high master ranking, an instructor of instructors) enters a martial arts school, and he/she is well known, he/she respectfully bows as a courtesy to all who are present and also because he/she is stepping into a place of learning the martial arts. If he/she is not recognized immediately, it is somewhat like a game of poker. The master would then take his/her time, by acting casually and not being obvious (to give tradition and respect time to be played out) and gradually move to the edge of the reception area. Usually, by this time, someone will recognize the high ranking master and notify whoever is in charge. That person, usually the most senior person and not necessarily a black belt, would tell (command) everyone to face in the direction of the high ranking master and come to attention. Then he/she would announce to everyone present the senior master's title and name and anything else that is special about that person. He/she would then give the command for everyone to bow (the bow in this situation should at the least be a thirty degree to forty-five-degree bow, depending on the style). If it is someone of special importance and very high ranking, a forty-five-degree bow would be a must. The master ranking would then return the bow. This is one of the few times that both parties don't coordinate their bows together. By the high ranking master delaying the return bow, it gives the opportunity for all others to see the high ranking master's humility and respect for all who are there. Everything in the martial arts has a reason, even the simple bow.

Section 11. School rules.

Smoking inside a martial arts school is strictly forbidden. In many states, smoking is prohibited within ten or plus feet of the entrance to a non-smoking building.

No profanity may be used in a martial arts school during any martial arts function, or at any other place while wearing a martial arts uniform or representing your system or style. Dirty or off color jokes are also forbidden. Use of such language will bring a stern warning from the instructor. Continued use of such language can be disruptive of the respectful and humble environment of the martial arts school. It can be disrespectful to others, and it can create a toxic environment in the school. You could be disciplined or expelled from the martial arts school as a result.

Pushing, shoving, or horse playing in a martial arts environment is considered poor etiquette and displays a lack of self-control. Even small children attending classes have to learn from the first class and by watching others that, in a martial arts school, discipline and control are the rule. You are there to learn, so clowning around, pranks, or running around is unacceptable. Parents don't seem to have the same control as a martial arts instructor. Children are smart, and they know whom and when to obey. Children with certain disabilities or who have a short attention span are the most difficult to teach, yet, over time, they tend to improve and become good students if given the proper attention and opportunity.

Even if you are late, do not run into a martial arts school or onto the training floor. This can cause collisions, falls and injuries.

Please avoid using the school's telephone unless it is an emergency. Intended brief calls can sometimes wind up being longer than anticipated. A phone call while a class is in progress may distract the students from their lesson. A lost incoming call to a school could mean a lost new student. A martial arts school is still a business and a source of income.

Guests and students should turn off their cell phones prior entering a martial arts school. If a guest is expecting an incoming phone call, he/she should put the phone on vibrate and take the call outside of the school. If you are a doctor on call, or if you are expecting a very important call, you must make arrangements with the head instructor or receptionist beforehand.

It is improper to wear ear phones when entering a martial arts training center (school) or while you are inside, even if it is not in use. Texting or watching something on your device when entering a school is improper etiquette. This does not include hearing aids or hearing devices.

Respecting another student's personal belongings is to be expected. If another student's items are in the way, carefully move them and place them as close as possible as they were before but out of the way of others. If something of value should be found, immediately bring it to the instructor (if he/she is not teaching) or someone else next in charge to make sure it is returned to its rightful owner.

Touching or picking up another student's training gear or putting it on is not permitted without first getting his/her approval. To pick up another student's weapon or other equipment without first asking permission is also not permitted, even if it is just to hold and examine. Exceptions: If another person's gear or weapon is in the way of training, or may present a safety hazard, you may move it to the side or to the closest safe place. Let the other martial artist know where you put it if it is not visible from the original location. All personal gear and weapons should have your name so it can be returned to you if left behind or lost. If you are examining a real sword, even with the owner's permission, it is traditional and respectful never to touch the blade with your bare hands, because any moisture from your hands can affect the blade if not cleaned in a timely manner. If you are wearing a martial arts uniform or a long sleeve shirt, hold the handle and rest the back part of the blade portion on the inside of where the elbow bends. If it is a real sword that cuts, and you are a professional black belt and know swords, special care should be used when the sword is in motion. Very old swords may not be in the same condition as when they were new, and may come apart or loose if force is applied.

No weapons are permitted inside or near a martial arts school unless it is a weapon used and practiced in the class for that lesson and is recognized by the instructor. This would include pepper spray or any chemical that may cause injury to another person. Firearms or any weapon not used in class must be locked up in the trunk of your car. Police officers and others who are licensed to carry a weapon must also follow the school rules and regulations.

Most people like a good joke once in a while, and there are times in a martial arts school when they can be appreciated. Providing it remains within the bounds of correctness, and it is clean, and non-offensive, it can be enjoyed if told at a proper time. Pranks in a martial arts school or environment are improper and should never be allowed.

It is bad martial arts etiquette to demonstrate any martial arts movements on someone who is not in the martial arts, even if the other person is willing for you to do so. If someone asks you to show him/her some movements, you should suggest that he/she visit your martial arts school as your guest. Never ask a non-martial artist to apply a hold on you or to attack you, as the result may lead to injury or further aggression. Play fighting with a non-martial artist will only accelerate if he/she feels that his/her ego is injured when losing.

When in a martial arts school, you are building a bond of trust with your fellow students. You rely on them not to injure you and they rely on you not to injure them in any way. Theft within a martial arts school is a serious breach of trust. Do not violate that trust by touching or removing anything that is not yours (unless first notifying the owner if it has to be moved to a different location in the school). Be aware of, and safeguard, other people's belongings. That feeling of trust between people in the martial arts school is important to creating a safe learning environment for everyone.

As a martial artist we are increasingly becoming mentally stronger. The longer we practice the better we become in having self control. You will eventually reach a pinnacle where you alone can take control of most or all of the situations that may affect you. If in the past you have insulted another person's ego, often they will not be mentally satisfied until they have retaliated against you, either through revenge or vengeance. If or when that time comes, you must be your strongest, mentally. Do not be affected by at that moment. If the other person bursts out in anger, anxiety, frustration or some other kind of resentment, it is best for your to direct your energy in a positive manner. One way to begin with the healing process is let the other person speak without interrupting them, and when you are speaking to them, use a calm voice to allow the other person to save face.
As a martial artist, you should always remain within the world of respect, for within yourself, and others. This will help prevent you from retaliating against others. And this will also help to prevent others from taking over your thoughts. Retaliation describes the following: To repay, to get revenge. Causes of retaliation are: name calling, insults, put-downs, ridicule, threats, ultimatums and other physical gestures.

Section 12. Reception requirements.

Your instructor or the reception person must be notified promptly of any change of address or phone number. In the event of an injury or sickness, your school will have up-to-date contact information.

Being asked to make a late payment can be embarrassing not only for you, but also for your instructor. Students should understand that even though it is a martial arts school, it is also a business and should be treated as such when it comes to finances. Late payments place both parties in an awkward position. The student may quit or may be asked not to attend classes. If you are having financial difficulties, speak privately with the person in charge. You may find that some type of arrangement can be made. Speaking with the instructor and explaining your difficulties in making payments at that time can allow the instructor to work with you. In the long run, it is the same if the instructor is teaching 15 students or 16 students in a class, so the instructor has some leeway and discretion.

It is proper to inform your instructor that you or your child will no longer be taking martial art classes. It is disrespectful to fail to notify the martial arts school that you have stopped taking martial arts lessons. The instructor and/or staff will most likely be concerned about your health and well-being and follow up with a phone call. Failure to notify your instructor ahead of time is rather thoughtless and hurtful to the instructor, especially after a personal bond has been established between the two of you.

The uniform & belt:

Section 13. The uniform.

Some schools include the uniform in the cost of the lesson plan. Some charge extra for the uniform, which is yours to keep, On your first visit to a martial arts school, you most likely will receive your martial arts uniform. It is usually customary to purchase your first uniform at your martial arts school for several reasons. The school does make a profit on your uniform, which helps offset its expenses. Your uniform is exactly as it states: it will be uniform with the school's standards. Any patches or logos that have to be added will most likely already be on the uniform and placed exactly where the school or system requires. In the future, your uniform can be purchased elsewhere. The type of martial arts you are taking will determine the type of martial arts uniform you will wear. Some different uniforms are: Tae Kwon Do uniforms in different colors, depending on the school; Kung Fu uniforms that come in many different styles, again depending what type of Kung Fu you take; Judo uniforms, which have heaver and thicker tops and lighter pants. There are also Aikido, Kendo and Hapkido uniforms, which are also popular in the mainstream martial arts.

Martial arts uniforms are designed to give you sufficient room for mobility for the chest and shoulders. Uniforms with the open front flaps let air flow between the uniform and your body to prevent overheating of the torso. The pants come with an elastic band or draw string at the waist. The crotch is stitched to give you sufficient room for stretching and high kicks without ripping the pants. Some Tae Kwon Do tops are the pull over type (worn somewhat like a sweater). Some kicking and punching art uniforms come in different colors, but traditionally the Japanese uniforms are all white. You can purchase a light weight material or a heavy canvas top. If you purchase the thin type top, it will most likely rip soon after a few tugs and pulls; they don't hold up well. Judo and Aikido uniform tops are made of a much heavier material to withstand the pulling and throwing techniques. The pants are just about the same as the kicking and punching arts. All three uniforms are generally cut in the same manner. Traditionally, males are not to wear any undershirts when in uniform, as this restricts air circulation. Females typically do wear a tee shirt under the uniform top with no markings on it and without a collar. See section on "Uniform: Women's privacy."

Pants: One of the first things you will notice is that martial art pants don't exactly fit like regular pants. There is plenty of extra room at the crotch, which allows you to perform movements that won't split the crotch area. Some pants have elastic at the waist, and some have draw strings in front at the waist. The ones with the draw strings tie in front like your shoe laces. Do not double knot your draw strings, because when nature calls, that is the time the knot won't come undone. Top: When putting on the top, you will notice that there are no buttons or zippers to keep the two flaps closed. This is to allow you freedom of movement and eliminates any metal or plastic which can scratch or injure. Once you put the jacket on, take the right side of the front flap and place it against the left hip to close it. Then take the left side of the front flap and place it over the right side in the same manner. The left flap goes over the right flap. If your uniform has ties at the bottom at the hips, tie the two strings together just like you would tie your shoe laces. This helps keeps the uniform top from opening and requiring constant adjusting of the top. The strings help to keep the uniform top from pulling above the belt when doing upper arm techniques or when an opponent tugs at it. See, too, section on "Uniform: Women's privacy."

When given your uniform you want to make sure that the uniform fits you correctly and comfortably. Uniforms usually go by numbers: the smaller the number the smaller the size. If you are in the middle of two sizes, it is best to select the larger size, as you can always hem the length or sleeves to make them shorter. In addition, cotton uniforms may shrink when washed in warm or hot water. There are different types of fabrics and thickness. If you have a choice, the more cotton content is best when you are sweating. In the beginning, everyone wears the same thickness uniform. In time, you may want to select a much thicker uniform for different occasions or for colder weather.

Top: After putting on your uniform top and standing up straight, and your uniform is on properly, place your hands at your sides and extend your fingers downward. The bottom part of your uniform top should be between your knuckles and your fingertips. Traditionally, the length of the sleeves should not be higher than the forearm, and the length of the sleeve should not extend beyond the bend of the wrist. Short sleeves exposing the elbows was, and is still is, not considered proper martial arts etiquette. Cutting the sleeves off the top of the uniform exposing the upper arm (bicep/triceps area), is traditionally not proper martial arts etiquette. You may see all kinds of different alterations to the martial arts uniform when performing at tournaments, but that does not mean that these variations are proper. Bottom: The pants length should cover two thirds of the shin and should be no longer than the ankle. If your pants legs are too long, have them taken up to the ankles. Constant working out, with pants legs dragging on the training surface, will eventually fray at the bottom of the pants, which is a safety hazard. If the pants are too long, you can slide or slip on the bottom of the pants and fall and injure yourself. In time, the too-long bottom of the pants will separate from the main portion of the pants and a string like effect begins to form. If you are in the punching and kicking arts, that string hangover can injure another person's eye.

Women and girls need to cover themselves in case the top of the uniform opens up. Women and older girls should wear a sports bra under their uniform. There are two ways for girls and women to keep the top part of the uniform closed: Depending on the color of the uniform top, a solid color tee shirt should be worn underneath, follow the standards of the system or school. Another possibility is for you to stitch a piece of stretch elastic a few inches wide sewn between the left and right front uniform flaps where the lapels meet, which would help keep the lapels closed. If pulled apart a few inches, the lapels would pull back together. Also, elastic with Velcro is something to consider. If the uniform top has ties at the sides nearest the bottom that will also keep the uniform together with the belt. If you are studying the Korean style of the martial arts, some schools have pull over tops which prevent exposure.

Your martial arts uniform should be washed after every workout. You might consider purchasing an additional uniform with which to alternate if you have frequent classes. Your martial arts uniform must be kept clean and neat. A sweaty uniform that has not been washed can be offensive to others in the class, and is poor etiquette. When the uniform becomes heated from working out, body odor is enhanced. Your uniform should bring about smiles, not tears. Your uniform represents you, the student, your school and your system. Traditionally, if your uniform was not perfect in every way, you were not permitted in a class (just like in the military).

The more cotton fibers the uniform has, the greater the shrinkage if it is not washed properly from the beginning. It is suggested to first wash your new uniform in cold or cool water. Don't put your uniform in the dryer; let it hang and air dry. After your first washing, you shouldn't have problems washing and drying it with the rest of your clothes. If your uniform is a little too large, washing your uniform in hot water and putting it through the dryer can shrink it.

It is considered poor etiquette to wear a martial arts uniform that has become ripped or torn. This shows your indifference and lack of caring, which reflects adversely on you as a martial artist. Some martial artists like to believe that a tattered uniform shows how hard they train and how experienced they are. This manifestation of ego is misplaced.

Do not take it upon yourself to add anything onto your uniform that the martial arts school, system, style, or association does not approve or recognize. Do not add any patches unless your instructor advises you to do so. Your instructor may have certain requirements before giving you the privilege of adding anything on to your uniform.

Smokers may not realize that smoke is carried along with the martial arts uniform, and that the odor of smoke can be disturbing to other students and the instructor. If you must smoke, please do not do so while wearing your martial arts uniform.

Martial art uniforms should not be worn out in public unless you are at a martial arts function. The martial arts belt should not be put on until you are inside the martial arts school, and the belt should be removed before leaving the school. Instructors should advise students beforehand not to wear their uniforms and belts out in public as ordinary dress garments, even when traveling to and from a martial arts school. It is not traditionally correct, although young children may put on their uniform at home and wear it to class to prevent delays at the start of the class. Parents should learn how to tie the uniform belt so they can teach their small child at home.

Section 14. The belt.

When we first start in the martial arts, we look for guidance from the more experienced martial artists. This includes the more advanced students, as well as black belts, and the more experienced masters (grades are the colored belts below black belt, and ranks are within the black belt series). From beginner up to, but not including black belt, the lighter the color of the belt, the less knowledge and experience that person has. The darker the belt, the more experienced the practitioner, which in turn represents having more knowledge in the martial arts. The darker the belt, the more authority and responsibility is placed on that person to help those who have not yet reached higher levels of training and proficiency. In the martial arts, whether you are a student, black belt instructor, or master, you are attempting to transform yourself into a more highly polished martial artist. From the beginning, etiquette should be a part of your training and should be practiced every moment that you are awake, with family members, friends, co-workers and those you meet for the first time. Let's take a look at the similarity between the military and the martial arts ranking system to better understand the concept. When you first enter the military and have no military experience, you start off as a private, with no stripes on the uniform sleeve. The same is also true in the martial arts, only in the martial arts it is represented by the color and stripes on the belt. In the military, generally the more stripes on the sleeve means you have served more time in the military. In the martial arts, the color of your belt (under the rank of black belt), such as yellow, orange and green, all the way up to brown or red belt, also represents your time in the martial arts and your knowledge. The darker the belt, the more experience you should have. Going back to the military officers, they wear stripes on their sleeves, but they also wear an insignia on the top of their shoulders, such as bars, oak leaves, eagles and stars. The navy and some other branches of the military wear different insignias. In the martial arts, an officer would be equivalent to a black belt. The more stripes on the black belt, the higher the ranking. Sometimes the stripes on the belt can also be represented by the different colors of the belt, something like in the military, where you have your normal everyday military clothes and your dress uniform. In the martial arts your knowledge and experience are indicated by the stripes and color of the belt. Let's explore the black belt tradition further. Somehow, over the decades, things have changed. A black belt of master ranking, fifth degree in the Japanese systems, and fourth degree in the Korean systems, would normally be worn with stripes equally at both ends of the belt to display their ranking status. This was based on their years of experience and promotions. The master grades, up to grandmaster, would wear their title and name on the left side of the belt. The number of stripes representing their rank are worn on the tip of the right side of the belt, which are normally embroidered into the belt. Master ranking also can be represented by wearing a master ranking color belt. Traditionally this type of belt was worn only at an important martial arts function or on a special occasion, and not worn daily while teaching a class. This is somewhat like wearing a dress military uniform, which would only be worn only on special occasions. Over the years, it became the norm to wear the master colored belt regularly and not just on special occasions.

Belts as indicators of rank originated in Japan. Dr. Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) started studying Jujitsu at the age of 17 and, after several instructors, he became very knowledgeable and proficient in the art. Through this period, he found a method of taking the Jujitsu movements and refining them. He created what we know today as Judo. When Dr. Jigoro Kano was 22 years old, he opened his Judo Kodokan school in Japan. Around 1887, two of Dr. Kano's students, Tomita Tsunejiro and Saigo Shiro, were promoted from white belt. To distinguish their advancement, Dr. Kano introduced the black belt. There are several theories why these two colors were used, but history does not provide an actual answer. Depending on the style that was being taught, some schools then introduced the brown belt for the grade between white and black. An Okinawa karate master, Gichin Funakoshi, when demonstrating his Okinawa style at the Kodokan in 1920, also started to introduce the different rankings of black belt.

The average length of your belt that comes with your uniform usually matches the size of the uniform, if you are of average weight and height. Not everybody is built the same, as some are thin and some are heavy. If your belt is too long or too short, you may have to purchase an additional belt that fits your body type. To be a bit philosophical, it is believed that, when the tips of the belt are hanging unevenly, it is an indication of an unbalance of one's mind and body.

The proper length of your martial arts uniform depends on the type of martial arts you are taking. If you are practicing Judo or some other throwing art, you want to keep the length of the ends of your belt between six to eight inches from the knot. Otherwise, your opponent can grab your belt ends and use them to help throw you.

The proper length of the ends of your martial arts belt should be about, or close to, the length of your jacket when the belt is tied. The length of your belt when worn should be approximately between the wrist to where the finger tips end when placing your hands at your sides. One reason is because when you become a master, if you have your name and ranking on the ends of your belt, they won't fit in a short length. On the other hand, if your belt is too long, when you do a front kick, the ends of the belt can swing and come up and strike you in the face. The above is only a rule of thumb.

The single wrap around. The double wrap around.

Tying your belt around your hips too tightly can hinder your breathing and restrict the movement of the hips. A belt that is worn too snug around the hips looks like it is tying a sack of potatoes. By the same token a belt that is too loose rests totally on the hips, leaving the knot lower than the rest of the belt. The correct way is for the martial arts belt to be worn evenly and properly around the waist. When you are finished tying the knot, I would suggest giving the ends a couple of tugs to help secure the knot from becoming undone. If you have a new belt, you will find the belt stiff and it will take time for the knot to become soft and more flexible to where it will keep from being undone.

Parents can help: Each time a belt comes loose or falls off, the instructor has to spend time putting the child's belt back on, which takes time away from the rest of the class. To solve the problem, the child's parents should be taught how to correctly put on the belt and tie the knot. It is then up to the parents to spend as much time as needed to teach their child how to put on and tie the belt him/herself. Then the instructor should teach the child that if the belt becomes untied, he/she should turn away, kneel on one leg, fix the belt, and then return to class. This is how a child learns and progresses while learning proper martial arts etiquette. When teaching a class of small children, instructors may have to stop several times during the class to fix a child's belt that is either coming apart or has fallen off. I have seen several situations, that are rather funny in a way, when small children are involved:

  1. The child keeps doing the martial arts movements while the belt is wrapping around his or her legs and the child falls.
  2. The child doesn't know how to put the belt on or tie the knot, so the belt is wrapped around the waist somehow and tucked in to the trousers to keep the belt from falling.
  3. The child runs up to the instructor with the belt in his/her hands while the instructor is teaching.

These are only a few of the many situations that instructors are confronted with while teaching. Small children can learn if someone spends the time to teach them simple tasks. The problem for an instructor is that teaching small children discipline is important, but to a child, discipline becomes secondary and wearing the belt becomes primary.

When taking off your belt off, do not place or toss it on the floor. You should either roll it up along with your uniform, set it on your uniform, fold it with the uniform, or hang it up. Dropping or throwing your belt on the floor shows disrespect for what the belt symbolizes, especially if it is done in a spur of anger.

While you are taking lessons during a class, and you leave the training area for an extended period of time or during a break in a class, you should remove your belt then put it back on when returning to class. In that case, you are permitted to fold the belt and place it on the training floor or deck where your place is when lining up, or fold the belt in half and place it around your neck. Traditionally, and which is proper today, the martial arts belt should not be worn out in public unless it is done while performing or training in the martial arts. The belt should be put on inside the school or the place of training. Once you are in uniform inside the school, the belt should be worn. The belt should be removed from your waist when you are not in training. Exceptions are, for example, for an instructor greeting people and students when they enter and situations like that. When lining up for a tournament outside of the building, the belt can be worn, as this would be for the purpose of knowing and seeing the different styles, systems, grades and ranks and for organizing them for the tournament.

You should remove your belt before leaving the martial arts school. You should not wear a martial arts belt in public. The belt may be worn while practicing the martial arts on your own or with another person. The belt may be worn at martial arts functions. There are no restrictions on using a martial arts belt as a learning tool in a martial arts class. You should not use your belt as a jump rope, but you may use the belt as a learning or stretching tool.

When martial arts belts were first introduced, and training was on dirt floors or outside, over time, the belt would begin to turn darker in color, to a brownish color, from being kicked or thrown during grappling. The darker the belt, the more training and experience you had. It was like wearing your experience and knowledge around your waist. If you washed your belt, you would be thought of as a new student, and it was believed that your knowledge and spirit were washed away. A beautiful and interesting sentiment, but traditionally, when the white belt became dirty, it was washed. Because of belief in this old traditional story and the love of the martial arts, the story has taken seed in the United States, so today it has become an accepted tradition not to wash a belt as a sign of respect for it.

The martial arts belt represents your skill level as well as the years spent in the martial arts. Just like a young man whose hair is full, has no wrinkles on his face and whose body is strong, youth is also inexperienced. As one becomes older over time, a person becomes wise and experienced, just as the belt becomes worn through the years. The belt and the martial artist become one, which is recognized by all who see. Changing the belt for a new one is at the option of the wearer when he/she feels the need to do so. A belt that has been worn over the decades by a grand master/head master and is passed down to his protégé when retiring, is a great honor. Passing down the belt does not mean the receiver should wear the belt. It is a ritual and formality when given in front of others, showing that the recipient has earned the belt, which symbolizes the system's heritage and lineage. The receiver has been selected by the grand master/head master to safeguard the old worn out belt for the future, and he/she is responsible to place the belt where it can be safely kept or displayed. The exception is, if the grand master/head master should pass down the belt to his/her son or daughter, then traditionally it could be worn. When a samurai who was also a great teacher ends his career, he passes his swords down to his first born son, if there is one. If not, the swords are passed down to the student whom he feels would be able to replace him. The family swords were the most valuable possession a samurai had, and passing the swords down to another person is considered the greatest honor that can be bestowed on the other person. A samurai's life lived within the sharp blades. Today, the samurai no longer exists, but martial arts instructors and traditions still do.

If you want to be a martial arts traditionalist and learn small details, here is an interesting fact. Before putting on your martial arts belt, take a closer look at it, as you may be wearing it incorrectly. When a martial arts belt is being made, the fabric is open and flat on the table. The length of the belt is folded in half, somewhat like folding a piece of paper in half. You will notice that one side has a seam, while the other two sides meet with each other. The smooth side of the belt (with the fold) always faces upward, while the side with the two edges faces downward. Looking more closely at the belt (depending on the fabric and the stitching), you may notice that one side of the belt is smoother than the other side. The smoother side always faces outward, while the rougher side is always worn facing the body. To help you wear your belt correctly, you can use a marker or a small drop of paint of a different color than the belt to mark the inside and top of the belt. This way, when you hold your belt up to even off the ends, you will see the dot on the upper portion and place that against your body. If you are wearing a master's belt, which has the ranking stripes on one end of the belt and your name, title and system are on the other end of the belt, the ranking stripes are worn on the right side, and the name, title and system are worn on the left side. Another piece of information that is rarely known: When tying your belt knot, if you are under master level, the point of the knot is facing toward the left. If you are of master level, the point of the knot is facing toward the right. Why? If you are sitting or standing with other black belts, and all are wearing plain black belts with no lettering or ranking stripes on the black belt, the direction of the knot would signify whether or not the martial artist is at master level.

As each Grand Master instructor retires over the generations, each of their belts should be placed in a location of honor for all to see. This is a linking of the lineage and strengthens the bonds and affirms the knowledge that has been passed along with each of the belts. Think how wonderful, if in future generations, when one is awarded his/her black belt, that these worn and tattered belts from the past are brought out to become part of the award ceremony. Which present student will someday become a black belt? Which one in the future will be given the honor of having his/her belt take its place with the masters before them?

From 1st degree black belt up to but not including master, the stripe or stripes on the tip or tips of the belt end signifies the rank of that black belt. Under master rank, only a black belt should be worn with no other colors. For masters, the martial artist's name and system can be embroidered on the belt. Different countries and styles recognize different degrees as master "expert level", you have the option to wear a plain black belt, a black belt with stripes at the tip or tips of the belt, or a belt with different colors and patterns running the full length of the belt. If a master is wearing a plain black belt with no stripes or colors, you can still recognize the Master, because his/her belt is usually wider and thicker, and the knot, when tied, faces in the opposite direction than the belts of other martial artists under master ranking. If you look at the knot of a black belt under master, you will notice that the point of the knot is facing toward the left hip. For a black belt master ranking, the point of the knot is facing the right hip. At master level, there are different meanings for each master ranking. Again, each style has its own individual meanings, including teacher of teachers to a founder of a system.

Never claim to be a higher grade or rank than what has been awarded to you by your instructor. Claiming a false grade or rank will harm your reputation in the martial arts community.

Never throw a martial arts belt to someone or purposely throw it on the ground. It is disrespectful and you can have your belt temporarily taken away by your instructor. Never remove your belt in anger, even if you are frustrated. Never treat your belt with less respect than when you first earned it. Your belt represents your hard work and success in the martial arts. Treat your belt with respect.

When writing or typing grand master in general terms, it should be written or typed with the first letters in lower case. When writing or typing about a specific grand master and using his/her name along with his/her title, it should begin with capital letters, such as: Grand Master Perceval.

Section 15. Dressing area & other areas.

No martial arts weapons are permitted near or inside a martial arts school unless it is a weapon used and practiced in the class for that lesson and it is permitted by the instructor. You should not practice with your weapon in the martial arts school unless you first ask your instructor and have permission to do so. Do not practice with any weapon unless you have been trained in its use by your instructor. You must always be careful with weapons. After use, you must place the weapon where it will not cause injury to others. Please keep in mind that visitors, young students and guests who are not martial artists may be curious and want to hold or try using the weapon, so you must keep it out of their reach. Before practicing with a weapon, be aware of your surroundings to make sure no other students, guests or objects may be struck by your weapon.

If you are not sure what to do with your personal belongings, ask someone or watch what the others do and follow their lead. Outside clothing (jackets, etc.) and training bags should be hung up or placed where the martial arts school requires.

Unless you have permission to use them, stay out of any storage areas in the school. If you use the dressing area, place your clothing or bags close to the wall and do not block the walking area. If you must move another student's clothing or bag, make sure that it is done with respect to that student by keeping it orderly and placed so it can be found easily.

Putting on your training footwear should be done in the dressing area or in a designated area and not in the reception area. Do not leave your street footwear on the edge of the training/ workout area. You should leave your street footwear where the martial arts school requires.

At a specific time during class, when you need to put on training/safety equipment, such as pads and a mouthpiece for sparring/free fighting, the sparring/free fighting equipment should be kept in a designated area close to, and with easy access from, the training area. This will prevent students from leaving the training area and avoiding delays during class.

Advice from the master in teaching, or to the student:

Section 16. Difficult or challenging students.

A child or person who has significant behavioral problems must be managed carefully within the martial arts school. Please note that there is a significant difference between students with emotional and/or psychological challenges and other students who are poorly behaved, See 17-d: "Students with disabilities." Poorly behaved students negatively affect everyone nearby, including the entire class during a lesson. From the instructor's point of view, that person is very difficult to teach and occupies much of the instructor's time and diverts the instructor's attention away from the other students. If left uncorrected from the very beginning, that student only becomes more distracting to the other students. If an instructor wishes to take on the challenge of teaching such children or persons, they should be scheduled and taught separately until they can be worked back into the regular class. Causes of bad behavior can stem from many reasons, but the instructor, working one on one, can, in time, improve the student's behavior.

Anger is an emotion that demonstrates a strong emotional and physiological response. The external body language of anger is usually accompanied by corresponding facial expressions. Anger can result in voluntary or involuntary aggressive behavior, such as yelling, hitting, kicking, fighting and pushing. The instructor may observe that this emotional state can cause the student to suddenly become red faced, start to hyperventilate and have difficulty managing his/her own impulses and urges. This behavior is inappropriate in a class. The instructor has to intervene and gently calm the student down and find out the root of the problem so it can be addressed. Usually, this behavior will be found in a child who has yet to learn to how control his/her emotions. The student's parents are probably well aware of their child's behavior, but this type of behavior during a martial arts class should be brought to the parents' attention so they are aware of the situation. To help this student, the instructor first has to speak with the parents and find out what in particular causes their child to have these types of outbursts. The instructor has to know what the parents' suggestions are, because the child may have had professional help and the instructor needs to work along with, and not against, the advice of the parents. With thought and consideration, the instructor can take action and turn the problem around to be a positive learning experience for that child. Above all, when the instructor is confronted with this behavior in his/her martial arts class, he/she should never embarrass that young student in front of the others. The instructor must appreciate that whatever action he/she takes, his/her students are watching, so the instructor must react in a professional manner by maintaining calm, and by speaking to the student softly to defuse the situation. If the student does not listen to the instructor, or reacts with a short burst of violence, or talks back to the instructor, the instructor's last resort may be to temporarily remove that student from the class, so the lesson may continue. In time, the instructor will begin to understand that student and the circumstances that may set him/her off. Once understood, the path towards a solution becomes clear, and the remedy is achievable.

Crying is an expression of an emotion. Other than a reaction to being hurt or feeling sick, crying can reflect confusion, frustration, anger, fear, anxiety, or sadness. Whatever the reason, crying usually lasts for only a short period of time. Generally, when someone is finished crying, he/she feels a lot better. The instructor should discuss the situation with the student to determine the cause of the crying. This may help the student to better deal with his/her emotions. Sometimes a few words of encouragement from an instructor can make the student feel better. If a student becomes upset or feels tears coming on for any reason, the student should ask the instructor for permission to leave the class for a few moments until he/she can compose him/herself. Then the student can return to class and be able to completely focus on the lesson. If a student is unable to regain complete composure, he/she should not return to class because his/her inability to focus on the lesson may cause him/her to sustain or cause an injury when working out.

If you are physically attacked and forced to defend yourself outside of a martial arts classs and it is justified, then by all means, you should do what is necessary to defend yourself and to protect yourself. However, you must not take advantage of your attacker by going beyond what is necessary. As a martial artist of experience, you are already mentally and physically equipped to have an advantage in most situations. The ability to defend yourself is what you have been trained to do. After you defend and protect yourself, the decisions you make afterwards will reveal the depth of your martial arts training. If you go beyond the degree of force that is necessary, you step on the wrong path; you are no longer a martial artist, you are now a typical street thug. As a result, you may have to answer for your excessive actions. Once you have defended yourself, and stopped the attack, you should leave the scene if you can do so safely. You may not inflict additional or unnecessary pain or injury to the attacker after he/she is incapacitated and no longer a threat to you. You cannot become the judge and the jury and decide to take the law into your own hands. There are a lot of legal and moral obligations regarding a martial artist's responsibilities after a confrontation.

Section 17. Physical difficulties.

Developing the body to perform at peak level takes many years of physical conditioning. If you are unable to keep up with the rest of the class, do the best you can. Don't just give up and say to yourself that you can't do it. Take pride in the fact that you are moving forward, even if it is not obvious to you at first. Based on his/her years of teaching, the instructor is well aware that the most difficult task for any student to overcome is developing the will power and mental discipline to overcome the more difficult movements and exercises. See the later section, "Muscle Development," for ways to improve your physical conditioning with physical exercises.

There is nothing wrong with running out of breath during class because it takes time for your body to adjust to working out hard or for long periods of time. If you are running out of breath and can't keep up with the class, don't continue if possible. You should safely step to the side and catch your breath for a moment or two, then return and continue with the rest of the students. An instructor would prefer that you do not attempt what you are not capable of doing or performing. As long as you give it your best effort without giving up, your instructor will be understanding of you.

Younger students are more flexible when it comes to stretching and, with practice, are usually able to stretch like a rubber band. There are some people who are naturally more flexible than others. In the martial arts, we envy those who are very flexible. However, most people have to struggle to gain one inch of flexibility, and the older you are, the more difficult it becomes to develop more stretch. However, daily stretching helps to maintain and improve flexibility at all ages. Don't expect to perform high kicks right away. Regular stretching will most likely allow you to make gradual gains, so you will have less discomfort when stretching.

Teaching a student with disabilities can sometimes be very challenging to an instructor, no matter how experienced the instructor is. Teaching a student with attention difficulties requires a great deal of patience, especially if the student is disruptive. However, over time, these special students do frequently improve and can become good students, if given the opportunity. The rewards are not only beneficial to the student, but also to the instructor and the rest of the class. Teaching students who have physical disabilities is different, but also sometimes difficult. You are working to improve the student's motor control and/or mental focus. When advancing these students to a higher belt, an instructor and others must understand that accommodations must be made in their performance, providing they follow the proper rules of martial arts etiquette.

Section 18. General advice.

The more experienced senior students set the etiquette rules for the rest to follow. They must demonstrate patience, respect, humility and kindness towards all others. New students and students not yet at the level of the senior students or black belts should follow the standards set by the instructors and the senior students in a martial arts school. Senior students are leaders who inspire all who are under them and lead them along the path of continued growth, direction, knowledge, development and improvement.

During class, you should always give as close as possible to 100 percent, both mentally and physically. Each instructor teaches differently. Some are more relaxed in teaching while others are more hard-core. Small children should not be pushed too hard, but just enough to motivate them without discouraging them. A good instructor will tell the students in advance approximately how many repetitions they have left when doing continuous movements or techniques, or inform the students how long they will be doing something. This way, each student can plan on giving his/her all so he/she can have sufficient energy to complete that workout.

Martial arts etiquette is not only about the proper physical procedures to follow, but it is also about what is hidden and not seen. It is about etiquette of the mind and the direction of your thoughts. An experienced martial arts instructor understands your mind and sees whether your thoughts are with him/her or off somewhere else. An experienced black belt instructor understands the body and its movements, but, in order to train the student's body, he/she first must train the student's control center, the mind. The process of reaching the mind of a student is not difficult, because the student already wants to learn the martial arts, so getting the student's attention is only half the battle. The more difficult half of the battle is to maintain the student's attention span long enough to complete the lesson. A student's attention span depends on how the instructor conducts the lesson. It is somewhat comparable to him/her watching an interesting movie or a boring movie. A black belt instructor has to be aware that internal and external distractions are always ready to interfere with the student's concentration and focus. A student who is fatigued from lack of sleep, or physically drained, or even hungry, is more likely to not be in tune with the instructor at all times. When a martial arts instructor is teaching, he/she must be aware if even a single student's mind starts to wander. A student's body language and drifting eyes usually give it away. The instructor has many tricks up his/her sleeve to regain that student's attention. One is calling that student's name and asking him/her a question relating to the subject that is being taught. This not only brings the student's attention back to the lesson, but it also requires the student to quickly think and respond. An instructor must be aware that when he/she questions a student who is not paying attention that it can't be intended to embarrass the student in front of the other classmates. Instead, the question should be aimed at returning that student's attention back the lesson and to reinforce the topic that is being taught. As mentioned earlier, if a movie or a lesson is boring, your student's attention is compromised. That means that when an instructor is teaching, and more than one student becomes fidgety or shows signs of drifting away, the instructor must change the subject or have the students become involved in something physical to recapture their interest. Each student's concentration span is different, and this varies with the student's age and grade/rank. The younger the child, the shorter the attention span, and the older the student, the longer he/she is able to concentrate and at a deeper level. A martial arts instructor has a long term agenda which lasts for years when teaching students. His/her objective is to take students and train their minds to be more focused and stable so their thoughts don't keep jumping around all the time. This is where teaching focus and concentration should be a big part of the lesson plan. A good instructor will teach students to focus their minds to concentrate on certain parts of the body or on a particular target. The greater the level of concentration and focus the student achieves, the better the student will perform mentally and physically. Like anything else in life, the more you practice, the better your results.

It is essential in the martial arts that you spend time practicing your techniques either at home or while in the school. Without practicing, you are limiting your progress dramatically. When at home, you should set aside a certain time each day when your energy level is at its highest to practice your techniques. This can be done either by yourself or with a friend. Remember to find a place that is safe and no one gets hurt and no objects are broken. When you practice, it must be done efficiently and effectively. Limit your daily sessions to no more than 60 to 90 minutes. Training longer will only lead you toward fatigue and eventually the inability to concentrate and focus at your peak. On the other hand, practicing for fifteen minutes or less does not give your mind the opportunity to reach its full potential. Practicing effectively means visualizing a movement or technique before actually performing it. What you want to do is take a movement or technique and break it down into smaller components to simplify the part of a movement, then gradually taking each broken down component and put them into a complete sequence to complete a movement or technique. Your nervous system is not designed to do the same thing over and over again; it wants to be flexible. You must "talk" to your mind and give it an order to follow whatever direction you want your mind to follow. The mind is like a baby; it wants what it wants when it wants it. You must train the mind more so than the body. Don't forget, not only are you practicing the physical movements, you are also teaching the mind to work in harmony with your physical body. Remember, when the body is in motion, it is directed by the brain. Your objective is to see, understand and learn from your mistakes. Over time, your mistakes will be fewer, but they will be "better" mistakes because your awareness is deeper and the mistakes are of a higher level. You will be following the path towards perfection. Don't force yourself to practice if you are not in the mood or being rushed. You must enjoy what you are doing and always finish with a feeling of accomplishment. If you are in class, and told to practice either by yourself or with a partner, and you finish ahead of others, don't stand idle. Keep practicing the same movements until the instructor tells you to stop.

There is a big jump when you move from colored belt to black belt; you can now begin to learn what the martial arts are really all about. With your new black belt, you have just separated yourself from the rest of your classmates, and joined a special and exclusive group of martial artists. Your new rank now mandates additional duties and responsibilities that go along with that promotion. You must not let your new rank go to your head. Keep in mind that once you become a black belt, you must always maintain the same level of respect toward your instructor, other black belts, and especially those color belt students below you.

You will remember the day you are promoted to black belt for the rest of your life. It was a long journey of many years, which is difficult to describe to someone who has never traveled that path. It is a proud moment for you and your instructor. It is a credit to your instructor and to your system that you achieved the rank of first degree black belt. No matter where you go, your diploma is your certification that you earned the right to wear a black belt. Once that award has been given to you, no person or system, including your instructor or the system that awarded you the black belt, can ever strip you of your title or the right to wear the black belt. In the past, there were some instructors and/or systems that could refuse to recognize a black belt that was awarded previously. The reasons include a black belt who switches over to another system, or who doesn't follow its rules and regulations. Whatever the reason, martial arts etiquette should still be observed and that black belt should never be slandered by removing his/her rank. Hopefully, with continued learning and dedication, and your sharing of your accumulated knowledge in the years that follow, even higher ranking will be achieved. Traditionally, a first degree black belt cannot teach on his/her own, without being under the supervision and direction of a second or third degree black belt in most systems. Traditionally, in the Korean systems, once you have made second degree black belt of senior ranking (not junior ranking for eighteen year olds and under), you are eligible and recognized as an instructor. A third-degree black belt is required to be an instructor in the Japanese styles. Most martial art systems worldwide do not consider a junior black belt as a qualified instructor no matter how young when he/she started the martial arts. Usually, most systems recognize a junior black belt as a senior black belt once they reach eighteen years old. A junior black belt who has sufficient time and rank and meets all of the systems qualifications, can be promoted to second degree as a senior black belt. There are some systems who feel that once a black belt reaches the age of eighteen even though they started at an early age, they are jumped directly to third or even fourth degree. Realizing that some individuals mature quicker than others, there should be internal standards whereby all martial artist follow. WHY? Eliminating the physical aspect of the martial artist, let's look at what makes a person mature mentally. Research has been done that shows the brains prefrontal (cerebral) cortex is half way developed at the age of eighteen, once reaching the age of about twenty-five, the brain is fully developed. This involves solving problems, regulates emotions, control impulses, as well as organize behavior. As a martial arts instructor and having to also work with the student's mind, maturity is an important factor in the student's martial arts development. The years between becoming a first-degree black belt and becoming an instructor will be filled with learning advanced knowledge and techniques. Teaching and taking charge of a class while under the supervision of your instructor will allow you to gain the necessary experience and knowledge for promotion, so you can be called and recognized as an "instructor." Sometimes a student moves up in ranking and decides to open up a martial arts school of his/her own. However, doing so may jeopardize his/her relationship with his/her original school. There is an unwritten code of ethics that should be followed when a student, who is now an instructor, decides to open a school. One must consider that he/she would now be in competition with the original instructor. To prevent this from happening, it is customary to open a new school a reasonable distance from your instructor's school. Depending on location, population density, city or rural, there should be a five to a ten-mile separation between schools unless it is in a city. It is highly recommended that if you intend to open a martial arts school, that you have a meeting with your instructor and discuss your plans and intentions well in advance. You may be surprised how helpful your original instructor can be in making your school more successful. The failure to discuss your plans with your instructor would be disrespectful, and opening up too close to your original school could place you, your instructor, and former classmates in an uncomfortable position. I have found in the past, students who become black belt before the maturity age, will more than likely leave their present school and open their own. Today, instructors of martial arts schools can learn from different sources how to become more knowledgeable about business, and can seek the advice of accountants and attorneys on how to keep the proper records, file the required tax returns, and draft contracts to protect themselves. Recommendation: The instructor's contract with his/her students can contain a provision reasonability limiting the student's opening of a school.

Preparing for your promotion. Make sure that your uniform is clean (and possibly pressed) on the day of your promotion. Because the event will involve a degree of formality, all martial art etiquette procedures should be followed, both on the presentation and the receiving of the award and/or promotion. If the promotion is changing from colored belt to black belt, it is a day you will most likely remember for many years ahead. Each advancement in the martial arts is a special day for which you worked hard. Some associations have mass promotions, whereby many martial artists move up in grades and in ranks. Usually, at such times, many high ranking black belts will be in attendance, in presenting the awards and promotions. This could be possibly be intimating to the receiver. These ceremonial traditions follow from generation to generation maintaining the past of the school or system. If you are going to receive an award or promotion, be prepared ahead of time with any information that you may be required to know. Above all, remain calm and in control of your emotions. If the award or promotion is within your school and the presentation is given by your instructor the same day as your test, you must be prepared both mentally and physically. Practicing beforehand will help build your confidence and relieve unnecessary stress. When your name is called, respond to your instructor with his/her name and tittle and follow the required procedures. Not being first to be tested helps; it gives you the opportunity to see what is to be expected when your turn comes. When your name is called, walk normally, but proudly, to where the promotion or award is to be given. If it is given by your instructor only, walk directly in front of him/her. If the awards/and/or belts are to be given by a system, follow the standards and the procedures which are usually given beforehand. Walk, do not run, to the front of the presenter. Stand about an arm's length away from the person presenting your certificate and/or belt with your heels together and toes slightly separated. Place your hands at your sides and keep your back straight. Standing approximately a full arm's length away from the presenter this allows you sufficient distance to perform your bow. Different styles and systems in different parts of the world may have different procedures to follow; we are generalizing and mainstreaming the typical procedures. It is traditional on such a prestigious occasion to bow at the waist and perform a 45-degree bow. It is suggested that the bow be made more respectful by holding yourself at the lowest point for a full second before returning to an upright position. The presenter of the award and/or belt may or may not return the bow at that time; he/she will most likely bow later after presenting your belt and/or certificate. In the Western part of the world, a hand shake may or may not be added after the award or promotion is given. This would include each martial artist that is part of the presentation line. When standing before the presenter, do not extend your hand to shake his/her hand. Do not extend your hand until the instructor or the person presenting the award or promotion extends his/her hand first while or after presenting your diploma and/or belt. Your belt and certificate may be awarded together, or separately at a later time. Traditionally, a hand shake is usually not done because the bow replaces it, yet, some styles and systems also shake hands and even hug (which is not proper martial arts etiquette, because bodily contact is not traditional). If the presenter offers to shake your hand or hug you in congratulations, by all means follow the presenter's actions. Remember, they are in charge. The following is the correct way to present yourself when accepting an award or promotion. When you accept the promotion or award, receive it with your right hand, If the presenter offers to further congratulate you by extending his/her hand, pass your award/belt to your left hand, leaving your right hand free. Be aware that the presenter determines the grip and the length of the hand shake. You must follow his/her lead and not grip too tightly or look like you're pumping for oil. Note: If the promotion or award is given by several black belts/masters, they will usually be lined up next to each other according to their rank. You would then go to each of the black belts and bow 45 degrees and hold the bow at the lowest point for a second. Once the promotion or award is given to you, move to the left to the next martial artist on the presentation line and bow. If there is only the one presenter or you're at the end of the presenting line, then step back with your right foot, followed by the left foot, and repeat the same bow as previously stated. When you return to an upright position after the bow, make sure that you verbally thank your instructor or the presenter for the promotion. Then take another step back with your right foot, followed by the left foot, so both heels are together. Then turn and walk away. If your instructor or presenter wishes to place your new belt on you, you may be asked to remove your belt so it can be replaced with your new belt. If your left hand is carrying your certificate, either carefully place the certificate on the presentation table if within an arm's reach or on the surface to the left of where you are standing. Remove your old belt and carefully fold it, do not drop it on the surface. Then, place it in your left hand. It will be necessary for you to raise your arms so your instructor can place the new belt on you. Keep your elbows level with your shoulders because raising them higher will cause the uniform to slack and hang over the belt once the new belt is on. Your instructor will then place your new belt on you. Once the knot has been pulled tightly, turn to your instructor and follow the same procedures as mentioned above. If your instructor did not place your new belt on you, it would be proper martial arts etiquette to ask your instructor to do so. In this case, the correct procedure is as follows: Once your new belt has been handed to you, address your instructor by his/her correct title and name. Then state the following: "It would be a great honor if you would put my new belt on me." You could also add: "This is a moment I would like to remember." Do not become emotional; keep in mind that you are demonstrating to your instructor or presenter your sincerity and respect toward them. Remember not to initiate any physical movements toward the presenter. Do not be the one to give a hug or offer to shake hands unless it is first offered to you. That is crossing the boundary between yourself and the giver of the promotion or award. The only time that the etiquette changes is if the person receiving the award is of higher rank than the presenter. In that case, the one who is of the lower ranking (the presenter) initiates the bow and does not present his/her hand/hug unless first given by the higher rank. At no time are you to show any outward emotions or speak freely. Do not hold the promotion or award up in the air or jump up and down showing excitement. Decorum must be exhibited throughout the ceremony. Although at such happy occasions emotions do run high, controlling them shows your ability to demonstrate what has been taught to you. It would be a good idea to practice for the ceremony. Maintaining proper and correct formality throughout the entire ceremony is proper, as it passes on the traditions to the following generations.

Once a person has been given ranking, first degree and higher, depending on the system, that ranking cannot be taken away, no matter what that person does. But, the instructor or system does not have to recognize that ranking anymore and can remove the person from its files and black-list him/her only from that school or within the system to which he/she belongs by dishonoring themselves, the school or the system. It would be poor etiquette for the instructor or the student to bad mouth each other outside of the school or system.

When the instructor is on the training floor, he/she must maintain perfect posture. The instructor is there to motivate his/her students. When the instructor is working with a student, his/her technique should be sharp and precise, without any unnecessary body movements. When the instructor demonstrates a technique, his/her technique should be explosive and exact. The instructor must remain focused on the students and not let their minds wander. At all times, the instructor must be in full control. An instructor should never hurt a student by sloppy techniques. The instructor must always practice perfect martial arts etiquette in the school, on and off the training floor, and act as a model for his/her students.

As a master or grand master you are expected to be capable of holding your ranking in every way. (However, when visiting another school; do not spar /free fight once on the training floor, as you may become a target for someone's ego and be required to either back off or establish your ground.) Your visit is beneficial for all involved. If you are of grand master ranking, most likely pictures will be taken of your visit. At this level, try to conform to that school's etiquette unless it is not correct. If it is not proper, do not make any corrections, because that is the responsibility of the instructor of that school. Remember, you are an ambassador in demonstrating proper etiquette, because all eyes will be on you. Your visit not only gives the students the opportunity to learn under such an experienced martial artist as yourself, but it also gives the instructor the chance to pick up new ideas and thoughts to add to his/her teachings.

There will be times when the instructor is demonstrating a technique and you think he/she is doing it wrong. What should you do? The one thing you don't ever want to do is to critique the instructor in front of his/her students. You don't know what the instructor's thinking is, and he/she may have a reason for acting in a particular manner. Let me explain this situation which may help put your mind at ease. It takes a long time to become a first-degree black belt, and even longer when moving up in the ranks. Movements are already set in the neurons of the black belt, which give automatic muscle and joint responses each and every time. For a black belt to do a movement incorrectly is not natural to him/her. Yet, mixing up a technique with another is possible when teaching. Instructors are not perfect, and they are constantly learning from their mistakes while teaching. When an instructor is focusing on a specific part of a technique when teaching, he/she is less concerned on what the rest of the body is doing at the same time. Therefore, when the instructor is finished with teaching a technique and you feel that the instructor made a mistake, raise your hand, follow etiquette procedures, and place the question to your instructor as if you did not understand what you thought should have been. The instructor may make corrections, and he/she may thank you for paying attention to such details. I strongly suggest that you avoid doing this too often or for minor mistakes.

In 1969, the National Karate Federation was formed by martial arts pioneers from different systems and styles on the East Coast of the United States. We had been noticing an up-surge of people claiming to be black belts without proper papers to back up their claims. Our biggest concern was that martial art schools were opening up all around our areas with unknown martial artists who were not qualified as instructors. Several schools we visited had students who were not yet black belts teaching the classes without a black belt present. At our meetings, we were mostly concerned about the negative impact that this was having on the martial arts and its future. Black belts were moving up in rank by leaps and bounds each year. The National Karate Federation pioneers made every possible effort, including reaching out to our congressmen and asking them to license and regulate the teaching of the martial arts and opening up schools. Nothing ever materialized from our many letters. Students of such schools were being cheated out of proper martial art training, and they were being falsely promoted far too rapidly. This was obvious when they entered tournaments and couldn't hold their own. Because the martial arts are unregulated in the United States, anyone can open up a martial arts school and teach, even without training. When you open up a business, you are protected by law. No legitimate martial artist or organization has the legal right to threaten your martial arts school (business) or its instructors. In fact, you could be held civilly and possibly criminally liable for interfering. Presently, instructors forbid students from teaching the martial arts outside of their martial arts school, until they become qualified instructors. This is not to eliminate competition against their schools, but to enforce an unwritten martial arts code that you may not teach the martial arts unless you are an instructor, especially if you are only a colored belt. In many worldwide systems you are not qualified to teach the martial arts unless you have reached a minimum ranking as a black belt. Achieving the status of a martial arts instructor involves far more than what is seen on the surface. If you take on a student or students, you take on a tremendous commitment. You represent to them that you are qualified, and that you have sufficient knowledge to teach them correctly and properly. If you teach before you are qualified, you are cheating your students and depriving them of proper learning. If you wish to teach the martial arts, you must first become qualified. How do you become qualified? Certain criteria must be met. You must train for many years as a colored belt, followed by a sufficient number of years as a black belt under the supervision of a qualified black belt instructor. During those years, you must also have adequate assistant teaching experience. These are only the basic essentials. Once you have been qualified by your peers and recognized as a martial arts instructor, you must evaluate yourself truthfully. How much teaching experience have you had as an instructor? How long can you teach before running out of knowledge? What happens if you are not a qualified instructor when your students want to be promoted? What standards are you bringing to the martial arts lessons? There are many styles and systems that don't wear black belts but wear other distinguishing teaching garments, but their requirements and standards are similar.

Unless you are the instructor of a student or a black belt of the same school, you should not suggest, give advice, or suggest alternative movements to other students at a martial arts function or tournament, without first consulting or asking permission from that student's instructor. No matter how high your ranking, your advice could undermine the instructor's teachings. This could possibly confuse that student if the advice is different from what he/she has been taught. If you are an assistant instructor or a black belt of the same school, always check with your instructor privately if you have a suggestion on a matter other than what is being taught, if you think it may help.

As a martial arts instructor you should never take an advantage of a student or a parent of a student. You must remain strictly professional in and out of a martial arts facility. The instructor should never respond to or act upon any mutual attraction between him/her and any student or parent or a family member. An instructor can be personable but not personal; personal emotional and/or sexual feelings or intentions must be avoided. You can be friendly towards a student, /parent, but you should not cross the line of being too personal. As an instructor, you carry a great deal of influence; you should not abuse your position. Martial arts is about mutual respect. This must carry over into your personal and private life.

Generally, most people do not like to be overlooked or ignored, but they can adjust to it for a few times. Then there are those who require (because of want and/or need) to always be the center of attention. This is not the way of the true martial artist. A master in the martial arts is humble, quiet and reserved. He/she would prefer to have others in the spotlight while observing everything about that person and how others react. We are born with one mouth and two eyes: we learn more by seeing and observing than by talking.

When, or if, you become frustrated with yourself, control your temper and show no outward bursts of emotions. Self-control is one of the most important aspects of your martial arts training. It affects your martial arts structure in many ways. Loss of self-control while knowing the martial arts can be dangerous for others as well as for yourself. Loss of self-control will override your martial arts techniques, logic and etiquette, and may cause you to act in a manner that you may later regret.

Your objective in a martial arts class is to improve yourself, and not to prove that you are better than others.

Before the class starts:

Section 19. Before the class starts.

It all begins when you wake up in the morning. The thought of knowing that you have a martial arts lesson later that day should begin to prepare you mentally in a positive manner. There will be special times between waking and taking your class when you will anticipate specific parts of your class. You are preparing yourself mentally, because you are looking forward to doing something that you enjoy. As the time draws nearer to your lesson, the frequency of your thinking about it increases. Compare yourself to a professional fighter at the top of his/her position who makes a lavish living when fighting and winning. The fighter trains mentally and physically, day and night, to be the best. We don't have the luxury of training like the fighter after going to school or working all day. But, by practicing mentally, we can increase our martial arts ability dramatically. Long before entering the ring, professional fighters visualize and train for every possibility that may occur, so they can respond automatically, without thought. Later, when they are in the dressing room and preparing for the fight, the visualization process becomes more acute. The feeling in the muscles and the body become more intense, and the heart beat increases, as the fighter mentally and physically prepares to enter the ring. As a martial arts student, if you want to excel, you should follow the same path, both mentally and physically. Begin your mental visualization in the martial arts school's dressing room. When you put on your martial arts uniform and belt, train your mind to visualize that you are putting on a suit of armor in preparation for battle. The objective is to mentally prepare yourself to give 100 percent in entering the class. This means to think positively throughout the lesson, and to banish any negative thoughts. On a deeper level, much more is involved, but this general concept will lead you to the right path to follow. What you think, how you think and visualize, and in what order you think and visualize, is extremely important, for this is the key to learning the martial arts.

You should not eat within an hour before class because your body will not have enough time to digest the food before the lessons. Strenuous exercise on a full stomach is uncomfortable and will prevent you from working out to your maximum.

Bathroom issues are especially common with young children. A student leaving the class to go to the toilet can be disruptive to the instructor and to the other students. You should relieve yourself before entering the class. From past experience, I found that young children that become fidgety in class have to go to the bathroom, so suggest to the child to go to the bathroom before the class begins. If the toilet becomes or is clogged or out of paper, the student should let the staff or instructor know as soon as possible.

It is poor etiquette to be late or to rush to make class just on time. Most instructors would prefer for you to arrive about ten to fifteen minutes before your class. Arriving too early can cause over-crowding by having too many students hanging around, especially if there is an earlier class, because some martial arts schools have limited space. Coming reasonably early gives you adequate time to visit the bathroom and to dress before class starts.

Traditionally, if you were to arrive after the class started, you would be asked by the instructor to leave the school and not to attend his/her class for that day. The instructor would find it insulting if you were repeatedly late for class, and you might be asked to leave the school. It also sets a bad example for the other students. On the other hand, if you have a legitimate reason for constantly being late for classes, such as buses, trains, or work, then speak with the instructor beforehand. It is up to the instructor to decide if arrangements can be made. If so, you still must follow all other school etiquette and procedures. Keep in mind that being late for class on rare occasions happens, but being late for class not only affects you, but also the instructor and the rest of your class. If there is a class before your class and you are early, watch the instructor teaching and making corrections, and learn from them.

Students are not permitted to fool around while waiting for their class to start. Actual training without the instructor's permission, including free fighting, is strictly forbidden. When passing through the training area while a class is in progress, do not stop if you see something in the class that catches your interest. Continue until you are off the edge of the training area. Once off the training area, it is permitted to observe. If you must walk on the training area, walk along the edges; otherwise, stay off the training floor. Some martial arts schools have a separate entrance or exit for students. This may ease congestion in the reception area when classes are back to back, or eliminate walking on the training deck while a class is in session.

There is no traditional way to put on your protective equipment for the fighting arts. The instructor decides where and when the students are to put on their protective equipment, depending on what he/she is to teach for the day. Usually, you will see a pattern from the same instructor. Fighting protective gear is usually permitted to be put on just prior to sparring while on the training area. This is usually done at the edge of the training area. Once on, the student will then fall back into place, unless it is done at the beginning of the class. This information relates to section 15-d.

Do not let your mind wander. Your class may have a segment for meditation. There are parts of meditation where you can be trained on how to focus your mind. There is a proper etiquette to follow throughout the meditation practice. With daily practice, your concentration and focus will increase dramatically. An experienced instructor can read your body and through it, your mind. As the instructor begins to know your ways, he/she will immediately see if your mind is drifting. This can be used as a gauge for the experienced instructor to see how fast you are progressing with your concentration and ability.

Taking a short cut to your destination by walking through or cutting across the training area is improper, even if no one is present on the floor or mat. If need be, walk along the edge. This information relates to section 19-f.

Section 20. The beginning of the class.

Before the class begins and while the students are on the training surface, the instructor will stop at the edge of the training area for a brief moment before stepping onto the training area and bowing in. Several things may take place, depending on the way the instructor conducts the class:

  1. There could be a chime or a soft bell to let all students know, on and off the training area, that the class will begin momentarily and everyone should fall into place.
  2. The most senior student will give the command for everyone to immediately line up for class, knowing that the instructor is preparing to enter the training floor.
  3. As soon as the instructor enters the training surface and bows in, the instructor or the most senior student will clap his/her hands twice for everyone to line up in place. It is not traditional for someone to yell "line up" or "fall in."

Until the class has bowed in, students may still enter the training area. Once the command for the bow-in has been given, no one should enter the training area unless invited on the training area by the instructor. When the students and the instructor are prepared for the bowing in, the most senior student would usually give the command for all to bow. Depending on the system, if the class begins with a high bow, the students will face the instructor and, at the command, the students will bow to the instructor and the instructor returns the bow. If it is a more traditional class, the students would fall into place, in the kneeling position, with their hands on their thighs, waiting for the command to bow.

Over the years, when a school has produced students of many different ranks in black belt, including masters, the positioning of the higher-ranking masters may be different (depending on the martial arts origin and or system,) Under master black belts and color belts during the formal bowing remains the same when performed in the traditional kneeling position. As shown in the illustration below, the instructor is in the front center and is facing the students. Instructor and students position: When the instructor is facing the class, the highest ranking black belts are lined up to the instructors left followed by the next lower black belts starting in the first row. When there is a large number of black belts and masters in a class, the illustration below should be followed:
Instructor "V": 1st degree - 2nd degree - 3rd degree - 4th degree - 5th degree - 6th degree - 7th degree and such.

(Instructor facing towards the class):
/
Highest ranking master
under the instructor
/
2nd highest master
    /
3rd highest rankling master
        /

Facing on a 45 degree angle-->

^ Students, including black belts ^

When lining up for class and facing the instructor, you should line up with the person to your right. Each martial artist should be lined up behind the martial artist in the row in front of them. All rows should be of equal length up to the last row.

During class, & class requirements:

Section 21. Bowing during class.

Traditionally, the instructor would not give the command for the students to bow toward him/her. Implying "Class, bow to me" does not demonstrate humility for an instructor who teaches proper martial arts etiquette. The instructor should show humility, yet also be strong and positive in his or her ways. This is why the senior student gives the command for everyone to bow together.

If a lower ranking black belt is teaching a class and a higher ranking black belt enters the training area (even if it is the instructor), the black belt who is running the class should stop the class, the black belt who was running the class should then have all of the students turn toward the higher ranking black belt, once the higher ranking black belt is on the training area, all will bow when the command is given by the instructor on the training area, students and black belts to the higher ranking as well as the higher ranking to the students and black belts. It is up to the higher ranking black belt who entered the class to decide whether he/she who was running the class to continue running the class or have the class turned over to the higher ranking black belt. Usually the black belt running the class will wait to see what the higher ranking black belt decides to do rather just continuing the class as before. Proper black belt etiquette must be demonstrated. If you are a guest at a school and are higher ranking then the instructor, the instructor then makes the decision on how he/she runs the class. Traditionally, if the higher ranking master is known by the instructor the instructor would just turn the class over to the guest.

When two black belts of equal rank approach each other in class, and if they have equal time in rank, either one would begin the bow. If the black belts are of equal rank but one has much less time at that rank, then it would be proper for the less senior to first begin the bow. However, there are exceptions. If the less senior black belt is the instructor of the class at the time, both would bow simultaneously.

There are several etiquette procedures for martial artists of equal black belt ranking. The person with less time at that rank should start the bow first, followed by the more senior, so both finish the bow as close to the same time as possible. This would indicate to others which of the two is the more senior of that ranking. The same procedure is also true even if the senior ranking black belt is younger than the older black belt. For example: If a junior black belt (usually under 18 years of age) has more time and grade than the senior black belt (over 18 years of age), it would be proper for the senior black belt to begin the bow first.

There are many respectful forms of etiquette that are common outside of the martial arts school in our daily lives that are noticeable, such as holding the door open for the next person. In the martial arts world, the one most noticeable is the bow. It is up to the instructor to educate students in this old Asian manner of showing respect and how to perform each bow correctly. Once learned, it is considered a privilege to bow to your instructor with a return bow from him/her. Throughout your martial arts career, the obligation to bow toward your instructors continues, no matter how many instructors you may have. Let me explain further. Time passes and your instructor or instructors from other schools, styles, or systems where you may have studied may no longer be active in the martial arts. Yet, you continue to study and eventually surpass your instructors in ranking, or you may even start your own system. Here is an example of proper martial arts respect. Let's say your instructor at his/her highest rank retired as a fourth degree black belt, but you continued on and reached rank of a seventh degree black belt. Your past instructor enters where you are training or teaching, weather in regular clothes or in a martial arts uniform, who begins the bow first? You would begin the bow first to your past instructor, and at your lowest level hold the 45-degree bow for a full second before returning to an upright position. This is because you are paying respect to your teacher, even though you have reached a higher rank. Another scenario: You are at a tournament and noticed that a past instructor is sitting with other people watching the tournament. Proper procedure is for you walk to the area section where your instructor is sitting, turn in his/her direction, and do a forty-degree bow and hold it for a full second at its lowest point. From that point, if possible, you then make your way to where your past instructor is sitting, bow again and respectfully proceed with a brief conversation. When completed, bow again before returning to the tournament. If the instructor is not in the company of others, it is suggested that you relocate your instructor to a location of importance. You have acknowledged someone of importance who is at the tournament and you have made everyone aware that he/she is someone special in the martial arts. What a great way to express proper martial arts etiquette!

How far should a person be from another when bowing to a black belt or to a higher ranking black belt? Each person is entitled to his/her own personal space, which is measured as twice the distance of a person's extended fist or fingertips. Thus, your heads would not be too close to each other's at the lowest point of the bow, and each person would not be invading the private space of the other.

During class, when approaching a black belt to train with or to ask a question, the color belt should begin with a 15 or 30-degree bow (depending on the system). He/she should place both hands at the sides of the legs and bow from the waist up. The black belt would immediately follow with the same degree bow.

If the instructor is temporarily absent from the training area and there is an assistant acting as the instructor who is color belt, the same rules apply. If you are a higher grade (below black belt) martial artist than the assistant instructor, it is suggested that you should nod your head to show respect to him/her rather than bow, unless he/she bows to you first. The rules always remain the same: the lowest grade initiates the bow. But, if a color belt takes over the class, it is not required to follow the same bowing etiquette procedures, because the color belt has not yet earned the respect that is due to a black belt. Assistant instructors should not teach or have students do anything new without the instructor's permission.

All colored belts, even adult colored belts, must show respect by bowing to a junior black belt. For children, bowing is instilled in them and they will know that it is required. For adults, bowing to a younger person who has more experience and knowledge in the martial arts can be a humbling experience. It can be difficult for an adult to grasp the concept of bowing to a younger person who is a black belt (not grade). Adults must be taught to understand that the younger person earned the right and privilege to be respected, and that bowing is how respect is demonstrated in the martial arts.

Failure to bow to a black belt or a master is considered an insult and a lack of respect to that person and the martial arts. The person exhibiting that lack of courtesy can expect it to be brought to his/her attention immediately. If it happens other than at a school, tournament or such, the black belt may or may not mention it to the student's instructor.

If you are a colored belt student or even a black belt student, and the instructor is teaching a class, and you must pass along the edges of the training area to the dressing area, do not bow to the instructor, but just continue to your destination. Any action that distracts an instructor from teaching a class is considered an interruption. For example: If twenty students pass the instructor while he/she is teaching, and if the instructor is required to stop and acknowledge each bow as each student passes, the instructor would be drawn away from the class.

If in the rare event an instructor makes excessive or above normal contact to a student while sparring, it would be proper for the instructor to take one step back and bow to the student to show his/her regret and apology. The student, if he/she can, should return the instructor's bow. If an instructor visits a student's home, it would be proper for the instructor to bow at the doorway or once he/she passes the threshold to show his/her respect as a guest in someone else's home. It would then be proper for the student, if he/she answers the door, to return the bow. If the instructor is inside the home waiting for the student, when the student arrives, the student would be the first to bow when he/she arrives, and the instructor would return the bow. The bowing to show respect follows the same procedures as when entering a martial arts school, except that the instructor is the guest at home of the student.

Unless you are working out where you have no alternative but to keep your back toward your instructor, you should avoid doing so. The exception is fixing or adjusting your belt or uniform (see below). If you are called up to the instructor, and the instructor and you are finished, bow to the instructor, take one step backwards with the right foot, followed by the left foot (the same procedure as when stepping entering and leaving the training area), and only then turn your back to the instructor and walk away.

Each time you change partners while working out in class, it is proper to bow when you have finished working out with each partner and when facing a new partner (bowing to a grade would be a 15-degree bow, towards a black belt a 30-degree). When the workout is completed, bow again to your partner.

There may be times in class when you are training with many different students, and possibly one right after another. Unless instructed otherwise by the instructor, proper class etiquette should still be followed. When two students approach each other to begin working out together, regardless of their grade or rank, both should bow toward each other at the same time, then take their positions. When leaving the partner, both should follow the same process. This is repeated each time workout partners are changed. When moving from student to student, move quickly into place. If the instructor happens to be one of your partners, the student should begin the bow first.

As a student in a martial arts class, you cannot leave the training area or class without informing the instructor and first receiving permission. This includes going to the bathroom, using the telephone, visiting the locker room, or going home. This is especially true for small children while under the supervision and responsibility of the instructor.

A black belt instructor or equivalent must maintain a high degree of dignity and status when in front of other martial artists. Favoritism to any student cannot be shown in any form, even if you are related or the best of friends outside the martial arts environment. Again, martial arts etiquette is similar to military etiquette when it comes to ranking. A martial art student should not cross that line; it is disrespectful. The practice and display of proper martial arts etiquette should always be followed.

During the class opening ceremonies, there may be more than one deep bow. Traditionally, if there is no shrine or place of honor, the instructor would start by facing the students, which would require a respectful deep bow, however, if there is a shrine or place of honor on the side of the training area in memory of the founder, a deep bow would first be given in the direction of the shrine or place of honor. While still in the kneeling position, students would then turn in the direction of their instructor and do an additional respectful bow.

If you're on the training floor or mat, and someone gives the command to face the doorway, it usually means that your instructor or someone higher in rank has entered into view of the training area, stop what you are doing. If you are training with a partner, bow first toward each other and then turn and face the person in the doorway. Wait for the command (if there is one), and then perform a high bow to show respect. If you continue to work out with your partner, face each other again and bow before proceeding. If you are not working with a partner, stop and turn in the direction of the doorway. The height of the bow depends on the system or school's standards. Once you bow, if there are no further instructions, continue with what you were doing previously.

Section 22. General.

Martial art schools usually give time for students to go on the training floor to practice their techniques if there is no class in session. Students of lower grades and ranks should take advantage of that opportunity and ask higher grades to help them with their techniques or to work out with them. If you are a student of grade, you should approach a martial artist of ranking by bowing and asking his/her permission to work with you, as this is a good opportunity to advance your knowledge and improve your techniques. When this practice session is permitted by the school's instructor, there is to be no free fighting unless the instructor is present. Yet, structured free fighting techniques can be practiced with a black belt.

Lining up in class is done according to rank, grade, or seniority, whether by rows or in lines. When the students are facing towards the front of the training area or the instructor, the most senior ranking student would be on the far right (instructor's left), and students of lower grade would follow to the most senior student's left. When one row is completed, then the second and following rows would proceed in the same manner. Rows are across and lines are from front to back. When the command comes to line up, it really means to fall into place as your system or school requires.

Rows are across from left and right facing the front of the class:
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Lines are from forward to rear facing the front of the class:
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The applicable etiquette depends upon whether students form up in lines or rows. A single line of several or many students is formed when the students are standing behind each other, the same as if you were on line-up to go to a movie. There can be several lines of students next to each other. A row of students is formed when the students are facing the instructor, shoulder to shoulder, from left to right. There can be several rows or many, depending on the size of the class. When there are several lines of students, you can take one step either to the left or to the right and walk between the students to the front of the class. If there are several rows of students, you would have to take one step back and turn to the left or the right to get to the edge of the row of students. Now you can see how it may be confusing if the instructor says "everyone line up in rows". In the military, you might hear "everyone fall in."

When the class is lined up in rows before the class starts, or prior to the bowing in procedure, it is permissible to walk between the instructor and the front row of students. At this time, you don't need to bow to the instructor because you showed your respect by bowing when you first entered the training area. However, once the class has bowed in, or if the instructor is talking to the class before the bowing in, you should not walk between the instructor and the front row of students. If the class did not formally bow in yet, and/or the instructor is talking to the class, you can fall into place from the second row back as long as you bowed in when entering the training area. For bowing etiquette procedures to follow when arriving at the edge of the training or class area, see the section on bowing etiquette.
After the class bows in:Once the class has officially bowed in, there are proper etiquette procedures to follow when falling into place. If you arrive at class during or after the bowing in, you should not go past the edge of the training area to enter it. Depending on the individual school's rules, or the type of martial art you are learning, stopping just short of the training area, or taking one step onto the training area, would be permissible, but usually not beyond that point.
When entering the class late: If you are late, and the class has bowed in, you must wait at the edge of the training area for your instructor to invite you to join the class. When he/she does so, you then formally bow and briskly proceed to fall in at the last row at the back of the class. This includes all students that are under master ranking. The reason for falling in at the rear of the last row is to minimize the distraction caused by your late arrival. Those of master ranking should take their position at the far left of the instructor in front of the first row of students. If the students are standing, kneeling, or sitting, the master should either stand or kneel, but not sit. In some systems, a master would be on a 45-degree angle where he/she is both facing the instructor and the class. This procedure of proper martial arts etiquette reflects the master's position within the class.

There are proper traditional procedures to follow if a class has already started and you arrive late. There are four options, depending upon the system:

  1. Walk up to the edge of the training area, but do not step on the training area. Stand up straight with your arms down at your sides, facing toward and looking at the instructor, and wait for the instructor to invite you into the class. Once invited, step onto the training area with your left foot first, followed by the right foot with your heels together, and the feet angled about 30 degrees apart. Stop for a brief moment, face the instructor and respectfully bow, then proceed to your designated place.
  2. Follow the same proper procedures when stepping onto the training area as in option (1), but do not wait to be called onto the training area. Instead, step onto the edge of the training area while the class is in progress and wait for the instructor to invite you into the class. Once invited, do a standing bow and proceed.
  3. For the formal procedures on 3 and 4. Martial arts proper etiquette is to be followed. Before stepping onto the training area while at the edge of the training area, remain in the kneeling position until the instructor invites on to the training area. Once invited, stand, and proceed to step on to the training area with your left foot first followed by the right foot with both heels together and do a standing bow, the height of the bow depends on your system requirements.
  4. Step on the edge of the training area with the left foot first followed by the right foot, do not do a standing bow, but proceed in a kneeling position with the left knee being placed on the training area first followed by the right knee until you are fully seated in the kneeling position. When the instructor invites you to join the class, begin to stand, first with the right followed by the left foot until you are standing inside the training area with your heels together, then do a high bow, the depth depends on your systems procedures then move forward with the left foot first. Both steps 3 and four, you can only join the class once the instructor invites you into the class or on the training area. It is not proper etiquette to invite yourself on to the training area unless you are a higher rank then the instructor, then again, you should time yourself with the instructor's teachings as not to disturb the lesson, and to be properly recognized in the traditional manner.


For all options: Students, no matter how long it takes, you must remain at the edge of the training area, unless stated as in number 4 until the instructor invites you to join the class. There could be a delay if the instructor is in the middle of teaching something or the class is in progress. When the instructor invites you to join the class, even though you are invited on the training area, you may be required to sit on the side to avoid interrupting the class until the instructor is ready for you to join in. Exceptions: If you are a black belt (depending on the school), most likely you don't have to wait to be invited onto the training area. You would step on the training area where the class is being held, stop, bow to the instructor, and proceed. If it is a class of black belts, then any black belt under master ranking should wait to be invited into the class as a means of showing respect and as an apology to the instructor and the other black belts for being late. If an instructor has to leave the training area while teaching a class, and appoints a black belt, or equivalent, or senior student, or an advanced color belt if a black belt is not available to lead the class, that designated student is to be respected as if he/she is the instructor. See sections on the different types of bows, their proper procedures, and when to do them. See, too, the video showing how to bow.

Upon initially entering the school late, wait for the instructor to motion you to join the class. No matter what your grade (color belt) or ranking (black belt), you must follow martial arts tradition and protocol unless the instructor suggests otherwise. Additionally, you must fall into place at the right and rear of the last student. Once the class moves, then you can fall into place at your proper position according to rank.

Do not walk between any row of students. Instead, you should go to the furthest row back from the instructor, even if you are a black belt student. The exception is if the instructor motions to you or tells you to fall into your proper place for your grade or ranking. The reason for this is naturally respect, but there is also a purpose behind this etiquette. Students are listening and focused on the instructor. By falling into place while the instructor is talking, you are distracting the students and taking the class' attention away from the instructor. The instructor has an agenda while teaching, and that is to share information with the students. Anytime an interruption occurs, the instructor has to regain the thoughts and attention of the students.

If you must leave early, inform your instructor before the class starts. Informing the instructor before the class starts gives the instructor the opportunity to change his/her lesson plan or format of instruction, such as counting the number of students in a class to pair them off.

Many martial art schools require you to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance while facing the American flag. If the flags of other countries are present, they would also receive similar respect. Martial arts students, as part of their education, should know facts about their country and the meaning behind the flags displayed. Testing for promotions may include questions relating to the flag's facts and history. Many schools wear the American flag patch and/or the patch of the country of origin of their martial arts system on their martial arts uniform.

A martial arts motto may be from a system, association, or an individual school. It is usually a sentence, phrase, or single word which expresses its principles of behavior. An example is the United States Marine Corp's phrase "Semper Fidelis," which in Latin means "always faithful." A martial arts school will usually post its motto somewhere within the school for all to see and remember. Some schools may recite the motto at the beginning or at the end of the class. Some schools may have more than one motto. The motto is usually short and direct.

Many martial arts schools have a student creed. This creed is usually recited out loud by the students at the beginning of the class. The creed helps motivate the students by power of suggestion. The martial arts student is required to memorize and recite the creed and understand its powerful message. Like many things learned in the martial arts, the student creed will remain within the person through most of his/her life. Student creeds usually promote self-confidence, belief in one's unlimited abilities, the importance of having an honest heart, development of a stronger and healthier body, avoiding fights, developing friendships, and thinking beyond one's self by working together toward developing a better community. Each martial arts school or system may phrase its student creed differently, but the general concept is usually the same. Some martial arts schools have specific creeds designed for their specific art such as Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Aikido, and many others. Also, as part of testing and promotion, it may be required for the student to recite the student creed.

When the class is about to begin, the students should walk briskly (not run) to fall in place. Students should be aware of what is going on around them and be able to anticipate when class will start.

There are several traditional ways to inform students that they should enter the training area and line up for class. One is by the most senior student, or the assistant instructor, or even the instructor, clapping his/her hands twice. Another is by striking a chime, or similar instrument, twice. The sound should be low to moderate in volume and not intense or disturbing. It is the signal for all to line up. It is not proper for someone to yell out "okay, everyone line up," as done in some schools. Today, most school classes begin by the instructor verbally telling everyone to line up, or by issuing a similar command. This informality takes away from the traditional martial arts atmosphere and turns towards a street type environment. Each martial arts school is different. One class could begin directly after another one ends, where little time is wasted, and lining up is automatic once the first class departs the training area.

When the martial arts instructor is in the process of speaking, he/she is working with an agenda (a purpose or a lesson plan). Many times when I teach (Grandmaster Perceval), I will also include a hidden agenda, whereby I will have hidden clues about what I am teaching, along with an ulterior motive that the students must put together, like a puzzle, to figure out the correct answers. In other words, when the martial arts instructor is speaking, he/she cannot have distractions from a student talking at the same time, or a family member/spectator interrupting the instructor or talking over the instructor when he/she is teaching a class. This would also include a student raising his/her hand when the instructor is talking. Anything that distracts or draws the rest of the class' attention away from the martial arts instructor is extremely rude and shows a lack of respect to the instructor and other classmates. When a student talks during class, it disrupts the learning process; it draws attention away from the instructor; the balance and/or flow of what is being taught is broken; and, the instructor must make it known that he/she is not to be interrupted while teaching. The instructor may have to repeat some portion of his/her lesson to recapture the students' attention. The instructor is placed in an awkward position in front of the students if he/she can't remember where he/she left off. During the class, the instructor may give permission to the class to speak with one another when in small groups for specific learning purposes. Then, talking is permitted as long as no one single student becomes louder than the others. Finally, if there is a class in session and you are not part of the class, you must modulate your voice so you are not heard within the training area. If someone is at a distance, walk closer to speak.

Students entering a martial arts school wearing non-martial art clothing should dress appropriately. The showing of undergarments, bare chests, or anything that looks too sexy, torn, or dirty, is improper.

As you begin learning the ways of the martial artist, you should also start changing the way in which you think. There are martial art training aids that help you and the rest of the class to achieve your goals. Sometimes helping to move equipment onto the training floor to use, and returning them to where they belong, is part of your training. Class participation is very important in the martial arts.

If you are going to miss two or more consecutive classes, it is proper martial arts etiquette to notify your instructor in advance. An instructor is more than just an instructor. He/she feels that you have become part of his/her family, and when you are absent your instructor becomes concerned for your well-being. You should notify your instructor and inform him/her of your reason for not attending for that period of time, such as a vacation, sickness, or personal matter.

If there is a class in progress, and the instructor is speaking when you enter the school or while you are passing the training area, bow to the instructor and do not wait for a return bow. Once you have given your respect, proceed quietly to your destination and do not disrupt the class that is in progress.

If there is a class in progress when you are ready to enter the training area, and the students are meditating, do not enter at that time. Wait at the edge or outside of the training area until the meditation has ended before proceeding. Be as quiet as possible to avoid distracting the students.

Section 23. Health.

Staff or instructors should instruct students that if they have a contagious illness, they should skip class. Notice could be given verbally and/or by a sign placed in the reception area.

Long hair in the back should be tied back in a ponytail with a soft item. Long hair (bangs) that covers the eyes should be controlled by a sweat band. Do not use cream or anything that is slick in your hair, because it is possible for your eyes to become irritated by sweat from your head. If you wear a hair piece or an extension, please remove it prior to the lesson. These items can easily be pulled off. Hair pieces or extensions can cause excessive sweating and cause the sweat to irritate your eyes and perhaps drip onto the training surface, making it slippery.

Most classes are held towards the end of the day during the week. If you have time, shower beforehand. A clean body is refreshing and is always appreciated by your fellow martial artists. At the very least, wash your hands and face before and after class to control any bacteria.

It is not uncommon for someone to lose a contact lens during a martial arts class. If you should lose a contact lens during a lesson, stop and form a wide circle with your arms where you think you may have dropped your lens. Verbally state that you lost your contact lens and inform everyone to be careful where they walk. This is one of the few occasions where martial arts etiquette allows an interruption. The instructor most likely has dealt with this before and will make sure that only a few students assist you while the others students are kept away. When found, don't forget your etiquette. Bow to your instructor and verbally thank him/her. Verbally thank those who assisted you.

If you are in a martial arts environment and you feel sick, you must immediately inform your instructor by raising your hand so he/she can be made aware of it, even if you have to tell another student to tell the instructor. This is very important because if your instructor is not aware that you are feeling sick, he/she may push you and the rest of the class too hard. That extra physical exertion could cause you to become sicker and you may vomit, lose consciousness, or exacerbate an injury or medical condition. An instructor who is unaware of the student's condition may place that sick or injured student in a situation that could be more harmful. So, if you are aware that another student is sick, notify the instructor. The instructor most likely will send a reliable student to stay with the ill student in case he/she needs any assistance or his/her condition worsens.

Training with another student who has bad breath (halitosis) can be unpleasant. The type of food you eat can effect the air your breath. The primary cause of bad breath is due to the millions of bacteria living in the back of the tongue and in the throat. The mouth's moist, warm condition enhances the growth of bacteria. Before entering your martial arts school, brush your teeth and tongue; use mouth wash and floss for your teeth. It will be appreciated by everyone.

Perfumes or fragrances are pleasant to smell, but not in a martial arts class. The only non-natural smell should be under arm deodorant, which is highly recommended before entering a class. Be aware that perfumes or fragrances may cause allergic reactions in other students.

When sweating, do not wipe your perspiration on your uniform. No one wants to work out with and touch another student who is soaking wet, because it is unpleasant and unsanitary. Naturally, there are exceptions. When a class of students is being pushed hard, sweating during class naturally occurs. That is the nature of the lesson, so students should accept and endure those hard times and mentally ignore the natural body's cooling ventilating system. Instructors should be aware that sweating can cause the training surface to become slippery and hazardous, so the training surface should be cleaned before a student slips and falls. A sweat band, if permitted by the instructor, will help reduce the free flow of salty perspiration getting into the student's eyes and irritating them. Today's modern schools are not like they were in the early martial arts years; most schools now have air conditioning which helps reduce the heat and humidity.

If you see a student becoming ill, starting to faint, gasping for air, or exhibiting other signs of an emergency, DO NOT RAISE YOUR HAND. MAKE THE INSTRUCTOR AWARE OF THE PROBLEM IMMEDIATELY BY SPEAKING UP.

Covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing inside or outside the martial arts school is proper martial arts etiquette. If you have to cough or sneeze during class, don't use your hand to cover your nose or mouth. Instead, cough or sneeze into your uniform sleeve, close to where the arm bends at the elbow. Remember to not cough or sneeze into your hands because you use your hands to make contact with your partners. Using the uniform is a better choice than not using anything or using the hand to cover up. You should not carry a tissue or such inside your uniform. If there are any problems with a runny nose, request to use the bathroom. Remember to regularly wash your uniform to keep it clean.

Sometimes nose bleeds happen, such as being hit in the face by accident.
The first concern: the instuctor must keep the student calm, and other students as well. Too alleviate the nose bleed, have the student immediately squeeze their lower nostrils with their first finger and index finger to stop the bleeding. They should hold their nose for at least five minutes. Repeat as necessary until the bleeding has stopped. Also have the student remove themselves from the training area as soon as possible. They should use the bathroom and have someone assist them if needed. They should not blow their nose or put anything in it. If they have to sneeze, they should open their mouth so that the air will escape out the mouth and not the nose (to avoid blowing blood every where).
Second concern: If blood is on the training surface, use precaution to clean up the spilled blood. Always assume the blood is infected. Use proper protective gloves. When cleaning up the blood, use an absorbent material in additional to some type of disinfectant solution. Keep in mind that everyone is concerned about the student who's nose is bleeding and not necessaryily aware of the spilled blood on the floor.

There are many reasons for a runny nose. When a student has a runny nose (most notably in children), it could be easy for them to pass bodily fluids from one student to another (children like to wipe their noses all over their hands and fingers). The instructor should take immediate action to correct any student who has a runny nose. Excuse the student to remedy the problem and have them blow their nose and then wash their hands. If the student is a child, the instructor should inform the student's parent about the situation. Students must learn to cope with and be aware of their bodies and actions that might offend others.

When a student vomits in class it will usually be with force, and students nearby will almost always be affected. While this may cause chaos, students must remain calm. Vomiting can happen in two ways: unexpected, or feeling nauseous before-hand. If you feel queasy, uneasy or feel as though something isn't right, let the instructor know as soon as possible. Your instructor will request that you sit to the side and observe the class instead so that he or she can keep an eye on you and monitor your condition. In the event that you need assistance, the instructor is there to help.
If you are in class and suddenly without notice you vomit, proper procedure to follow is: 1) Stop immediately, stand still, 2) Take the portion of your uniform that is below your belt and place it over your mouth and vomit in your uniform to contain the vomit, and 3) Go directly to the bathroom; your instructor will send a senior student with you for two reasons: to be an assistant to you if need be, and to keep your instructor informed of your current condition, especially if medical attention is needed.

Section 24. Safety.

No jewelry, rings, or watches are permitted to be worn in class. Some students find it hard to remove a religious article or a wedding ring. Wearing jewelry can cause injury to yourself or another student, so it is not permitted. A wedding ring may seem small and close to the finger, but if you injure or dislocate that finger, the finger will begin to swell almost immediately and the ring will tighten against the finger and may stop circulation. The outcome will be that the ring will have to be cut to be removed from your finger. Depending on the instructor and his/her requirements regarding wedding rings, some women do not like to remove their wedding rings along with a ring with a diamond. If there is a diamond, you may be asked to turn the diamond towards the palm when punching, but asked to remove the ring when making contact with a partner. Also, if you strike another student with a ring, it may cause a laceration. Necklaces, bracelets (including ankle bracelets), clip-on earrings and earrings for pierced ears are small, but can be very painful if struck. They can also be torn off and damaged. A medical bracelet in class may be permitted to be worn. If you remove the medical bracelet for a class, keep it nearby and let others know where it is.

All students should make sure that fingernails and toenails are trimmed short and kept smooth and clean. For some women, long finger nails are very important, but breaking a nail can be painful. Also keep in mind that nails can scratch or cut others. If you have long nails and they are very important to you, speak to your instructor on what he/she feels is acceptable.

To prevent injuries to another person with whom you are working out or competing against, that person should let you know when he/she feels that the pain being applied has reached the level of almost causing damage. This is indicated by that person tapping twice against you, him/herself, or the surface. If the hands are unable to tap twice, use a foot. As a last resort, verbally out loud say "tap-tap-tap" three times. In that case, the person applying the technique is required by martial arts etiquette to immediately release all pressure. If in the event you are applying a technique and you hear a pop from a joint and your opponent does not tap or indicate a problem, do not apply additional pressure, but let the referee know what you heard. Safety first is the martial arts rule.

A professional martial artist who is applying a technique knows just how much pressure to apply before doing damage to a joint while practicing a joint bar, joint lock, choke, or other dangerous movement. It is necessary for the person to whom the technique is being applied to either tap twice on the person who is applying the technique, on themselves, or on the surface. The person who is applying the technique must immediately release the technique. If it is during a competition, the referee would immediately intervene by separating both martial artists. During a class, the instructor and assistants should carefully watch the condition of the student on whom the technique is being applied. If he/she is losing consciousness, the instructor must intervene and stop the technique. If a choke hold is being applied, the instructor during practice, or a referee in competition, should watch the eyes of the martial artist upon whom the choke is being applied, as this is a good barometer of the condition of that martial artist.

If you injure an opponent during sparring, you must immediately go to the inside edge of the ring and get into a kneeling position facing away from the injured competitor, and remain there until the referee or instructor informs you to either continue free fighting or provides other instructions.

When the body feels discomfort or pain, it is the body's way of letting you know something is wrong, and that help is needed, be it rest, medication, or professional attention. I don't believe there is a barometer that can measure the exact degree of pain, because it is subjective. Each of us accepts the degree of pain differently. If you have been a martial artist for any length of time, you do develop a certain tolerance for pain. This is good as well as bad. The bad part of it is, with a higher tolerance for pain, the more likely you will damage your body by ignoring the pain. If you are in pain and take medication prior to taking a martial arts class to better tolerate it, be aware of the possible consequences. No matter how slight the pain or injury, from a leg cramp to a broken bone, the instructor must be made aware of it before class. If it occurs during class, the instructor must be notified immediately. A simple cramp can lead to more serious complications, especially if you are free fighting (sparring) or in competition. Notifying the referee or your instructor allows him/her to take the appropriate measures for you and your opponent's safety.

Section 25. During class.

Non-martial artists should not enter onto the training floor without permission from the instructor or staff. The training area should always be dedicated to martial arts training.

If your martial arts school permits the wearing of footwear on the training deck (work out area), you should not wear the same street footwear as worn outside. Training deck footwear should be used, as permitted by the instructor. This will prevent objects and debris from outside the school from being deposited onto the training area.

Your proper physical posture while standing is a very important signal to the instructor. You are demonstrating to the instructor that he/she has your full attention. Although a system or instructor may not require you to stand in a particular way during class, it is improper for you to stand with your arms folded across your chest or to place your hands on your hips. The weight of your body should be divided equally between both feet without placing more weight on one leg or leaning towards one leg. The following are four proper ways to stand:

  1. Stand with your arms at your sides if your feet are together.
  2. If your feet are shoulder width apart, you can place your hands in front of you below the waist, with the left hand on top supporting the right hand, while both hands are in an open, relaxed position.
  3. As in number two, with the legs shoulder width apart, place the hands behind your back below the waist with the left hand supporting the right hand and with the left hand furthest out from the back. (In the military, this would be similar to parade rest.) At no time should the fingers interlock.
  4. With the feet shoulder width apart, stand erect with the arms slightly curved and the fists in front of your body. The fists should be one fist distance apart from each other, and the fists should be one fist distance from the body. In the martial arts, this would be the "ready" position.
  1. In the process of moving from the standing to the kneeling position, make sure that the eyes are forward, traditional systems suggest 30 feet on the surface in front of you if there is sufficient room. The head stays level and straight forward, and the body is upright (not leaning forward or to a side).
  2. From the standing position (not the ready position), make sure that your feet are not wider than your shoulders.
  3. Lower your left knee first followed by your right knee. your back straight, but not rigid.
  4. Another method is: As you are lowering the body, two things are happening. a. Both knees come forward and turn outward (apart), b. As the heels come off the surface, you are on the balls of the feet momentarily.
  5. Maintaining balance is very important; your body should not sway to a side or forward or backward.
  6. Both hands come to the inside of the thighs, palms facing the thighs. Make sure that your fingers do not separate.
  7. Twist the body toward the right and, at the same time, lower the left knee onto the surface, while the left palm is on top of the thigh midway between the knee and the pelvis, with the fingers closed and facing on a 45 degree to the right of the thigh.
  8. Once the left knee touches the surface, the body turns back to the left until the body is facing directly forward. At that point, lower your right knee to the surface. The right hand and fingers mirror the left hand and fingers.
  9. During this brief moment when you are standing upright on your knees, the body is now ready to sit back on the heels of both feet. The transition from standing on the knees to moving the body into the sitting position is a continuous flowing movement with no interruptions.
  10. As you are in the process of sitting back, both hands are on the middle of the thighs with the palms down, they remain there, except that the fingers begin to turn on a forty-five degree inward, to form a "V" shape.
  11. As the body begins to sit back, the balls of the feet that are touching the surface are exchanged to the top of the feet on the surface.
  12. There are two ways of placing the feet when sitting on the heels. You can keep the feet straight while sitting on the heels, or you can cross the feet while sitting on the heels. If you cross the feet, the top of the right foot is on the bottom, and the left foot is on top.
  13. Once in the sitting position, your posture should be straight, while your shoulders level and in a straight line forward but relaxed.
  14. Once you are in the kneeling position, you can begin the deep bow. If your feet are in the crossed position, you must uncross the feet while bending forward.

When sitting in class, do not place your back against any object such as a wall or mirror. Your back should be in an upright position, not slouched. Your legs should not be extended. They should either be crossed or in the kneeling position. Do not kneel on one leg. Your hands should be on your lap, in a comfortable position, as you choose. Do not play with your hands or fingers. During class, the instructor may suggest other ways of sitting. Exceptions are made, of course, for those who have limited stretch or physical movement, where sitting in a certain position can be very uncomfortable or even painful. As long as the instructor is aware of your limitations, arrangements can be made.

Place the hands on the thighs, as explained at number seven previously above, or place the palms of the hands on your lap facing upward with the left palm resting on the right palm. Either way, you should have a straight back and sit without slouching.

Most instructors would prefer for you not to be lost or confused in class, because they want you to learn what is being taught and not to repeat mistakes. If you are unsure or have a problem understanding or performing a technique, and there is no assistant instructor available to help you, you may raise your hand to ask for help. The instructor will decide whether to help you immediately, a bit later, or after class.

When you have to scream or yell when applying a technique, let it out sharply. Don't make it like a long note in a song. Do not say the Japanese word, such as "Kiai" or the Korean word "Kihap". It can be called forced energy, power exhale, focus of ki energy and other names. If you are instructed to give commands, lead a cadence, or to count out loud, this is your opportunity to motivate yourself and the rest of the class by being energetic and enthusiastic. Here are a series of other reasons for the shout or scream:

  1. Rapid exhalation of breath ensures you are breathing out correctly.
  2. When breaking an object, it increases your power on impact.
  3. To accompany an attack, which resembles a deep forceful abdominal growl.
  4. To accompany a counter attack, which resembles a heavy shout.
  5. It signals the end of an attack.
  6. It tightens your core by contracting and engaging the abdominal muscles.
  7. The shout shows spirit in competition.
  8. When breaking a fall, exhaling relaxes tightened muscles and releases built up air pressure air (breath).
  9. A reason of intent, as in a battle cry.
  10. A loud, ear-piercing, short focused yell can startle and unnerve your attacker.
  11. It can alert other people.
  12. It reduces fear and hesitation.
  13. Increases your confidence.
  14. I learned the following information from masters in the 1950s and 1960s, yet I could not find any medical information to prove that the scream/yell is effective: After being hit/struck in the head and being disoriented and having a loss of balance, giving a forceful, loud, short blood-curdling scream may vibrate the structures in the ear associated with balance and restore your equilibrium and give you a few short seconds where you can regain your balance and retaliate in order to survive.

Section 26. Class rules.

When the instructor is talking to the class, pay close attention and listen carefully; you learn by listening. If your eyes are not on the instructor, neither is your mind. Most students don't listen to what the instructor is really saying. This is proven when the student is given a task to perform, mentally and/or physically. Listening and relating it to the mind is a skill that must be developed. Your brain moves much faster than the fastest speaker, so the brain has a natural tendency to wander. With practice, you will find that your focusing will improve as well as become more intense. When your instructor is talking, pay attention to key words or sentences, especially if your instructor repeats them several times.

Once you step onto the training floor and the class has started, there is no more talking, as it is rude and disrespectful. Talking out of turn distracts the other students from what is being taught. The student who disrupt the other students by talking is showing disinterest and disrespect of what is being taught by the instructor. The only person allowed to speak are the instructor and his/her assistants. Students should only speak when given permission to do so. All questions, unless you are under the guidance of an assistant, should be directed to your instructor. If someone is talking, do not raise your hand until that person has finished speaking.

When in class, do not ask another student any questions, even if the other student is a black belt. You must follow proper procedures and observe the no talking rule while class is in session. By delaying your question, sometimes watching the more senior students will answer your question. See 27-d for further information.

Just as you would not walk between two people having a conversation, neither should you walk between two martial artists who are facing each other or working out.

When in class, whether you are sitting or standing, you must be quiet and keep your hands to yourself. Don't touch or speak to the student next to you unless the instructor instructs you to do so. This is mostly directed to the newer and younger martial artists. Every time the instructor has to discipline a student, two things happen. The instructor must single out that student which embarrasses him/her, the instructor does not want to do, but has no alternative. Also, the class is being distracted from the instructor's lesson. Continuous interruptions by the same student may be his/her way of drawing attention to him/herself. Repeated distractions by a student may leave the instructor with no alternative but to discipline or remove that student from the class.

When lined up while working out, or when training in a line or row with other students, you should not break rank without the instructor's permission. This is disrespectful to the instructor and interferes with the lesson.

If your belt becomes undone, face away from the front while adjusting your belt. Just as you would turn away from the instructor or the class to fix or adjust your belt, the same courtesy is shown to a country's flag or the school's shrine.

If you find yourself becoming bored or tired in class, most likely it is not by what is being taught by your instructor. Let's look at some of the causes of your tiredness or boredom and the remedies:

  1. Did you get enough sleep? Your body may require more. Each person requires a different amount of sleep. Adults should get at least six to eight hours of sleep. Young children require even more. If you are not getting the amount of sleep you require each night, you will experience sleep deprivation within several days. Insufficient sleep affects your physical performance and thought processes, and even slows your reaction time. Over sleeping can also make you tired.
  2. Are you eating properly? Are you eating a nutritious and balanced diet? Milk is healthy, but it will also make you sleepy, so try to avoid milk at least an hour before class.
  3. You don't want to come to a martial arts class shortly after eating a heavy meal. If you must eat right before the class, keep it simple. Eat some fruit, but do not eat anything like candy or sweets that have sugar. Your energy level will be high only for a short period of time. By the time you are in class, your energy level will crash lower than before you had the candy or sweets. You should also avoid soda or energy drinks that also contain high levels of sugar.
  4. During the day, spend some free moments thinking about your martial arts class, and mentally preparing yourself for the class.
  5. When sitting in a class, don't slouch when your instructor is speaking. Maintain an upright position so you can stay more alert. If you have to yawn in class, try not to advertise it. Either lower your head and yawn or cover your mouth tactfully. If there is a clock in the training area, don't keep looking at it every few minutes; that is an insult to the instructor, and is a sign of lack of focus. Martial arts instruction is about training the mind and focusing your thoughts. This takes time to accomplish.
  6. If you find on more than a few occasions you do become tired during your martial arts classes, perhaps you should figure out why. Keep notes about when you feel bored or tired in class, and keep track of what you ate or did during the day; perhaps you may find a connection. If you can't find any connections; you may want to consult with your doctor. Remember that showing the other students and the instructor that you are tired or bored in class is disrespectful.

If you are a student who is truly mentally or physically exhausted, as an instructor, I would prefer that you stay home and get your rest rather than come to class and not be able to give it your all. If you decide to come to class when you are tired or exhausted, you should not show or display any expressions of tiredness, weakness, or exhaustion. Do not speak of being exhausted or tired. Showing tiredness conflicts with the attitude that the instructor wants to teach to other students. Also, speaking of being tired or assuming the posture of being tired will only reinforce your feeling of fatigue, and eliminate any possibly of you regaining your "second-wind" and feeling more energetic.

During class, when seated or standing, if room permits, always place yourself to the left of your senior grade or rank, unless otherwise specified by the instructor. Note: Higher black belts traditionally sit or stand furthest from the main door.

Content to be filled in.

Section 27. Instructor's rules.

When your name is called by the instructor to approach him/her, there are several things that you should do. Martial art procedures and responses are very similar to those of the military, so your verbal and physical response should be as follows:

  1. When your name is called by the instructor to come forward, whether you are in a group, row or line, you immediately respond by saying "yes," followed by the instructor's name and/or title (unless otherwise instructed), in a loud, clear and sharp voice.
  2. You should then move quickly toward the instructor, stop and bow. If there is enough room to do so, a general rule of thumb is that the distance to stop before bowing can be measured by the extension of your arm and your instructor's arm, so you can touch each other's fists. This gives you and your instructor room to bow towards each other without hitting heads and also maintaining a distance of proper respect.
  3. When the bow is completed, you should move to the position indicated by the instructor. If you are mixed within a group, respond verbally and move into the bowing position. If you are seated, respond, stand, and move into your bowing position facing the instructor. If you are in a line with other students, verbally respond, then step to the left or to the right out of line, stop your motion briefly, then proceed to your bowing position. If you are in the front row of students, respond, briefly move to your bowing position. If you are in a line other than the front row, verbally respond. What you don't want to do in this situation is step forward and turn to move out of the line. Instead, take one step backwards from the line, stepping back with the right foot first followed by the left foot. Then, turn in the direction that is shortest distance to the end of the line to your bowing position, if it is at all possible.
  4. After bowing to your instructor, step forward with the left foot first followed by the right foot into the position where the instructor wants you. Remember your martial arts etiquette and procedures. When you step onto the training area, you step first with the left foot, followed by the right foot. When you exit the training area, turn and face the training area and step back with the right foot first, followed by the left foot. When the instructor is finished with you, take one long step backwards with the right foot to maintain proper distance between you and your instructor. Thank the instructor with his/her proper name and or title (unless otherwise suggested) then bow. After the bow, again take one normal step backwards, again stepping back with the right foot followed by the left foot. Once completed, the engagement between the two of you has ended. Then turn and proceed to where you were previously, unless otherwise directed to another location. All of the above movements, stepping forward and backwards is done briefly without delay. Let's look closer at what is actually taking place within the procedure of being called to the instructor. Respond to your name being called. You have been selected out of all the other students. This means that you should verbally respond and move in a manner that is dignified, with your chest out, posture erect, while moving sharply and quickly. If you are not jogging, your steps should be longer and quicker than when walking normally. Your eyes remain focused on your instructor. Once you are facing in the direction of your instructor, your eyes remain focused on your instructor's eyes unless it is necessary to redirect them. Your breathing has become deeper and you have become mentally prepared for anything. When called upon, move as when doing a form, demonstrating mental and physical control; do not move like a robot.

When an instructor chooses a student so he/she can demonstrate an attack or technique to the student or to the class, the student should not move or shy away from the instructor's movement because that is a sign of disrespect and distrust of the instructor. A student should not flinch or move when the instructor uses him/her for a demonstration. Moving quickly or unexpectedly to avoid a technique due to being nervous may cause your instructor's technique to injure you. Controlling your instincts to flinch is also an important part of becoming better at blocking an opponent's attack.

The student who interrupts either verbally and/or physically is stating that he/she is more important than everyone else, including the instructor. If a student is disruptive, the instructor should immediately stop the lesson, and inform the disruptive student that he/she is interrupting the class. Tactfully, or in private, the instructor should remind the disruptive student that this behavior is unacceptable in the school, that there are martial art rules of etiquette that must be followed, and that respectful behavior is mandatory in the school. If the disruptive behavior continues, speaking to a parent about the child's behavior may help.

Martial art instructors usually have many things to do before or between classes. Your questions are very important to them, so you must look for the right moment to approach the instructor. If you see the instructor is busy, but it can't wait, try to keep it short and to the point. Occupying the instructor with trivial matters affects everyone present and delays the lesson. However, if you feel your question is truly important and it cannot wait, either raise your hand or, alternatively, ask a senior student.

Section 28. Proper etiquette.

The one thing you should not do is show up at another martial arts school unannounced while holding your uniform and belt in your hand. Black belts under master level are usually welcome to attend a class while visiting a martial art school. It is not uncommon to pay a small fee for use of the training area or for joining a class while you are there for that day. If there is no fee involved, it would be proper to ask the instructor if you can be of any assistance during the class. If so, be aware that your style may be different than what is being taught. However, do not take it upon yourself to teach something new to the instructor's students without first obtaining the instructor's permission. If you know the instructor well and a relationship has been developed between you, an open invitation may have already been established. Even so, visiting still requires following that instructor's etiquette and procedures.

When an unknown master visits a martial arts school, that instructor should consider it an honor. However, if a master were to walk into a martial arts school carrying a uniform and belt, it changes the situation; it's like "Surprise!". A true master in the martial arts would not enter a martial arts school without prior notice and expect to enter onto the training floor, but he/she might visit a school just to watch a class. Arrangements should be made ahead of time (preferably in person, if possible) with the instructor who is teaching. Then, when the visiting master enterers the martial arts school carrying his/her uniform and belt, proper etiquette procedures can be followed. From the instructor's point of view, suddenly seeing an unknown master or someone of exceptionally high rank carrying his/her uniform and belt into the school puts the instructor in a very precarious and uncomfortable position. More than likely, the instructor upon seeing the uniform and belt would assume that the visiting master wants to be on the training floor. These are the procedures that should be followed if there is someone who is working at the reception desk: The receptionist should state:

  1. "I cannot interrupt the instructor while he/she is teaching. What is the purpose of your visit?"
  2. "The instructor can speak with you after the class or classes. Would you like to take a seat or return later?"
  3. "If you would like, please leave your information and the instructor will get back to you as soon as possible."
  4. "If you wish to wait, I can jot down the information and have it passed on to the instructor."


This is a smart receptionist. The receptionist politely made the rules for the visiting unknown master to follow. This gives the visiting master alternatives and the instructor an opportunity to decide how to respond. Note: There are many (so called, but not real) masters and grandmasters walking around with all kinds of "ego ranking." Therefore, an instructor has to be careful who he/she will let on the training floor, especially with students training. If the instructor has no one at the reception desk to talk to the unknown visiting master, then the following procedures should be used:

  1. The instructor should continue teaching his/her class. It would not be correct to leave students unattended without proper supervised instructions, especially if the instructor is following a schedule or a format.
  2. If the instructor has an assistant instructor, the assistant instructor should be used as the messenger to speak with the visiting unknown master. The assistant instructor should first bow to his/her instructor when called upon, receive the instructor's instructions, then take one step back (first with the right foot, followed by the left foot) and again bow to the instructor. The assistant instructor should then go to the edge of the training area, turn facing the training area bow, take one step back away from the training area, (again with the right foot first followed by the left foot), and approach the visiting unknown master. The messenger should stop at a distance where the conversation does not reach the class in session.



The same courtesy and respect given to your instructor is also given to the visiting unknown master. Bow before speaking, a return bow by the unknown master should be given. If the master does not return the bow, this would be an indication of a lack of proper martial arts etiquette, that the instructor would notice while teaching. When greeting the master (do not extend your hand with a hand shake unless it is extended to you first by the unknown master) use his/her title. It would be proper etiquette to explain to the unknown master that your instructor is presently teaching the class and that you will inform your instructor about any information the visiting master wishes to convey.
When the meeting with the unknown master is finished, inform the unknown master that you will relay his/her message. Bow to the visiting unknown master, and take one step back (first with the right foot followed by the left foot). Proceed to the edge of the training area and stop. Step on to the training area (first with the left foot followed by the right foot) and then bow. Do not approach your instructor if he/she is teaching; remain at the inside edge of the training area until the instructor approaches you or you are called upon. Either way, again bow to your instructor before speaking (unless otherwise told not to). When finished, bow again to your instructor and return to class. If there is a return message to the visiting master, follow the same curtesy procedures. When finished, bow again to your instructor and return to class. If the instructor turns the class over temporarily to the assistant instructor to continue with the class while the instructor visits with the unknown visiting master, the students should show the same respect to the assistant instructor as they would to the instructor. The visiting master may be willing to remain until after the class to speak directly with the instructor.
Following correct and proper martial art protocol procedures shows the visiting master how well the instructor and his/her students are educated in martial art etiquette. If the visiting master was invited on to the training floor in his/her uniform, he/she would know in advance how to conduct him/herself. In the martial arts world, if someone known or unknown displays a ranking, proper martial arts etiquette should always be properly followed. Before letting any unknown, master or not, on the floor with his/her students, it is up to the instructor to make sure that that person's credentials are checked out first. This can be done through the internet, and the instructor can learn much about the unknown visiting master before he/she enters the training area. A true master would be reserved and hold back from giving more information about him/her self than what was asked.
The instructor, after checking on the visiting master's credentials, would then, in front of the class, give the visiting master proper recognition and discuss his/her achievements. An instructor who is knowledgeable in the martial arts, by having a conversation with the visiting master, may also have a good insight about the visiting master. On many occasions, while I was on vacation and without my uniform in hand, I visited many martial arts schools, both here in the United States as well as other countries, and requested to work out later or the following day. This was easily arranged by giving the instructor information so which he/she could check my credentials using the internet. Once the instructor was satisfied that I was who I claimed to be, the instructor's demeanor became much more friendly and open toward me. While on the training floor, the instructors always turned the class over to me after an introduction. Then, in turn, I shared my knowledge and experience with the class.

Just before the instructor enters the training area, the instructor will stop before stepping on to the training floor. The highest grade or the most senior student (even if it is a black belt student), or a master that is of lower ranking than the instructor, will give a call or clap his/her hands twice for everyone on the training floor to face toward the instructor. Then the instructor steps onto the training floor, first with the left foot followed by the right foot. At that time, the call to bow to the instructor is given for all students, and in return the instructor also bows in the direction of the of the students. The bow can be a 30-degree or a 45-degree, depending on the system's standards. Following the above bowing procedure avoids the need for the instructor to bow more than once 1) when entering the training area and then 2) bowing again when the students are lined up before the class begins. Once the class begins, a formal bow is given to the instructor, whether be a high bow or a kneeling bow. If the instructor has already bowed at the edge of the training area, and was not noticed until after the instructor has entered the training area edge, then the call to bow to the instructor should not be made. The next opportunity of showing respect to the instructor by bowing is when the class is lined up for the formal bowing-in.

Situation: There are no black belt students in a class, only color belts. The more experienced students just below black belt are looked upon as leaders of the other students. They set the standards to convey what is being taught by the instructor so others can follow. In many martial art schools, the instructor permits the more senior students of upper grades, and just below black belt, to help and assist the lower grade students. When the instructor permits this tutelage, the more senior student is then permitted to talk while helping the less knowledgeable student. The most senior students under the instructor have studied long enough time to know the class routine.

  1. Assistant instructors are valuable to the instructor when there are newer students or students who are struggling or falling behind and need a little more personal attention to keep up with the rest of the class.
  2. The instructor now has the opportunity to move the rest of the class forward while the assistant instructors help the lower grade students.
  3. The instructor has the opportunity to observe and critique the assistant instructors on how to become better teachers when working with and teaching lower grade students. The better the assisting, the more value to the instructor. It is a win-win situation for the instructor, the assistant instructor and the lower grade students.
  4. If the instructor is called away for a short period of time, the assistant instructors can keep the rest of the class going until the instructor returns. This is not the norm, but it happens.
  5. The instructor would usually select an assistant instructor when he/she is needed to apply or demonstrate a technique.
  6. The instructor can rely on assistant instructors when there is a task that has to be done or completed, on or off the training floor.
  7. The instructor can have the assistant instructors move throughout the class to correct body alignment, movements, stances, and the like.
  1. As an assistant instructor, you are showing the instructor that you are capable of a leadership role when working with others.
  2. As an assistant instructor, you are preparing yourself for when you take your black belt test.
  3. When you are assisting as an instructor and working with another student who has not yet reached your level, you are given the opportunity to see and analyze mistakes that the student is making, and thereby for you to better understand the techniques as well.
  4. You are given a jump on teaching experience. This can be beneficial to you in the martial arts and beyond.
  5. As an assistant instructor, you are learning to think outside yourself by seeing, evaluating and correcting other students.
  6. As an assistant instructor, you can motivate other students, which in turn keeps the class at a high energy level.
  7. As an assistant instructor, you are constantly improving in learning to communicate with others.
  8. Lower grade students will turn to you, as the assistant instructor (as in the buddy system), when they need help.
  9. Assistant instructors are changing and improving other students' lives by passing their knowledge, discipline and martial arts etiquette on to others, which will be remembered for many years.

Each martial arts system and school has its own standards regarding when it's time for a junior black belt to become a senior black belt. In most systems, it is done automatically when a student reaches a certain age. An international or national age standard should be recognized by all systems and schools. This would establish a standard for competitions, and when transferring from one system or school to another. Grand Master Perceval recommends that the age of 18 years old be established for the automatic transfer of a junior black belt to senior black belt, providing time in rank and meeting the qualifications of the system and school are met. Pre-testing for 2nd degree black belt can be done for any student who may have started at a very young age and also made junior first degree black belt at a young age. Several factors have to be taken into account to explain why 2nd degree black belt is held off until the age of 18 years old:

  1. Traditions of systems from different parts of the world that have followed this procedure for years.
  2. For a black belt to be recognized as a 2nd degree black belt nationally and internationally, some form of standard should be in place for all styles and systems to accept.
  3. For those who are already junior black belt 2nd degree, there are no changes. When they reach 18 years old, they would complete the standards, providing all styles and systems agree to follow this age standard.
  4. As a 2nd degree at 18 years old, promotion to 3rd degree would be held off until the required time in a rank that the system requires, as well as passing any testing or standards set by the system for the transition from 2nd to 3rd degree black belt.


Not every martial arts person falls into the same mental or physical category. I agree that some 18 year olds are more mature than others, and if they started at a very young age they may deserve a 3rd degree black belt, especially if they have been an assistant instructor for several years. To be recognized by all styles nationally and internationally, if a standard is to be accepted, then all should follow.

All things presented in GRAND MASTER PERCEVAL'S STANDARD CODE OF MARTIAL ARTS ETIQUETTE PROTOCOLS AND PROCEDURES follow a pattern of knowledge, correctness and reason of cause. This also refers to taking notice of the smallest details, and understanding that everything in the martial arts has a reason, be it taught verbally or by visual observance. Example: A junior 1st degree black belt would not have a stripe at the tip of his/her belt, yet a senior black belt would be able to have a single stripe at the tip of his/her belt. What this would accomplish is that a 16-18 year old, would be distinguished by the presence of a single stripe at the tip of the belt.

Section 29-a. Sparring in class.

When there is a referee or an instructor controlling the match, and your belt becomes undone, ignore it. If you stop fighting to fix your belt, you may get hurt. Keep on free fighting, even if you and your opponent are tripping over the belt. The referee or your instructor has complete control of the match. If the referee or your instructor stops the match, then you may re-tie your belt and re-adjust your uniform. If the instructor or black belt stops the match to allow you to redo your belt, take one step back from your opponent, first with your right foot followed by your left foot, then bow to your opponent, turn away from your opponent, go to the edge of the fighting ring and lower yourself on to your left knee and fix your belt and re-adjust your uniform. Then, stand up, turn towards your opponent and bow toward each other at the command of the referee or instructor once again. When the command is given to take your fighting position, do so. The referee or instructor will then give the command to resume the match.

If the instructor has many students simultaneously free fighting each other, and your belt becomes undone while not under the direct guidance of the instructor, let your opponent know not to continue by first taking one step back away from your opponent while raising your hand or hands no higher than the shoulder to indicate to your partner that you are stopping, again following the silent rule of no talking during class. Do not bow at this time. Then turn away from your opponent with your back to him/her and lower yourself onto your left knee to fix your belt and re-adjust your uniform. When done, stand, turn to face your opponent, bow towards your opponent, who will return your bow. Then both of you should resume your fighting stances and continue fighting or practicing fighting. Traditionally, you are not to speak, but just to inform each other through body signals and movements.

No matter how hard both of you are training performing punches, kicks, throws, applying chokes, or placing leverage against joints, you must always respect your partner and not cause intentional or unintentional harm to your fellow student. You must always perform all of your techniques with the greatest possible care and self-control in order to avoid injury to yourself and others.

Each martial arts school has its own rules or policies for sparring/free fighting. Some are more hard core while others are somewhat more protection oriented. Males are required to wear a protective cup when sparring/free fighting. Being kicked to the testicles is not only painful but can do permanent damage to a male's reproductive system. To help protect a student from injury due to the impact of a punch or kick, padded gloves and foot pads are used. In some schools protection is mandatory, especially head protection. Owning a martial arts school today is not the same as it was back in the 1950s or 1960s. Insurance coverage is very expensive for a martial arts school, and having insurance coverage is necessary in case a student is injured and files a lawsuit.

When sparring/free fighting, both students are placed in a ring of a specific size and usually under the supervision of an instructor or his/her assistant. "Usually" is meant to include the situations where there are several groups of students are simultaneously sparring/free fighting and the instructor or assistant instructors are overseeing the entire group. If it is a match between two students, the instructor or assistant instructor will act as the referee and judge the match. If it is a competition outside of a school, the head referee, side referees, time keeper and a score keeper would be involved in controlling the match. The referee is in charge of the ring to ensure that both fighters follow all the rules and regulations and demonstrate proper etiquette. The referee will have both fighters face him/her and bow towards him/her to display their respect. The referee will then have both fighters face toward each other and respectfully bow toward each other. The referee will have both fighters take their fighting positions, and then at his/her command, the fighters will begin. The referee will stop the match temporarily when one of the fighters scores a point or for safety reasons. Rules require both fighters to remain inside the ring's boundary when sparring/free fighting. Being forced out of the ring is permitted, no matter how many times it occurs, but escaping from an attack by purposely going outside the ring to avoid being scored on is permitted only once. After that, the competitor receives a warning that he/she may forfeit the match by going out of bounds of the ring again. Each time a student/ competitor scores a point on the other, or the match is stopped by the referee, each competitor must return to his/her original position, bow to the opponent and, on command by the referee, resume the match. The first fighter to score three points is the winner of the match. Points are scored when the fighters are in the process of fighting, and one fighter makes clean contact to his opponent's front or side torso, or a controlled attack to the face without making contact, providing the level of the technique of the attack was appropriate to the fighter's grade or ranking. Points can only be scored on an opponent before the opponent's torso makes contact with the surface. There are no points for sweeps and take-downs, unless the opponent is struck before hitting the surface. Additional information can be found in the section on "Tournament fighting."

The correct way of displaying proper fighting etiquette is as follows: The fighter who was attacked should immediately determine if the attack was good enough to be considered a point scored by his/her opponent on him/herself. If this is the case, the student who was attacked should take one step backwards away from the opponent, first with the right foot followed by the left foot, stand with both legs and feet together, and place his/her hands at his/her sides and, in most systems, perform a 30-degree bow to the opponent, indicating to the opponent that he/she has scored. In old tradition, during the bow, nothing was spoken. (Today, you often hear the words "Oss" or "Osu" spoken, although I don't believe that there are such words of expression in Japanese. Somehow, Americans picked up the term "Oss" or "Osu" when bowing, and it still remains.) When the receiver of the attack returns to an upright position from the bow, the attacker should return the bow to show his/her respect for the acknowledgment. Then the instructor, assistant instructor, or referee would have the fighters retake their fighting stances and resume the match, unless itwas the final, deciding point. The instructor, assistant instructor, or referee decides after each fighter bows: 1) to let the match continue and not break up the fighters' rhythm; or 2) to stop the match and give the attacker an opportunity to explain or discuss how and why he/she chose that particular scoring technique at that particular moment, and the fighter who was attacked can also explain or discuss his/her strategy. Finally, the instructor, assistant instructor, or referee, who is more experienced, will evaluate and comment to the attacker on how to improve his/her attack, and the receiver of the attack on what he/she should have done to keep from being scored upon. Comments: If both fighters keep on fighting and the instructor, assistant instructor, or referee only calls the points, without making comments, and the match continues until one of the fighters scores the most points, then what have the fighters learned? Fighting/sparring is a game of "human chess" and both fighters must not only improve physically, but also, to understand all of the art and science that is involved, including how the mind should think and work. With practice, and under the guidance of the instructor, both fighters will leave the ring as better martial artists. Bowing during sparring/fighting is another way of teaching martial arts respect to students, and how to be gracious during victory and defeat, and how to accept constructive criticism for the purpose of learning and improvement. While sparring/free fighting, both martial artists should display their skills and abilities with dignity and respect towards each other, to ensure that both are on the correct path of becoming true martial artists.

In the punching and kicking styles of martial arts, sparring/free fighting is part of what is taught in classes. The sparring/free fighting in a martial arts environment (school or competition) is designed to be safe for the student and to minimize the chances of injury. However, even under carefully controlled conditions closely supervised by instructors and/or referees, a martial artist can be injured. Usually, the result is not serious, but it is short, unpleasant and a learning experience.
A student of martial arts should realize that physical contact with controlled force is permitted to certain locations to the body, but not directly to the head, face, throat, or groin. If a martial arts student has a fear of being attacked or struck by another student, this is an obstacle that he/she must learn to overcome in time. Once that student gets used to being punched and kicked, and learns how to defend him/herself from these techniques and then to counter attack, confidence builds up and the fear is decreased.
Years ago, before safety equipment was widely available in the martial arts, things were much more hard core, and bumps and bruises were common in each class. However, it was rare that a martial artist would be injured. This is because the lack of safety equipment in class taught you to protect yourself by learning to become a highly proficient blocker, as well as becoming skilled in controlling punches and kicks. In black belt competition, more precision was expected when more speed and force were applied. Martial art schools today depend on safety equipment to protect the students. The way safety equipment is designed, points can only be scored by attacks to the areas that are protected.
What I am trying to bring across is that there is a departure from the ways of the past to the present. In the past, the word "sparring" was never used in a martial arts school. It was called fighting. In the past, you were required to block any attacks or the instructor would let you keep being struck until you learned how to block correctly, or until you protected yourself by retaliating. (If you noticed, I mention that the instructor was a he, not a she. As I recall, back in the 50s, there were only a few female American instructors or female students in the United States.)
Today, schools have to be concerned about insurance and liability. Back then, no one would even consider filing a lawsuit against a school or instructor because of an injury or his/her teaching practices. In martial art classes today, students take what they have learned in class and put it to use when sparring/free fighting. When a student is selected to match up with another student for sparring/free fighting, most schools require safety equipment to be worn. However, there are still some hard-core schools that refuse to use safety equipment. In my opinion, this is an unwise decision due to the possibility of severe and/or permanent injuries and the school's liability exposure.

No matter how hard core you think you are, think you are, or want to be, I can tell you from personal experience that the occasional martial arts injuries multiply into many over your fighting years. When you are injured, it is temporarily painful and eventually heals. However, as time passes, the joints and other parts of the body don't function as well as they used to and then arthritis and/or other types of damage can set in. As you age, the temporary discomfort or pain that used to pass no longer does. It remains painful and becomes more chronic and severe. It can affect you negatively, both emotionally and physically. Today, martial artists are much smarter. They realize that any type of martial arts injury can affect a practitioner's livelihood and overall well being. A little advice: Don't let your ego stand in the way of your intelligence and your health. Wear the proper protective equipment and get the necessary treatment for any and all injuries.

Light to excessive sparring/fighting.

Section 29-b. Light to excessive contact when sparring/fighting.

If you are in the punching and kicking arts, the time will come when you will be paired off with a partner for sparring. Because of insurance requirements and possible injuries, many martial art schools have turned to the use of protective fighting gear. However, there are still many instructors who believe that students who wear protective gear don't perfect their blocking techniques because the protective gear absorbs most of the impact. Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee developed "safety punch" and "safety kick" equipment in the early 1970's due to one of his students becoming seriously injured. Before then, equal time was spent on not only developing punches and kicking techniques, but blocking as well. Perfection in blocking meant not being hit in the torso or other vital parts. Today, PPE (personal protective equipment) has pluses as well as its minuses.
Light to medium contact while wearing safety gear allows the shy or inexperienced student to be a little more confident without much concern for personal injury. Respect in a martial arts school is especially important while sparring. Next, we put a student into competition where respect should be and is still observed, yet the techniques are more forceful in order to be scored. Both in school and in competition, there is that old tradition in the martial arts that intended excessive contact will not be permitted.
Now to discuss cage fighting. Competitors are not permitted to wear any head protection gear except for a mouth (teeth) piece. For men, groin protection is required due to the heavy contact to that area. Gloves are required that cover the fist portion of the hand, leaving the fingers and palm free for grappling and grabbing. The gloves worn must be a minimum of four ounces and not exceed six ounces. If the hands are extra-large, approval for over six ounces must be obtained. A fighter is permitted to wear (if approved by the judges) elbow, knee, or ankle protection only to prevent further injury to an existing injury. The feet are not permitted to be covered.
The idea of excessive contact is not used in cage fighting because that would be defeating the fighter's objective which is to win. There are certain safety rules which each fighter must observe, otherwise there is a warning or a point penalty by the referee. There are no intentional punches or kicks to the throat or neck area and no punches or kicks to the back of the head. There is no contact to the eyes and no head butting, no snapping your opponent's head to the side with your hands, and no hair pulling. Chokes are permitted to render your opponent unconscious which can be stopped by the referee immediately by the referee or by the person being choked out. There are many other forbidden rules. Is cage fighting a martial art?

Light to excessive contact when sparring/fighting.

Section 30. Three steps.

This is a progressive learning process where the instructor has two martial artists pair off and perform the basic three step techniques together. If those performing the three steps are under the direct supervision of their instructor or a black belt of higher rank, then both would first turn and face the instructor or black belt and bow together and the instructor or black belt would return a single bow to both martial artists. The depth of the bow is determined by the customs of the instructor or the system. The instructor or black belt would then motion or verbally instruct the two martial artists to bow toward each other. Even if one student is a white belt and the other is a black belt, they would bow simultaneously and at equal depths. The bowing only takes place when they first begin and when they finish training with each other. If partners are exchanged or rotated, then the same bowing procedures would apply. When performing at an exhibition, or a demonstration, or when being tested, the pair would also bow formally after each partner counter attacks. Whether the students are under the supervision of the instructor or black belt, or just paired off without direct supervision, one martial artist would be designated as the attacker and the other as the defender. At first, both students would assume a ready position. At some point, a verbal command or a signal will be given or shown, and the attacker will step back with the right foot and execute a left hand lower defense (down block) with the left foot forward, facing his/her partner. The defender will remain in the ready position until he/she is attacked, at which time he/she will take a step backward to defend/block. Typically, the first attack is done by the attacker stepping forward with the right foot and attacking with the right fist. Thereafter, the techniques can be alternated, beginning with either the left or right sides. Advanced students doing advanced movements (level 4) may be instructed to take a fighting position instead of a ready position.

Three steps give martial arts students of different levels (grades and ranks) the opportunity to move forward and backward while learning to maintain a pre-set distance from each other. All movements are performed on a one-to-one working relationship with a partner. One of the objectives of three steps is learning how to coordinate distance with your partner while moving back and forth in a straight line. Attacks, blocks and counters can be applied without concern for injury because the students are working with each other, not against each other. When given the opportunity, students have the option to re-do any techniques to better understand and improve them. Students have the opportunity to improve their concentration, balance and focus while attacking and blocking. It provides the opportunity to work out with martial artists of different body sizes and levels of skill to improve their ability and to mentally review and visualize techniques before and after performing them. Students can help each other to improve their techniques by discussing them. The list of benefits of three steps are many, beyond those listed above. When performing three steps, the attacker takes three successive steps forward in the front stance position while throwing only one attack with each step taken. The defender takes one step back in a front stance during each attack and blocks the attack. This is done three times consecutively. On the third attack, the defender, after blocking, counters with a final attack and a yell. This is considered a single set of the exercise. Eventually, with much practice, kicks can be incorporated, along with more advanced hand attacks and different stances and angles. When the attacker and defender finish the three steps, the students switch roles, and it becomes the defender's turn to become the attacker, while the original attacker becomes the defender.

Even though the words "free fighting" are used as the terminology, protective fighting gear is normally not worn while performing three step fighting due to the controlled movements of each technique. When the attacks and blocks become more advanced and aggressive, soft protection may be used around the lower legs and forearms to prevent bruising and swelling. When learning to perform three step attacks, the object is not to "score points" or to injure your partner, but to stop your attack just short of touching your partner's body or just barely making light contact. It is important to remember that you and your partner must maintain a constant speed of movement. You must avoid the tendency to move faster and faster, unless instructed to do otherwise. There is no contact to the face or groin area, as that would defeat the purpose of learning distance while in motion. This also helps students to develop confidence and complete control of all movements. The main advantage in doing three steps is that the attacker learns to focus his/her attacks to the parts of the body that he/she is attacking with controlled speed and/or power, while the partner can focus on defending him/herself without concern for being injured. In the beginning stages, the attacker (using basic offensive techniques only) attacks with hand techniques to pre-determined parts of the body.
Three steps, in its simplest form, involves attacking and blocking, utilizing basic movements. As the martial artists become more advanced, the basic maneuvers are replaced with more challenging techniques, where more advanced attacks, blocks and different angles and stances are included. Because of the progressive learning process of the martial arts, timing, focus, control, form, distance and the variety of techniques require higher skill levels and become more challenging to accomplish. The level of the participants' knowledge and skill increase accordingly. When the students eventually have the ability to take what has been learned from level 1 (basic), level 2 (moderate), and level 3 (advanced) techniques, and have the ability to put them into practical application, then the students can move forward in learning three step fighting. Three step fighting consists of actual attacks (with or without weapons) and blocks that can be used as self-defense to simulate actual street and/or combat situations.
Proper etiquette must always be displayed between both martial artists. The formality of martial arts etiquette should always be followed during the attacks, blocks and counters. Three steps are performed in a formal manner, where the exchange of bows is performed in the very beginning and also at the very end of the three steps. Bowing is also done when switching partners. The students bow to their original partner when they finish, and then they bow to their new partners before starting the three steps. Bowing in class is usually 30-degrees between partners, but the depth depends on the requirements of the system, the school, or the instructor.

In Japan and Okinawa, forms are called kata; in Korea, forms are called hyung. Other countries and styles may use different names for forms. The three basic forms of the Japanese and Korean systems that you learn in the martial arts will usually have 20 movements and have specific required punches and blocks done in a front stance. In the Japanese and Korean styles, the first five movements contain two 90 degree turns and a 180 degree turn. There is a similarity between forms and three steps that start from the sixth technique in the basic forms. Traditionally, on the fifth technique in the forms, the attacker begins by stepping back and turning 90-degrees with a left hand down block (lower defense position) with the opposite right fist in chamber at the hip, while the left leg steps forward into a front stance. In three steps, the defender stands in a ready position (feet shoulder width apart with both fists out in front of the lower pelvis). The defender would either nod or give a verbal command to attack. The attacker, in a front stance with the left foot forward, would then proceed to attack three consecutive times in a straight line (basic form technique numbers six, seven and eight on the third attack (which is basic form technique number eight), and give out a sharp yell or shout. The defender would step back in a basic front stance in unison with the attacker's movements, and block all three attacks. On the third block, the defender can step backwards, or to any side, and then counter with an attack to his/her partner while giving out a sharp yell or shout. In forms, you should visualize attacking or blocking an imaginary opponent. In three steps, those basic forms come to life by working out with another person. Whether it is forms or three steps, the overlap between both is a progressive way of learning the martial arts.

What distinguishes level 1 from levels 2, 3 and 4 is that during three step procedures in level 1 only basic movements are used by the attacker and the defender. The movements of the attacker and the defender are straight forward and straight back, while using only front stances. The attacker can only use front punches to the upper, middle and lower sections of the defender's body. The defender, while moving backward, is limited to only upper blocks, inside/outside mid-blocks, and lower blocks. The distance between the attacker and the defender remains constant throughout the three attacks.
The speed is moderate, and remains constant throughout each of the three attacks. The differences in the students' heights (if any) would have an effect on the length of their stride. If both martial artists are about the same height, then no adjustments need to be made. However, if one of the partners is considerably taller or shorter than the other, then the attacking student has to adjust the length of his/her steps to maintain proper distance during the sequence.
Attacker: To begin, the attacker steps back with the right foot into a front stance, with the left foot forward, the left arm extended in a lower defense, and the right fist in chamber. Note: This follows the same pattern as when stepping onto the training area with the left foot first. The defender, when backing up, would step back first with the right foot just, as when stepping away from the training area. This puts the attacker and the defender in equally strong stances. Each time this starting position is taken, the left and right sides should be alternated. The attacker then steps forward in a front stance three times and performs one front punch with each step. The third and final attack is performed with a short verbal yell or shout. On the final attack, the attacker remains motionless while the defender completes his/her single counter attack.
Defender: The defender starts in a ready position with both feet shoulder width apart from each other and facing toward the attacker with his/her hands in fists placed in front of his/her lower abdomen. The defender's objective is to defend against each of the attacker's three front punches with blocks that would protect him/herself from injury. With each attack by the attacker, the defender takes one step back in a front stance and blocks the attack. The defender, when backing up, would step back first with the right foot, just as when stepping away from the training area. This puts the attacker and defender in equally strong stances. After the third and final attack, the defender's block should be immediately followed with a counter attack and a short verbal yell or shout, which is usually done using a single syllable that begins with a vowel. When the defender counterattacks, he/she can take one step in either direction and at any angle. During the three step sequence, respect and martial arts etiquette should always be observed.

Below shows a diagram of a complete set:

Attacker:Defender:
Bowing togetherBowing together
Ready positionReady position
Step back with the right footRemain in the ready position
Technique #1:
Step forward with the right foot
and right hand punch
Step back with the right foot
and left arm block
Technique #2:
Step forward with the left foot
and right hand punch
Step back with the left foot and
right arm block
Technique #3:
Step forward with the right foot
and right hand attack with a yell
Step back with the right foot
and left arm block with a
counter-attack with a yell

When set is completed, the defender becomes the attacker and the attacker becomes the defender. Attacks can change to different areas to the defender's body. The defender can switch from blocks to deflecting techniques and vice-versa.

In levels 1 through 3, when the attacker finishes his/her third attack with a shout or scream, and the defender completes his/her block and counter attack with a shout or scream, the students should then switch roles. The attacker now becomes the defender. The person who was the attacker takes one step back with the front foot and move into a ready position with his/her feet shoulder width apart in preparation to defend. The person who was the original defender now becomes the attacker. Traditionally, the new attacker would start with the left foot forward in a front stance position, with the left arm in the lower defense position and the right hand in chamber. The new defender should adjust his/her stance and distance in accordance with the attacker. After each set, the attacker should switch the lead foot so both sides are alternated.

The attacker and the defender are still performing basic movements. The movements of the attacker and the defender are still only in a straight line moving forward and backward. The attacker can change from only using a front stance to also include back stances, cat stances and side stances while attacking. The attacker can also use more advanced attacks (such as punches, chops and hammer hands) to attack to the upper, middle and lower sections of the defender's body, one technique per step (no combinations). Kicks from a front stance, cat stance, back stance and horse stance can also be used, but only one per step (no combinations). The attacker, either at will, or at a designated command by the defender, begins to attack the defender at a moderate speed, using any series of different techniques while attacking straight forward three times in succession. As in level 1 techniques, the attacker throws one technique with each step forward. On the last attack, the attacker again gives out a sharp yell or shout. The defender, while moving straight back, in addition to a front stance, can also use side, back, and cat stances. The defender, only after the third and final block, can switch to a different angle when performing a counterattack. The distance between the attacker and the defender remains constant throughout the three attacks. The speed is moderate and consistent throughout. The defender's primary goal is to defend and protect the vital parts of his/her body while blocking each of the three attacks. After the final block, the defender performs a single counter attack with a short yell or shout.
The defender's counterattack must be decisive and allow the defender to take complete control over the attacker (training partner). At level 2, no chokes, locks, throws, or explosive moves should be performed. The students can continue (as in level 1) by each of the partners changing roles, so the attacker becomes the defender and the defender becomes the attacker. When the original attacker and defender finish a set (consisting of each student attacking three times each), they both bow towards each other. There is the option, when a set is completed, for the instructor, a senior student, or both partners, to analyze each movement while repeating each individual technique used. They also may choreograph each individual movement until it is perfected. The benefits of three step fighting are numerous, from the beginning stages to the more advanced. Techniques performed during three steps can and should be videoed for analysis afterwards. During three step procedures, respect and martial arts etiquette should always be demonstrated.

The defender's primary goal is to maintain defensive protection over the vital parts of his/her body while in the process of stepping back and blocking. The procedures are the same as in level 1 and 2, except the attacks, blocks and counter attacks are more advanced. The attacker can alternate the attacks at different speeds and utilize all of his/her bodily weapons (except hand held weapons), including more advanced hand techniques and kicks, such as front, side, round house, and spinning back kicks. At this advanced stage, the attacker can now also include multiple attacks with hand/or feet for each of the three steps towards the defender. The attacker and the defender have the option during the three steps not to move forward or in reverse with the opposite foot (switching the lead leg) but, instead, can keep the same lead foot in an attack or move in reverse with the same lead foot (not switching the lead leg). The attacker has to make sure to control his/her attacks so they do not exceed the capabilities of his/her partner. The defender must be capable of defending himself/herself from each attack. The defender, after his/her third block, has many alternatives to choose from in counter attacking, such as multiple or combination attacks, sweeps and take downs. Providing it is understood beforehand with your partner, wrist locks, arm bars, chokes, or any combination of the 23 hand techniques (from the wrist forward) can be used. Other tactics can be simulated provided they are performed within the guidelines of safety towards your partner. During three step procedures, respect and martial arts etiquette should always be maintained.

At level 4, all techniques may to be used during the three step procedures, which can include all techniques from level 1 through level 3. What sets level 4 apart from the lower levels is the attacker and defender have the option to choose and vary his/her stances, including the fighting stance, for all three attacks. Under carefully controlled conditions, simulated hand held weapons can be included and used against the defender. The defender has to protect him/herself and to disable the attacker's bodily weapons (or simulated hand held weapons) to the point where they are no longer useful to the attacker, and to disarm and to take control over the attacker. The attacker and the defender both have the option to change stances during each of the three attacks and defenses. The defender, on his/her final technique, can take the attacker down to the surface to finalize his/her defense. The defender may include arm bars, wrist locks, chokes, or the use of the attacker's weapon against him/herself. To insure safety, all techniques applied by the attacker and the defender should be pre-rehearsed before attempting them. Once the partners become proficient after repeated practice, they can simulate more realistic and spontaneous situations.

If you enter a ring for free fighting, you will notice that you or your opponent can usually take no more than three steps forward or backward. After that, you would be stepping outside the bounds of the ring. In mixed martial arts cage fighting, you will find the same. After three steps forward or backward, you would be up against the fence. Defending or attacking in an actual street fight usually occurs within a 10-foot radius. Because of that 10-foot distance, three step fighting is practical. You may have noticed that in free fighting competition and cage fighting (mixed martial arts), most attacks are performed in a straight line directly towards the opponent; and the defender, while backing up to avoid the attacks, seldom steps to the side after the first or second attack. When practicing each three-step fighting technique, each movement should be analyzed and studied so both the attacker and the defender can perfect each movement until they are performed flawlessly. The instructor can observe the students and advise them on how to improve their techniques. During three step procedures, respect and martial arts etiquette should always be demonstrated.

Section 31. One steps.

One step fighting should be learned and practiced after understanding the basic fundamentals of three step fighting. After much practice in level 4 of three step fighting, both partners should be prepared for the more realistic movements and street tactics of one step fighting. One step fighting develops your ability to react instantly against an unexpected attack and teaches you to defend yourself and counter reflexively, by reacting without thought. That is why practicing and perfecting your three step techniques, from levels 1 through 4, enables you to progress to one step fighting. In one step fighting, your primary goal is to control the attack by blocking. After you have protected your vital areas, you can then counter-attack. In practicing one step fighting with a partner, it is essential that both martial artists have an understanding and a plan beforehand as to the techniques that can and cannot be used, and the limitations on certain techniques (if any). This is so injuries can be avoided, especially if the defending partner is protecting him/herself against a weapon. Unless you are highly qualified, defense techniques against a weapon, even if the weapon is not real, should be directly supervised by a more senior black belt. The instructor may require the partners to limit their techniques to certain movements for learning purposes.
Certain conditions require different martial art etiquette procedures before the free fighting one steps. In class, where many martial artists are working out together without individual pair supervision, the instructor would give the command either to have each of the partners bow toward each other first before proceeding, or to bow on their own and proceed with the techniques. Regardless of the one-step techniques that are to be performed in class, if there is a senior martial artist (black belt or equivalent) present to oversee both students techniques, he/she should be respected and bowed to first. We will call him/her the referee for discussion purposes. Both combatants would first turn toward the referee and bow. Most systems require a 30-degree bow, while some require a 45-degree bow. Then, both would face each other and bow. After the bow, the defender will stand in a ready position while the attacker steps back with the right foot into a front stance, with the left foot forward, and perform a left arm lower defense with the right hand in chamber (unless directed otherwise). The referee may give the verbal command to proceed, or the defender may give a nod or verbally command the attacker to proceed. Or, both combatants may decide beforehand that the attacker will not notify the defender, but instead will attack without warning to make the one step free fighting more realistic. There may be a situation in class where one of the combatants is a more senior black belt than the referee or the other combatant. In this case, the rules regarding proper etiquette change. When all three martial artists are in place, the referee would turn toward the more senior black belt and begin the bow while the senior black belt would follow. Then the referee would turn toward the other combatant and they would bow together simultaneously. On command by the referee, both combatants would face each other and bow together. In the martial arts, everything has a purpose and a reason. Regardless if the more senior martial artist is wearing his/her ranking on his/her belt, everyone will recognize by the bow sequence who is the most experienced of the three.
One of the main advantages of one step fighting is that this can be practiced without injuring your partner. Even though the movements resemble actual street fighting, the martial artists have the opportunity to experience many different attacks and can learn to defend against them. Attacks can be performed slowly for learning purposes, at a moderate speed for practical simulation, and finally explosive attacks and counters when the combatants are experienced enough. Blocks and shifting by the defender are very important. They are the foundation of protecting the vital parts of the body. Perfection of technique by reflex, without thought or hesitation, is the ultimate goal. There are no limits to one step fighting; you can use your imagination to play out what ever scenario you wish to follow. During one step free fighting, respect and concern for the other martial artist's safety should always be shown. This is the practice of martial arts etiquette.

Section 32. Kneeling grab-on escapes.

This is one of the most advanced exercises performed by two martial artists. Traditionally, grab-on escapes are reserved for the more advanced black belts (masters). However, under strict supervision by a master, proper etiquette and application of techniques can be learned. To master kneeling grab-on escapes requires many years of mental and physical training. Kneeling grab-on techniques take the other martial artist's flow of energy and turns it against him/herself. Grab-on escapes are done when two martial artists are facing each other in a kneeling position. You and your partner's knees are almost in contact with each other's, while both of you are sitting upright with your shins on the surface, and buttocks resting on your heels. Your partner can grab any part of your body with one or both hands, such as the hair, neck, shoulders, torso, arms, wrists, hands, or any part of your martial arts uniform. In the beginning stages, it is suggested that you keep your eyes open. Eventually, when you become more experienced, you may close your eyes before your partner places his/her hands on you and you learn to mentally feel where your partner has control over you. Using your mind and senses, you must analyze your partner's position and determine his/her weakest points of balance by the way he/she holding you. This is done before you counter your partner's techniques by applying your grab-on or open hand technique against your opponent/partner. Once you have analyzed this information, you then begin to move your partner in the direction of his/her weakest point of balance. At the same time, you begin your escape by using your body balance and moving your hands and arms. As your opponent's balance is slowly being broken, you may also redirect your balance to be in coordination with your opponent's loss of balance while you remain on perfect balance all of the time.
If you are escaping from any type of hand, wrist, arm, or other type of grab, one of your first objectives is to counter the lock by immediately applying pressure against that lock. As the escape is in process, your pressure against your opponent's lock must constantly increase while you are escaping. Once your opponent's balance is no longer a threat to your balance, you may take control of your opponent by moving your grasp to another part of the body or uniform until you completely control him/her on to the surface. The aim is to do the movements in slow motion, using a minimum of force or strength, while you feel every part of your body in motion as well as every part of your opponent's body as it moves. Do not rush the movements. Perform them slowly. You are taking your opponent's energy and redirecting it to your advantage, until the other martial artist is under your complete control and rendered totally defenseless. Finally, every escape ends up with a final decisive counter attack or control by you. Another aspect of the exercise is for your opponent/partner to describe what he/she is feeling and how he/she reacting to your control. This allows both of you to access the effectiveness of your techniques and to improve upon them.
Formal martial arts etiquette must be displayed throughout the entire process, including when one technique has been completed and you and your opponent/partner return to your starting positions before moving into the next technique. As martial artists, we are trained to do techniques with speed and power. However, in kneeling grab-on escapes, we to do a series of techniques in slow motion with continued resistance. We must practice having complete control, not only over your opponent, but also over yourself, both mentally and physically, to perform kneeling grab-ons with precision, while displaying perfect technique and etiquette throughout. It takes years, even decades to master.
To begin kneeling grab-on escapes, both masters should face each other. The distance between both martial artists, based on years of experience, is the approximate distance of one martial artist's outstretched arms. The deep bow must be completed by both martial artists simultaneously, with precision and coordination. (For information on how a deep bow should be performed properly, turn to the section "How to perform the deep bow.")
The martial artist who is performing the grab-on should then move his/her left knee forward, whereby his/her body is facing on a forty-five degree to the right, while still kneeling in an upright posture and keeping the palms on the thighs. This is followed by moving the right knee forward until both martial artists are squared off facing each other, so they are now only a few inches apart at the knees. If further distance has to be made up, a second movement with the knees is allowed. (If the grab-on is changed to another form, which is more advanced, such as where weapons are being used, the distance between the martial artists has to be adjusted according to the length of the weapon.)
When both martial artists are in place and their positions are perfect, the martial artist who is performing the grab-on will grab the other martial artist with one or both hands. This is done slowly, with politeness and precision, while eye contact is maintained between them. Once the grab-on has been completed, the defender will very slowly begin to apply a technique using the least amount of energy necessary to take control of the partner/opponent and offset the other martial artist's balance, thereby displaying an understanding of the partner's strengths and weaknesses. To perfect each technique, make each movement as slow as possible, at a constant speed, so you can better feel and understand each phase of the movement and the point of least resistance throughout the technique. The martial artist who is applying the escape may prefer to keep his/her eyes closed during the technique until it is completed. By doing this, one will "see" the technique with his/her mind and senses, rather than relying on the eyes.
The ultimate goal of the martial artist is for the practitioner to be 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical, thereby achieving the best results with the least effort. Once the defender has offset the attacker's balance and he/she has been put down onto the surface, the defender follows with an attack to the partner/opponent's vital area, without moving or changing his/her perfect balance. The hand that is not attacking should be pulling the attacker's arm or body part directly to the defender's center of balance, close to his/her body, to help maintain control over the other person. The attack to the vital part is done without the defender looking or turning the head in the direction of the attack. It must be done by feeling the attacker's body part. The completion is usually accompanied by a yell or scream. The person who performed the final attack must gently and carefully return the defender's arm to the defender's center of balance across his/her abdominal area, all while maintaining perfect posture and balance. The defender, who returns to the kneeling position, then returns his/her hand back to his/her thigh. The attacker must withdraw his attacking/controlling hand and return to his/her original kneeling position, and face the other person as they were when they both began. The attacker's return from the surface must be done with exactness and constantly maintaining perfect balance throughout the returning process, while avoiding making any noise, jerking movements, or moving any body part slower or faster than the other body parts. The attacker's smooth return from a laid-out position to the kneeling position is art in itself. Visualization is an essential part of this process.
Note: The martial arts can be very complex in so many ways, physically, mentally and spiritually. Your travel in the world of the martial arts over the years is a constant learning experience, which is what makes the martial arts so interesting. Etiquette is one example of where the smallest thing can pass unnoticed to the inexperienced, yet be obvious to some of the masters with many years of experience under their belts. For example: In the kneeling grab-on, two martial artists wearing plain black belts showing no ranking are in the process of beginning the grab-on procedures. To the inexperienced martial artist, the movements seem normal, but much is missed. Those with fewer years in the martial arts fail to see the full beauty and flow of energy in thesequences.

The bow:

Section 33. Information about the bow.

Before proceeding to the different types of bows and how and when to do them, it is important to look on the right side of the web page to read the description of each bow, and to view a short video demonstrating each of the bows. In the past, these were not written down but were passed on from instructor to student by word of mouth. I took on the task of including them with the traditional ones. Also, on the right side of the web page, you will notice a video tag. When you press it, a short video will come up to explain in detail why that particular etiquette is presented, of what you should and shouldn't do, and a discussion of the proper procedures for martial arts etiquette, and how that etiquette is performed.

One thing should be made clear regarding bowing procedures. It comes from a culture and tradition that expresses fine details in interacting behavior. By no means is this a type of religion or belief. Adopting it teaches you and your students that the martial arts train one's thoughts and emotions to exhibit respect and courtesy.

If you should come across some oriental archive pictures from a long time ago, they may show a man and woman (for example) greeting each other with courtesy and respect by taking the time to stop and bow. If you look closely, you may notice that the hands of the woman's palms are placed on the front of her thighs and the man's hands are open and not facing his thigh, but naturally in front of him or to his sides. Their backs are not straight during the bow, but slightly arched, and they are not looking directly at each other, but their eyes are facing the ground in front of them. Today, we follow this historical form in the martial arts.

In the martial arts, exchanging bows with each other has many meanings. It is a greeting and a way of saying hello, similar to shaking hands. It is a way of being polite, respectful and humble, and a way of saying thank you. The bow could also be an apology, or a way of congratulating someone. The type of bow being performed and the timing of the bow depends on the situation and the circumstances. There are many factors involved when bowing: the depth of the bow, the reason or what lead to the bow, the length of time you hold the bow at its bottom, or if there is anything that should be said before, during, or after the bow to make the whole etiquette process complete. The bow will be covered more extensively as you read through the martial arts etiquette.

In the martial arts, respect is always given to the person with more experience and knowledge. One way in which we can show respect is by bowing. Bowing is like a military salute: The person with less experience and lower grade or ranking initiates the bow. The bow does not mean that you are inferior or subservient to the other person, or that you are acknowledging him/her as superior or your master. It is somewhat like shaking hands or exhibiting some other sign of greeting or friendship and respect for each other, or a demonstration of mutual admiration. Bowing to the instructor or higher ranks and addressing them by their correct title is respecting the hard work and training they went through to achieve the position which they now hold. In turn, this respect will be shown to you in due time, when you earn that status.

Shaking hands is mostly a Western form of greeting or farewell. The same is true for the bow in the Orient. The meanings of the handshake and the bow are somewhat similar. There are about ten different categories of handshakes. Some are: A weak handshake conveys uncertainty, weakness or distrust, and is often called a "dead fish." The "brush off," a quick grasp and release, states "I guess I'm required to shake your hand." The "controller" shows that a person wants to control the situation or guide you in a direction. Other handshakes include those by the "politician," the bone crusher, the finger vice, the lobster claw, the hand wrestler and the tea cup. Each handshake depends on the situation, the emotions, and the purpose of the handshake. A firm handshake signifies confidence, power, know-how and strength, greeting another person willingly, congratulating someone, or to seal a deal.
As far as we know, the handshake has been in existence since the second century B.C. Medieval knights would grip each other's hands to show they were not concealing a weapon. When passing each other in opposite directions, either on horseback or while walking, they would pass each other on the left. The right forearm and open hand would be raised above the shoulder as a means of showing that they did not hold a weapon.
Bowing was common in Europe. When a person was greeting a person of nobility, he/she would bow or curtsey. The depth of the bow was related to the difference in rank or the degree of respect or gratitude that was to be displayed. In some parts of the world, where sanitary conditions are different, one would eat with the right hand and use the bathroom with the left, so you would shake hands only with your right hand. The bow is also similar, but far more complicated, for it involves a long history, tradition and culture. One noticeable difference between the handshake and the bow is that there is body contact with the handshake, where the bow has none. The bow is more sanitary because there is no physical contact, and it eliminates the spread of germs. In Asia, how the bow is performed is a reflection of one's social standards. It is interesting to note that when a performer finishes performing, he/she bows towards the audience to show his/her humility and awaits the audience's reaction to the performance.

  1. The bow is a sign of respect.
  2. The bow should be sincere.
  3. Bowing is not just going through the motions; there must be proper intent.
  4. It is important to know when to bow and when not to bow. Timing and circumstances are important.
  5. You should understand the reason for, and the purpose of, each particular bow.
  6. A bow can be to a single person, to many people, while entering or leaving a martial arts place of learning or the training deck area.
  7. When bowing to a single person, it is important that eye to eye contact is made just as the bow begins, and when you rise to regain eye to eye contact. Sometimes, if the bow is not below 15 degrees, eye to eye contact can be continuous. The lack of eye contact can convey distrust.
  8. Bowing should be limited to a certain extent. Over-bowing too many times can render the bowing meaningless.
  9. The bow should be done at a slow to a moderate speed, and not in a rush.
  10. The martial arts bow is always done when standing in one place, and not while walking.

There are rare times when the rules don't apply. They will be discussed later.

Once you bow, you should not follow through with a handshake or a body hug, regardless of your grade or ranking, in a martial arts environment, while in uniform and wearing your belt. In the martial arts school or environment, the bow is formal and complete and should not be followed with any other form of greeting or farewell, other than verbal. You bow once when greeting and once more when leaving. If you did extend your hand to shake hands, the black belt must return the handshake to avoid being rude, even though the handshake is improper. The black belt must take into consideration your lack of knowledge of martial arts etiquette, and must humble him/herself to uphold his/her side of proper martial arts etiquette. In the Asian culture, other than in a martial arts setting, you may see Asians in dress clothes bowing and then shaking hands as a formality, such as after closing a business deal.

When entering or leaving a martial arts school, during class or in a martial arts environment, you bow. When you greet someone who is of higher rank than yourself, especially within the master ranking while other martial artists are present, you should be especially precise and formal in your bow. Martial arts etiquette must be displayed so others can see and follow. When doing the bow, the procedure is as follows:

  1. Approach at a distance to be recognized, but not too close as to step into the other person's private space.
  2. Stop, and maintain a proper body position by standing up straight without the body leaning forward or tilted to one side.
  3. Your arms should be at your sides, relaxed, with the elbows slightly bent. The shoulders are back and not drooping.
  4. Depending on the type of martial arts you are involved in, there are two different ways for positioning the hands: (A) the fingers are straight and held are together and not separated. They are facing downward along the seam of the pants. (B) The hands are closed in a loose fist position with the four fingers facing towards the pants and the top of the thumb (finger nail) facing forward.
  5. When bowing, only move the upper portion of the body (from the waist up).
  6. The depth of the bow depends on to whom you are bowing, his/her ranking and/or title, the location, and the reason for the bow (greeting, award ceremony, or other).
  7. If the bow is for a basic purpose, such as entering or leaving a school, usually nothing is spoken. If the purpose of the bow is personal, such as to greet a martial artist or two, verbalize a greeting, such as good afternoon, followed by name and tile.
  8. If the bow is to a black belt under master ranking, it should be followed by his/her name or, if the black belt prefers, sir or ma'am. The black belt should then return the bow.
  9. If the bow is to a martial artist of master ranking, this should be followed by his/her title/ranking and name by which he/she wishes to be recognized.
  10. If the martial artist you are bowing to is of higher rank (not grade, color belt), you should be the first to begin the bow in a traditional manner. This is immediately followed by a return from the other martial artist.
  11. The depth to which you bow will depend on the ranking of that martial artist. An average bow takes about three seconds to complete. How long you hold the bow at the lowest point indicates the amount of respect you place upon the master ranking black belt, but it should never last more than one second at the lowest point. A 45-degree bow to one of master ranking is proper formal martial arts etiquette.

When in public and not in uniform, the rules change. It is permissible for both martial artists of equal rank to greet each other by shaking hands. If one of the martial artists is of higher ranking, he/she decides whether to shake hands or bow.

Section 34. Different bows.

There are over 150 different martial art styles and systems. Many have their specific way of bowing to show respect. Their traditions are sometimes based on their countries of origin. The bows that are presented here represent some of the mainstream martial arts. Basically, the general format usually remains the same for most forms of the martial arts, with a few exceptions.
Overdone: You should be aware that bowing should not be overdone. It is not necessary to bow at every opportunity. Each bow is separate and should have a meaning. By constantly bowing, like anything else in life, it becomes a routine without thought or meaning. The bow becomes perfunctory or automatic, instead of a moment of sharing respect, and demonstrating a special acknowledgment between two people for a moment where their minds and bodies come together in harmony.

The bow is performed within the martial arts place of learning, as well as in other locations. Some bows are done in public, depending on the circumstances. Even then, schools of the same style and system may deviate from very traditional to where the bow is hardly practiced at all. It is usually up to the individual instructor of the school or place of learning to set the tone. The instructor may follow the traditional way of the martial arts, but his/her teachings of traditional etiquette may be different. Perhaps the school where he/she teaches is within a public school or college, where he/she cannot establish the standards.

  1. The nod, a simple recognition of respect.
  2. The high bow, 15-degrees cursory/shallow bow.
  3. The medium bow, 30-degrees short length, most common bow.
  4. The medium bow, 30-degrees delayed bow, slightly more important.
  5. The 45-degree bow, very traditional and politest.
  6. The deep bow, on the knees, most formal.

Section 35. The nod.

The meaning of the nod completely depends on the situation. The nod is not a simple bob or dip of the head. It is an expression of acknowledgment of and respect to the other person without expressing a single word. The nod may not be as expressive as the bow, but it still can have many different meanings, depending on the situation. You need to evaluate the situation and think beyond yourself to follow martial arts etiquette. Nodding at the proper time can be more important than it looks on the surface. It is a greeting, a gesture, an acknowledgment, and a response that shows mutual respect for the other martial artist. The nod should be a natural movement, but carefully presented to show the proper respect. Otherwise, it may offend the other martial artist, or appear insincere or out of place to onlookers.

  • Understanding. There are occasions when the instructor will demonstrate or explain something to a student. After that, without moving his/her body and remaining in position, the student should nod his/her head without making a sound to show that the point was understood.
  • As an indication. An instructor may nod his/her head in the direction of a student or students to acknowledge that a technique was performed correctly.
  • In passing. There are times when you have already acknowledged another martial artist by bowing. Sometimes you may be passing the same martial artist more than once. While it is not necessary to do so, by nodding when passing a martial artist of higher ranking than yourself, you demonstrate respect for the other's higher ranking.

Perform the nod this way: Stand still with your heels together and your arms at your sides. Depending on the system, the front of the feet may or may not be positioned together. Make eye contact with the other martial artist, and move just the head forward and down to about 45-degrees. Hold it there for a brief moment, and then return to the upright position. You should not be performing any other action or activity while performing the nod. Doing something else while performing the nod prevents you from focusing on your respect for the other martial artist. Of course, there are circumstances that may require variations:

  1. Understanding and Acknowledgment. Example: At a tournament, while two competitors face each other, ready to fight, and the head referee asks "Are you ready?" Both competitors would give a quick nod to the center referee. This may or may not also include a verbal response indicating that they are ready for the command to begin sparring/fighting.
  2. Acknowledgment of opponent prior to attack. Example: In a class when two martial artists are facing toward each other in preparation for a one step attack or a self-defense technique, the one who is going to be attacked is in some form of ready position, preparing for the attack. The one who is defending against the simulated attack would give a brief nod as a signal to let the attacker know that he/she is ready to defend.
  3. Recognition in public. When meeting another martial artist (usually an adult, and most likely a black belt) in public, one has to be careful not to intrude on the other's boundaries and cause an uneasy situation, especially when the other black belt is with other people. It would be improper to just walk up and say hello, or bow, without assessing the circumstances. No matter the other's ranking, whether higher or lower, the wrong action could place that martial artist in an embarrassing or awkward situation. Timing is important. The greeting should be done discretely, and at the right moment. When the moment is right, you will know. I would suggest that you first make eye contact with the other person. Once that is done, nod slightly. Then the other person will respond in one of three ways:
  1. The other person will return the nod while making eye contact, followed by some form of invitation for you to approach. If this is the case, let the other person make the introductions.
  2. The other person returns the nod, but then turns his/her head away back toward the people that he/she is with. Respect was returned, and the other person has indicated that there are reasons not to continue the Acknowledgment further; that decision should be respected. It would also be proper at a later date, when meeting again, for that other person to reestablish the relationship with you with or without an explanation, as he/she deems appropriate.
  3. Everything was perfect when giving your nod, and eye contact was made, but you were completely ignored. Accept it without being offended, as there may be circumstances you are unaware of that prevented the return nod. In time, it may come to light.

Section 36. The 15-degree bow.

The 15-degree bow, the 30-degree bow and the 45-degree bow are performed in an almost identical manner. The main physical difference is the depth of the bow and the extent of the pause at the lowest point of the bow. Other than doing the nod, the 15-degree bow is the least formal of the three high bows. (The 30-degree and the 45-degree bows are the more formal of the standing bows.) The circumstances, the situation, or the person to whom you are bowing will determine how your bow should be performed. The 15-degree bow is typically more of a casual bow, a simple greeting. Yet, it is respectful in a situation where if you didn't bow, it would be considered an insult. The 15-degree bow can be can be made more respectful by pausing at its lowest point. To be a little more formal, but not as formal as the 30-degree bow, when performing the 15-degree bow, everything remains the same, except you pause the bow at its lowest point for a full second. There are exceptions for people with physical disabilities who cannot bow, or are in a wheelchair, who would use the nod to replace all bows.

To begin with, the bow should be done naturally. That means that the bow should not look mechanical, or as if it were an effort or required on your part. Instead, it should be done gracefully, just as you would wave hello or shake hands. The 15-degree bow is considered a greeting. In some schools, the bow is used when entering or leaving. The 15-degree bow can be used for greeting other martial artists in the color-belt grade classifications. It is also used for black belts under or higher than yourself who are under master ranking. When you bow to someone of master ranking, you would pause at the lowest point of the 15-degree bow for a full second. When a master is coming from the opposite direction, the bow would not be necessary, just a verbal Acknowledgment and a single nod of the head to show respect is all that is required. When someone bows to you, is disrespectful not to return the bow. There are times when a bow is not returned, but that's not related to martial arts.

The bow is done at a standstill and not while walking. You should not be performing any other activity while bowing. The legs and heels come together and the front of the feet should be positioned at approximately 30-degree angle apart. (In some types of martial arts, the toes are together.) The upper portion of the body is erect. If there is nothing in your hands, you should place your hands at your sides during the bow. The hands may be held with the fingers curled in a loose fist, or with the fingers straight, with the palms facing the thighs. The hands remain at the same spot and don't slide down as you bow. If you are carrying something such as a training bag, do not place the bag down, as that may be confusing to the other martial artist, who may assume that you have begun the bow. Leave the item in your hand and do your bow. The high bow is about 15-degrees; deeper bowing is for other circumstances. The head remains in normal alignment with the upper body. When doing the high bow, it would be proper for your eyes to follow the bending of the upper portion of the body. The length of time for doing the bow is around three seconds, with a very slight pause at the lowest point. Rushing the bow shows your lack of respect to the other person.

  1. When bowing, you should not be moving forward or backward; you must be standing still.
  2. Your shoulders and torso should be facing parallel to where you are bowing.
  3. If there are three or fewer persons, each person should receive a separate bow. If there is a group of people, one bow is sufficient.
  4. Your feet should be facing towards where you are bowing, and the heels should be together. If necessary, move your feet to make sure that you are facing directly toward the martial artist to whom you are bowing.
  5. Your hands should be held with the fingers straight, and the palms facing the sides of your legs, or with the fingers curled/cupped with the thumbs facing forward. The hands are not in a tight fists but relaxed.
  6. Bend forward at the waist.
  7. When bowing, the hands should not rise or fall with the bow. The hands should remain at the same level as when you were standing straight up.
  8. Do not curve your torso forward during the bow; the back should remain straight.
  9. In the process of bowing, do not dip the head; it follows the contour of the body.
  10. Let your eyes follow the bow, unless you are fighting in competition. Competition can be fast and explosive so you may want to keep your eyes on your opponent during the bow.
  11. The bow is the equivalent of a statement, so avoid speaking during the bow.

Section 37. The 30-degree bow.

The 30-degree bow is the most commonly used bow in the martial arts. The old saying is that if you are not sure which bow is correct for the situation, you can't go wrong doing a 30-degree bow at the entrance and when stepping on to the training floor. Of course, there are always exceptions, such as when in the presence of a master or grandmaster.

The 15-degree bow, the 30-degree bow and the 45-degree bow are performed in an almost identical manner. The main physical difference is the depth of the bow and the extent of the pause at the lowest point of the bow.



  1. When bowing, you should not be moving forward or backward; you must be standing still.
  2. Your feet should be facing toward where you are bowing, and the heels should be together. The toes can be slightly separated or at an angle of approximately 30 degrees.
  3. Your shoulders and torso should be facing the person to whom or the place to which you are bowing.
  4. In the punching and kicking arts, your hands and fingers should be slightly cupped, with the thumbs facing forward and the palms facing the sides of your legs. The fists are not tight, but should be relaxed. In the throwing arts, the hands should be open with the fingers together and pointing downward while touching the sides of your pants.
  5. Bend forward at the waist.
  6. When bowing, the hands should not rise or fall with the bow. They should remain at the same level as when you were standing up.
  7. Do not curve your torso forward during the bow; the back should remain straight.
  8. In the process of bowing, do not dip the head; it follows the contour of the body.
  9. Let your eyes follow the bow, unless you are sparring in competition. In competition, you don't want to take your eyes off your opponent once the command to fight command has been given.
  10. If there are three or fewer persons, each person should receive a separate bow. If there is a group of people, one bow in their direction is sufficient. You should bow to the highest ranking first if possible.
  11. The bow is a statement through expression and your awareness of the circumstances, so avoid speaking during the bow. In many martial art fighting styles, when bowing, the right fist is clenched and the left hand is cupped over the right fist, with the arms extended out from the body. There are several theories for the left hand covering the right fist. Many believe that the clenched fist is aggression (yang) and the left hand covering it is peace (yin).

Section 38. The 45-degree bow.

Most martial art systems and styles have meaning and purposes for the different bows. The 45 degree bow is the most respectful and honorable of the standing bows. The 45-degree bow is done on special occasions, functions, awards and for higher ranking black belts of the master rankings.

  1. When bowing, you should not be moving forward or backward; you must be standing still.
  2. Your feet should be facing directly toward where you are bowing, and the heels should be together. The toes should be positioned approximately 30-degrees apart.
  3. Your shoulders and torso should be facing directly toward the martial artist to whom or place to where you are bowing.
  4. Your hands and fingers should be slightly cupped, with the thumbs facing forward and the palms facing the sides of your legs. The fist should not be tight but relaxed. In some styles, systems or schools, the fingers may be held straight and pointing toward the surface.
  5. Bend forward at the waist.
  6. When bowing, the hands should not rise or fall with the bow. They should remain at the same level as when you were standing straight up.
  7. Do not curve your torso forward during the bow; the back should remain straight.
  8. In the process of bowing, do not dip the head; it follows the contour of the body.
  9. Let your eyes follow the bow, unless you are fighting in competition. Competition can be fast and explosive once the command to fight has been given, so you should keep your eyes on your opponent when bowing toward each other.
  10. At the lowest point of the bow, hesitate for one second before continuing the bow. A longer delay has no purpose except to alter the rhythm of the bow and upset the sequence.
  11. If there are three or fewer persons, each person should receive a separate bow. If there is a group of people, one bow is sufficient. You should bow to the highest ranking martial artist first.
  12. The bow is a the equivalent of a statement, so avoid speaking during the bow.

Section 39. Information relating to the deep bow.

Let's look back at Japanese history during the era of the samurai. The samurai followed a strict code of ethics, which also included proper etiquette procedures to be followed when drawing the sword. A samurai was known for his exceptional capabilities when forced to use his sword. The samurai wore two swords, and both were worn on the left hip. The long-curved sword, called a katana, normally ranged between 23 to 31 inches long and weighed between 2 lb. 7 oz. to 2 lb. 14 oz., and was mostly used outdoors. The shorter sword was called a wakizashi, and was designed mostly for use indoors, yet both could be used at any time or place. After gripping the sword's handle (tsuka), the samurai drew the sword from the scabbard (saya) from the left hip across the body using the right hand.
Whether standing or kneeling, there is a correct procedure used to determine which foot should be placed forward when drawing the sword, especially when drawn quickly. If you were standing with your feet shoulder-width apart from each other when attacked, you would either step forward with the right foot or step backward with the left foot. When drawing the sword from the left hip toward the right side of the body with the right hand, energy is moving from left to right. Having the right foot forward allows your body to remain on balance because the sword is moving across the body, toward the supporting and stabilizing front leg. If the right foot is back (left foot forward) you would be unable to remain on balance as the sword moves from left to right because there is no supporting and stabilizing leg to resist the movement of the sword's swinging power. For the purpose of comparison, if you were in the process of doing the deep bow and you were attacked, you would kneel with the left leg moving back first. If you were preparing to stand from the deep bow, you would begin by moving the right foot forward. The basic martial arts blocking movements that we use today resemble movements from samurai sword drawing. Most basic blocking techniques are performed with the same hand and foot forward. This allows the front foot to resist the force of the block moving across the body. Applied today, we call it scientific application or biomechanics of the human body.
As we study how the deep bow is performed correctly today, we can now visualize a samurai performing the same movements, where the slightest imperfection of technique could cost him his life. Let's look at lowering and raising the body from the deep bow from a mechanical standpoint: Visualize a table with four legs. Remove the leg of the table that is to the right and farthest away from you and then place a heavy object on the table in the nearest corner to your left. Gradually move that object toward the far-right corner of the table with the missing leg. At some point, the table will no longer be as stable as before, and the table will begin to fall towards the corner with the leg that is missing. This is what happens when drawing a sword and with no support from the right leg where the sword is heading. Is it possible that this is why the deep bow follows the same procedures that the samurai used?

In years past, the deep bow in the martial arts was common practice in Asia. Not all martial art styles, systems and schools still do the deep bow. In fact, over the years, the values and symbolism of the traditional deep bow seem to be slowly heading toward extinction. One reason is because of the rapid expansion of the martial arts outside of Asia and into other countries throughout the world since the 1950s. Originally, martial artists of the first generation who learned and taught the martial arts were trained to follow all traditional martial arts etiquette rules. Slowly, as each generation of those students who made black belt began to go off on their own and separate from the old school traditions, many of the meaningful and important things in the martial arts learning process, such as the deep bow, have been lost. Even today, those who do continue to practice the deep bow in class are not really sure of the fine details involved. As a result, those details are lost or overlooked, and have lost their significance and beauty because they are not performed correctly. The harmony of the mind and body, acting as a single unit working in unison, draw out the deep bow's true artistry and excellence. This can be demonstrated by a martial artist who takes pride in doing the deep bow as a high-level art form, which it truly is. The deep bow is complex, with many fine details; such as proper breathing, perfect continuous balance and timing, the display of respect and courtesy, the elegance throughout its performance, and the humility that surrounds the martial artist. These are some of the benefits of the deep bow that have been discarded or are now considered by many a waste of time and energy during time-limited classes. It should be brought to the attention of new martial artists that the martial arts bow, especially the deep bow, has nothing to do with religion. When performing the deep bow in the martial arts, you not participating as in a form of worship or religion. In many religions throughout the world, bowing (either standing or kneeling) is only supposed to be done to a deity. There are many religious organizations and institutions that teach the martial arts. However, the bows that are being discussed here are different and separate, and are not connected to a religion.

From the simplest expression of respect, the nod, to the most formal display of respect, the deep bow, the martial artist is displaying proper martial arts etiquette without words. It is more than a movement: it is a story, a tale, an expression of feelings, a tradition and much more. Let me give you an example of two deep bows that are done exactly the same physically. You could not tell them apart when done except for the circumstances under which they were performed, yet they have two completely different meanings. For example, if you were to observe while the two deep ceremonial bows were beginning and you were shielded from everything else around the persons, other than the garments they were wearing, you would view the performance of two deep bows performed in exactly the same way, but you could not appreciate the differences. Now imagine that the shields are now removed and you are exposed to the circumstances and reason for the deep bow. To the left you see a person presenting him/herself in gratitude for being awarded black belt in front of his/her peers. Looking to the right, you see a samurai preparing to commit seppuku or hara-kiri (slicing across the abdomen), to disembowel himself with a knife, followed by the cutting of the neck by a second person, because he did something dishonorable and his life must be taken. One bow was for being honorable, while the other was for being dishonorable. Both bows are being performed almost identically, yet they have two completely different meanings. Many martial art classes begin and end performing the deep bow in this formal manner. To do the formal deep bow correctly is an art in itself. The bow should not look like a bow, yet it is. It is performed with grace, elegance and precision.

The deep bow is usually performed at the beginning and the end of each class. When bowing, the class is usually lined up according to grades and ranks. Once the martial artists are in position, the command is given, usually by the most senior student or black belt, to start the bowing procedure. Everyone should bow together, following along with the senior student, in perfect unison. In some systems, while in the kneeling posture, either prior to or after the deep bow and/or meditation, the head instructor may want to speak to the students. After the deep bow and while still in the kneeling position, some systems follow with class meditation. The sequence listed below may be followed while still in the deep bow kneeling position:

1. Head instructor speaks.
2. Deep bow.
3. Meditation.
or:
1. Deep bow.
2. Head instructor speaks.
3. Meditation.

Starting from a standing position:

  1. You should visualize doing the deep bow with your mind's eye and mentally prepare yourself to perform the deep bow. Your mind should be cleared of all other thoughts. Over time, needing to think about how to do the deep bow will decrease and it will become more natural.
  2. Your breathing should be smooth, and you should inhale and exhale naturally. Do not hold your breath.
  3. Your head should be erect and facing straight forward.
  4. Your gaze should not be intense as though focusing on something. Your eyes should see, but do not allow what you see to become a distraction.
  5. The neck and upper back should be relaxed, not stiff. Your muscle tone should be just enough to prevent you from slouching or leaning forward.
  6. It is important that you are aware that your upper body is sitting and resting on your lower back and pelvis. You should mentally visualize that the upper portion of your body is perfectly balanced on the lower portion of the body throughout the process of the deep bow.
  7. While you're in the standing position with your feet together and the arms and shoulders relaxed at your sides, the hands should be in either of two positions: A). Fingers together, pointing downward with your palms facing towards the outer sides of your legs; or B). hands in loose cupped fists with the backs of the thumbs facing forward and touching the sides of the first fingers, and the palms of the hands facing toward the outer sides of the thighs.
  1. The first step in the deep bow procedure is to lower the left knee down toward the surface. Begin by gradually bending both knees while simultaneously shifting your weight onto your right leg.
  2. As the weight on your left foot and leg becomes less and less, the right foot and knee compensate and accept the increased body weight. Therefore, as the left foot and leg move back, the body's height is also being lowered.
  3. As the body's weight increases on the right leg, there is a slight shift of the pelvis towards the right to maintain perfect upright balance so you do not show a shifting of your weight from the left leg to the right leg.
  4. Do not allow your upper body to bend or lean forward, backward, or to the left or right. Your upper body must remain perfectly upright and centered at all times. At no time should you lean or support your body weight with your hands and arms. Your legs should support your entire body weight.
  5. During the lowering of your body, try to visualize a plumb line extending down from the center of your head through the center of your pelvis to the surface where you will eventually kneel. That spot on the surface is the point that the whole body will travel toward or away from throughout the lowering and raising of the body during the deep bow.
  6. During the process of lowering the body, the left arm and hand remains at the outer of the left thigh side along the seam of your pants.
  7. If your system requires you to start with your fingers curled in a loose fist position instead of the open hand position, you should open your closed fist to the open hand position as you lower your body. The hand will remain open until you are standing again.
  8. The right arm and hand move toward the front of the right thigh and knee, gracefully in coordination with the timing of lowering your body. You have to determine the coordination and timing of movement regarding when to begin moving the open right hand so it is resting on the right thigh with the fingers pointing towards the knee. If you are starting with your fingers curled in a loose fist, you must first straighten the fingers and move them to the front of the right thigh. Some styles or schools may have their hands in fists as the hand is placed on the thigh. The rule is the following: if you are going to do the deep bow using your loose fists, the fists begin at your sides when standing, move to the upper thighs when kneeling, and placed on the surface at the bow, and stay the same when returning to the standing position. The same procedure is also followed when the handsare open and placed flat.
  9. The fingers of the right hand should be straight and each finger should be in contact with the fingers on either side. In other words, there should be no spaces between the fingers, including the thumb.
  10. As the left knee is moving toward the surface, the right knee is bending, allowing for a slow, controlled lowering of the body. Ideally, the right knee should stay over the toes of the right foot and the spine should stay erect.
  11. During the backward movement of the left leg and foot the toes of the left foot are pulled back (extended) so the ball of the foot reaches back and touches the surface. The front of the left knee is then carefully lowered and gently touches the surface. At that point, the left knee is lined up even in line with the heel of the right foot. The distance between the left knee and the right foot is equal to the width of your hips.
  12. The placing of your right hand on the right thigh should be completed at the point where the weight of the left knee is fully supporting your body weight.
  13. The right inside of your elbow should be at your right side, lightly touching your body.
  14. At this point, your body's weight is supported by the left knee with a little weight on the ball of the left foot, and the bottom of the right foot is stabilized on the surface and supporting the rest of your body's weight. Your right foot must remain flat on the surface throughout this process. Thus, your left knee, left foot and right knee are all on the surface. Make sure that your upper body remains perfectly upright through the entire technique.
  15. During your kneeling, no noises from the mouth should be made, such as grunting or heavy breathing.
  16. The next movement, which is continuous and without any pauses or breaking of rhythm, is to move your right knee and lower leg in a slightly semi-circular movement backwards and away from the body toward the rear. Because of the way our bodies are constructed, the right knee has to travel slightly away from the body towards the rear. This provides room for the right knee to move without being dragged across the surface. If you were to move your right knee and leg straight back, you would have to offset your balance by leaning to the left to compensate for the length of the right leg. When the right knee and foot are placed down, they are even with, and parallel to, the left knee and foot. The upper body is exactly centered between both knees. The knees in the kneeling position should be approximately two fists apart from each other.
  17. Once your knees and feet are in position on the surface, you can now slowly and gently lower (not drop) the upper portion of your body backward and down until your pelvis and buttocks are sitting on your heels. There is no set rule for the following foot positioning: The toes or forward portion of the feet can cross each other when sitting back, or your feet can be in a straight line and parallel without crossing each other. You should follow the example of the most senior person of the class as he/she does the deep bow.
  1. Before sitting back and upright, the inside of the knees should be approximately the width of two fists apart from each other. In the beginning it is permissible for you to use your hands and fists to check your knee distance. This may require that you to lean slightly forward to place the fists between the knees.
  2. After checking the distance between the knees, if needed, with a natural unbroken movement, follow through with a slight pull on the lower part of your uniform top to remove wrinkles and to carefully adjust the alignment of your belt ends while in the seated position. The ends of the belt should be the same distance in length from the tied knot.
  3. Just as you are beginning to apply weight and sit on your heels, reposition the balls of your feet off the surface and replace them with your insteps resting on the surface by extending your ankles. From that point your pelvis should be sitting on your heels and your insteps resting on the surface.
  4. As your pelvis is beginning to sit on your heels, move your hands from the bottom of your uniform top with the palms down and give a slight tug on the two ends of your belt just below the belt knot to make sure your belt knot is properly tight and not loose.
  5. In the same movement, use your hands to check that the ends of your belt from the knot down are straight and smoothed out so they are flat and neat. If you are a martial artist with ranking, and your name and/or title are on the lower part of the belt, you should be able to identify its markings.
  6. At no time, should you take your eyes away from looking forward. Everything is done in a natural movement without movement of your eyes.
  7. Adjusting your uniform top and belt is done in a flowing manner so it does not appear to be separate deliberate movements. While you are sitting in an upright position, place both of your hands flat on your thighs, unless you follow the loose fists ruling. The palms should be resting on the thighs with the fingers of each hand extended and touching each other. The fingers should be facing to a designated point that is geometrically between the ends of the knees.
  8. The elbows are no longer at your sides. The inside of the bend of the elbows should be approximately a fist distance away from the side of your body. This gives the effect of the arms flowing in an arc from the shoulders to the finger tips or knuckles. The end result is that the direction of the fingers forms an upside down "V."
  9. Your chest should be not appear collapsed. Your back should be straight and your chest should be up and outward, but not rigid.
  1. At this point, there may or may not be a slight hesitation by the most senior person before proceeding with the actual deep bow.
  2. Once the most senior person begins the bowing process, sometimes with a very slight non-verbal word command or by clapping hands twice, everyone in the class proceeds to bow in unison.
  1. As you begin bending forward for the deep bow, several things happen in sequence as well as at the same time. Maintaining the same angle (the direction in which your fingers or fists are pointing), the left hand finger tips/fist moves forward and slightly outward from your left thigh in a semi-circle. The fingers/fist move to the outside of your left knee and then forward to where the palm of the left hand/fist rests on the surface directly in front of your left knee cap, approximately one fist distance from the knee cap. At this point, your left arm is partially supporting the upper portion of your torso.
  2. As soon as the left hand touches the surface, the right hand/fist immediately starts on a similar curved path to the floor in front of the right knee as the left hand did, giving a mirror image effect. The two hands are placed on the surface at the point where the forehead will be during its lowest point during the bow. The hands/fists should be placed on the surface to form a "V", and they should be one fist-distance apart and one fist-distance from the knees. This position of the hands and the surface is the same as the traditional position of the hands/fists in the ready position or when the hands are placed on the thighs. The distance between the hands/fists when on the surface and betweenthe knees is equal to a hand/fists width apart, which keeps the body in proportion and also helps to keep all students in uniform positions. Once the right hand/fist is flat on the surface next to the left hand, you can then proceed with your bow.
  3. The bow is done by controlling your upper torso and head while lowering it, not dropping it. Since each person's torso is not exactly the same length, the above information is only a general guideline so everyone in the class looks the same, just like when performing a basic movement.
  4. The head and back must always be kept straight and in perfect alignment. The head and neck must not be bent forward. The movement of the upper body, neck and head down toward the surface must be slow (but not too slow), controlled, smooth and in unison with the other students in the class.
  5. When bending forward to do the deep bow, keep in mind that the pelvis should remain low and not raised up in the air when bending forward. When the forehead reaches its lowest point, it should stop for just a slight pause. At the lowest point of the bow, the temples are aligned with the knuckles (metacarpal-phalangeal joints). Holding it longer takes away from the continuous rhythm of the deep bow. There are two ways that the bow can be performed: 1) The forehead stops close to, but does not touch, the back of your fingers/hands/fists, or 2) The forehead touches the back of the fingers/hands/fists lightly.
  6. The timing of the movement of the hands and arms while maintaining the curve of the arms, sitting position, are all important in perfecting the bow.
  1. In keeping with the rhythm of the deep bow, unnecessary movement of the body should be avoided. When lifting the upper body back to the upright sitting position, and when you rise up to a standing position, you should not use your arms and hands to assist you (unless, of course, you are physically unable to do so without assistance).
  2. As the upper torso begins to rise and move back to the sitting position, the right hand/fist and arm first begin to return to the right thigh, following the same circular arc (path) as it did when it first moved from the right thigh to the surface.
  3. As the torso is still rising, the right hand/fist comes to rest on the right thigh with fingers straight and together, or in a closed fist, as they were earlier.
  4. As soon as the right hand/fist touches the right thigh, the left hand/fist also begins to follow the same circular arc (path) as it did when it first left the left thigh to be placed on the surface.
  5. Remember, from the original sitting position to the bow, the left hand/fist moves to the surface before the right hand/fist. After the bow when returning to the sitting position, it is the opposite: the right hand/fist moves back to the thigh before the left hand/fist. This follows the same procedure (sequence) as when stepping on and off the training area. When stepping off the training surface, you begin with the right foot, followed by the left foot.
  6. Timing is essential. The completion of the movements of the left and right hands/fists onto the thighs occurs at the same time as when your body has finished rising and your spine, neck and head have stopped moving.
  7. After your body has returned to its upright position, you should be in exactly the same position as you were before you started the bow.
  1. Lean the upper body slightly forward and place less weight on the feet, then curl the toes so the balls of the feet are now on the surface.
  2. Without utilizing the hands to push down on the thighs, contract the quadriceps muscles in the front of both thighs to lift the pelvis and the body upward and forward. Do not bend the upper body forward from the waist. Keeping the upper body moving forward and upward, move the right leg and foot forward in a slightly curved path (as done before when you moved the right leg back). Position the right leg and foot so the right foot is flat on the surface and facing forward and directly in front of the right hip. The right lower leg should make a 90-degree angle to the surface. The right thigh should be parallel to the surface and the knee bent 90-degrees. During the process of the bow, from beginning to end, except when in the kneeling position, the upper thighs and knees are aligned with the shoulders. If you were to face the martial artist performing the deep bow and draw an imaginary line from the lateral edge (outer top) of the shoulders past the lateral edge (outer top) of the knees cap to the surface, the line would be straight and vertical.
  3. At this point, the right lower leg is vertical and perpendicular to the surface and the body is not leaning to the left or right. The bottom of the right foot is flat on the surface, and weight is distributed evenly over the bottom of the foot.
  4. During the process of moving the right foot, the right elbow has moved and is now touching the side of your body, and the right hand/fist moves from facing slightly inward to facing directly forward and pointing toward the knee.
  5. While moving the right hand/fist and elbow, simultaneously move the left elbow so it also touches the body, while the left hand/fist moves to a position facing toward the left knee.
  6. You must keep in mind the plumb line traveling down through the center of the body. You should always be on perfect balance when raising the body to the standing position, and you should be able to do so without requiring the assistance of your arms. At this point, your right foot is flat on the surface, your right knee is bent 90-degrees, and your left knee is still on the surface. Contract the quadriceps muscles of the legs as you raise your body upwards. Lift your left knee up off the floor and bring your left foot forward in line with the right foot as you raise your body to a standing position. Finally, your heels should be next to each other while the toes are about 30-degrees apart. Your head should be level, with your eyes forward and shoulders back. Let your upper torso sit upright on your pelvis. Your back should be straight, chest out (not puffed), arms relaxed, and your knees are not locked but with a slight bend to them. Your breathing should be normal and consistent throughout the bow.
  7. When finalizing your movement into the standing position, move both arms and hands/fists to the sides of the body. The fingers should be held straight (extended) and touching each other, or in a loose fist, but not too loose where light can pass through. The deep bow is then completed and you are prepared to follow further instructions from your instructor.

When the command is given to the class to do the deep bow, everyone should move in unison. The deep bow is the most formal of all the bows. When done correctly, it involves precision and timing. If one student is not moving in unison with the rest of the class, it is noticed immediately. Because students and black belts line up according to their grades and ranking, any person who cannot perform the deep bow or who has a problem doing the bow along with the rest of the class should not have to give up his/her position for which he/she has worked so hard. That student can remain in the same place as is proper for his/her grade or ranking, but should stand slightly off to the far right or left of the line or row, depending which side is closer, or stand towards the rear of the class from the very beginning. This way, that one student would not stick out separately when the rest of the class bows. After the bow, that person would not fall back into line, but would remain at the end of that line or at the rear of the class until everyone moves away from that formation. This avoids the distraction of having to re-organize the lines for the returning student.

Cannot do the deep bow when the class begins in a standing position:

  1. All students are lined up in a standing position according to their ranks and grades.
  2. When the command is given to do the deep bow, the student or students who cannot perform the deep bow should take one step backwards from their line-up, first with the right foot followed by the left foot, turn and either walk to the edge of their line or step to the rear of the class. As the deep bow begins, the martial artists who cannot do the deep bow and are standing should do a 45- degree bow, timing it so that martial artist and the class end the bow simultaneously.

It is suggested that you stand at the rear of the class nearest the edge of the training area. As the command is given for the deep bow, the class proceeds in the bow while you do a 45-degree standing bow. The class should leave your space in line when the class stands.

Presenting this is rather difficult. And in no way do I wish to offend anyone's religious beliefs. The martial arts are not a religion, nor is it anything that should resemble or relate to any kind or type of religious activity, including participating in some cult behavior. The best way I can explain it is that the martial arts are like a universe all of its own. It is a world of understanding the mind, the body and how they function when combined and working together. Understanding each other will widen our horizons and also allow us to respect each other, no matter what our religions or races are. There are so many different types of religions, cultures and beliefs. Religion is private and very personal to each of us. We should also respect those who have no religion and those who follow the ways of nature.
Bowing in the martial arts does have its problems when a student believes that it conflicts with his/her religious beliefs, and therefore finds bowing difficult and uncomfortable. Then there are those who are strongly against bowing as a matter of principle and just refuse to bow. To help explain and clear up any misconceptions about martial arts bowing, one must understand the principles, ethics and traditional respect behind the martial arts. The martial arts originated in the orient, and part of their culture is bowing to show respect for another person. The martial arts follow the same traditions. When a martial artist bows either standing or on the knees, he/she is not bowing in a religious manner. For those who enter a martial arts school or a place where martial arts are performed, you enter the martial arts world, where everything that is taught and practiced is positive with no negativity. Therefore, the instructor does not cross the barrier into a person's religious beliefs.
A martial arts instructor who is faced with a situation must understand that someone who feels that bowing is uncomfortable or refuses to do so, that belief should be respected. If a student, child (usually influenced by parents), or adult wishes to study the martial arts, it is up to the instructor to explain, in detail, martial arts etiquette before joining a class, so the student fully understands the class procedures. Then, if an agreement can be worked out, it is up to the student and his/her family members to decide whether the student will join in the martial arts classes. If and when the differences are worked out. and the student feels that he/she can join in the class, here are some suggestions for the instructors faced with bowing due to religious beliefs:



  • Place a conspicuous sign for all to read, that may state: Bowing in the martial arts has nothing to do with religion. It is a traditional means of showing respect for each other and towards the art.
  • In some religions, the head has to be covered. We know that in proper martial arts, anything covering the head is traditionally not allowed, yet some instructors also cover their heads, and it is permitted in some schools. If you are a true martial arts instructor of the world, respect means making concessions so that each student feels comfortable with his/her peers while under your tutelage. I would suggest allowing the student wear his/her religious head covering.
  • Before the instructor can make special arrangements, he/she should explain to the rest of the class why it is important to respect other people's religious beliefs, and explaining that certain martial art bows can conflict with a student's religious practices. Once the other students are informed, they can respect their classmates.
  • Here are some suggestions for a student who does not bow for religious or physical reasons: That student can stand at the edge/side of the training area or stand at the rear of the class until the deep bow is completed, and then fall into place. Another is to instruct the student to not enter the actual training area at the beginning of the class until after the deep bow is completed, and to leave the training area just prior to the deep bow at the finish of the class. With proper thought and sensitivity, the instructor can create an environment that makes all the students feel comfortable. A martial arts instructor who refuses to make changes and does not accept the religious convictions of a student who is unwilling to do the deep bow due to religious beliefs is not demonstrating proper etiquette.
  • Some schools have a picture in a special place of honor for the founder of the style or system and, while doing the traditional bows, bowing to the founder's picture is also a part of showing respect. That may be a problem for some. There is that old adage: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." There may be an exception for an individual to look beyond his/her own beliefs. The recent passing of a founder and a temporary memorial for a short period of time may be overlooked, and respect shown by bowing would not be improper but be the honorable thing to do, because his/her martial arts knowledge is still being passed on to you.

Instructor/ black belt & student.

Section 40. Instructor/black belt & student.

You should not take it upon yourself, without permission from the head instructor, to practice with a weapon in the martial arts school.

Any time you have a problem with another student or black belt, or anything within the martial art school, it is not proper to discuss it with others. Speak directly with your instructor and let him/her solve your problem or issues. That is the only way you are guaranteed results.

Keep in mind that any questions asked by you during class should relate only to the subject which is being taught, unless it is an emergency or something of importance, such as when a high ranking master enters the school and you wish to bring it to the instructor's attention. If you want to ask a question, follow this procedure: Wait until the instructor completes talking or demonstrating, then raise your hand. Do not speak out. When recognized, stand up if you are seated, stand erect with your feet together, and do a 15 or 30- degree high bow towards the instructor (the depth of the bow is determined by the school or system). Address the instructor by his/her correct title and name, and then ask your question. If there is something you don't understand about what is being taught or a certain procedure, you may physically demonstrate to bring your point across. After the instructor replies, again come to attention and thank the instructor by title and name, repeat the bow, and resume sitting or standing.

You should never ask the instructor when will you be advanced to the next belt. When your instructor feels that you have sufficient time and knowledge, providing you didn't miss many classes and you are physically and mentally prepared for advancement, your instructor will test and promote you. Most schools require a testing for promotion and upgrading; it is not automatic. If you were ill or away during promotions, arrangements can be made for follow-up testing. On rare occasions, an instructor may move you up in grade without testing if he/she feels that you are too advanced for your present grade, providing you have a sufficient amount of time and experience in that grade.

There are many etiquette procedures to follow when addressing a black belt. Firstly, if you are a lower or higher rank than that of the other black belt – when walking by or passing en route, stop and face the other black belt. Look them directly in the eyes and acknowledge them. If you are of lower ranking, bow first. If you are of equal ranking or junior of the same rank, also bow. If you are addressing a master who is of higher ranking than yourself, always address them using their full proper title and name. If there are students present who are under black belt, never discuss anything personal with them which is not related to the martial arts. Avoid speaking without moving your hands about as if conducting an orchestra. No matter their grade or ranking, each martial artist you speak to is just as important as yourself. If you are out in public, bowing should be exchanged with a nod instead.

If you have a personal matter to discuss with the instructor and it can wait, you should ask your instructor when it would it be convenient for you to have a discussion with him/her.

It is not proper to ask your instructor to teach you something new. Yet, if you are taught something new by your instructor and don't understand it, you should ask your instructor for clarification. If you don't understand something, don't fake it. Your instructor is there to teach you how to perform techniques correctly.

If you are not sure of exactly how a technique should be done, and that technique is not being taught at that time, don't ask the instructor to show you. If the instructor wants to show you, he/she will make that decision. Sometimes the instructor will ask a higher grade or ranking person to show you the technique. Don't ask the instructor to demonstrate something for the purpose of self-enjoyment.

Whether in a martial arts school, at a tournament, or at any martial arts function where the black belt, master, or grandmaster is in uniform, there is a proper procedure for asking a question. When presenting your question, you want to make sure that it is an opportune time for the black belt to respond. You should direct your question respectfully and with consideration. You should give the black belt the choice of accepting the question and answering it immediately, or not to respond at the time and allow him/her to back out gracefully and with dignity without insulting you. Examples: Wrong way to ask: "Instructor's title and name. Can Charlie take a picture of you and me together?" Here the black belt has no choice and is put in an uncomfortable situation. The black belt may or may not want to have his/her picture taken at this time or perhaps never. The correct way to ask when alone with the black belt: "Instructor's title and name. If you don't mind, when you have time, could you let me know if we could take a picture together?" Here you gave the black belt the option to say yes or to no, or to postpone it for a later time. You didn't place the black belt in an awkward position.

Do not volunteer to remind the instructor where his/her thoughts were, unless the instructor asks the class.

Once a commitment, a promise, or an arrangement is made with a black belt, instructor, or someone of high ranking, you are required to follow through as agreed. Failing to notify the black belt in advance of any changes is considered rude and disrespectful. Not following through and honoring your word or agreement is disrespectful to the other person and will also lower your stature in his/her eyes. Do not agree to do something you honestly cannot do. If you are unable to follow through on your agreement, you must notify the other person as soon as possible. The black belt who is expecting you to honor your commitment may have made arrangements where you are involved in some manner. Emergencies or something of a more important nature can happen; this is understood and acceptable. However, there is no excuse when respect is ignored.

When an instructor or black belt or equivalent is in uniform, but has his/her belt folded in his/her hand, or placed around his/her collar, he/she is at rest mentally, even though he/she may be physically active. It is then proper not to bow to your instructor, but a verbal recognition would be proper. If you are confused about when and when not to bow, it is better to bow. If this is incorrect, your instructor will advise you.

Black belt martial artist.

Section 41. Black belt martial artist.

By all means bow to a master who is known to you and not in uniform in the martial arts school or place of learning. If you don't know the person's ranking, don't bow. If you are unsure, ask and find out. The unrecognized master would like to be recognized. However, this master would be considered pompous or conceited if he/she were to approach you and state his/her rank. But it would be considered honorable if you thought he/she were a master and you were to approach and ask. If the person replied that he/she were a master, you should initiate the bow, unless you are of higher ranking.

If a black belt is speaking with someone or several people and you are present but not part of the conversation, you have to treat their conversation as private. Avoid paying attention to the conversation and turn your thoughts and body away from the black belts who are occupied.

When an instructor or a black belt is conversing with another person, do not walk between the instructor or black belt and the other person. This would also include any place that is martial arts related, such as a school or at a tournament. It would be proper etiquette to wait until the conversation is completed or until you are recognized and invited to proceed. It is not proper for you to excuse yourself and interrupt, or to join the conversation, unless it is important and urgent in nature, such as an important phone call or an emergency. If you must interrupt a black belt who is conversing with others, there are etiquette guidelines that should be followed: (1) Try to catch the eye of the black belt or person with whom you need to speak by placing yourself in a position that draws his/her attention, but not too close as to be part of the conversation. (2) Evaluate the importance of the interruption. That is, can it wait until there is a lull or when a person is finished speaking, or do you have to interrupt immediately while someone is still talking? Begin by looking directly at his/her eyes and stating "please excuse me for interrupting." If you must speak with a black belt below master ranking, follow with his/her proper name, and speak clearly and directly to the point. If he/ she is of master ranking, follow with his/her title and name, and then speak clearly and directly to the point. If you just want to speak with the black belt or master and it is not important, wait until the conversation is completed. Then approach the person and say: "Please excuse me, do you have a moment?" or "Excuse me, may I speak with you?" Then follow with the proper title of the addressee if he/she is of master ranking, or with the name if he/she is of lower ranking. If a black belt is in conversation, whether speaking or not, you must be aware of how close you are standing and your body language. It is inappropriate for you too stand to closely, or to place your hands on your hips, or to fold your arms, or to tap your foot to signify impatience. You don't want the black belt or master to feel that he/she is being pressured to end the conversation. With some variations, the same procedure would be followed if a black belt or master is on the telephone. On the other hand, if you are in conversation with a black belt or master and your cell phone rings, immediately turn off the ring and continue with your conversation; let voice mail take the message. You don't want to imply to the black belt or master that your phone call is more important than your conversation with him/her. Here again is a perfect example of the martial arts etiquette. You must demonstrate respect, patience, formality and not thinking of yourself first and foremost.

If you are a colored belt or a black belt of lower rank than the black belt you are meeting or approaching, bow at 30 or 45 degrees (depending on the system) towards the higher ranking black belt. If there is a second black belt, follow with a second bow. Do not attempt to shake hands, because the bow is the greeting, unless the higher ranking black belt offers his/her hand first. Just before you bow, it would be polite to offer a verbal greeting, stating the title, and name, and saying good afternoon or something similar. If there are black belts in conversation, do not bow, but just walk past them without interrupting their conversation. If there is no conversation, then bow to each black belt as a means of respect, and move on. When you bow to a black belt once, you have formally greeted him/her, so it is not necessary to bow each time you pass that black belt later that same day.

Instructors should not discuss anything that refers to negative thoughts or actions. A true martial artist always projects the right image. Each person or student has his/her own personal views on certain subjects, and the instructor's or black belt's point of view may conflict with those of other people. Discussion of your personal views on such subjects as politics, religion, race, current events and family values should be avoided. While teaching a class, an instructor should remember that he/she has a captive audience that can't voice its own opinion, so a topic chosen by the instructor would be one-sided.

When someone of importance in a martial arts system or school dies, it is proper for that martial artist's black belt to be given to his/her family. Then, a decision can be made whether that black belt, and perhaps the uniform as well, can be kept or displayed to preserve the system's and school's heritage and lineage. The "spouse," "husband or wife," son, or daughter can select the best place for display, so other martial artists can be reminded of the knowledge, dedication and years that this person has devoted to the arts, and this dedication can be passed down from instructors to students over the generations. A plaque with biographical information and important details of the master instructor, with perhaps a memorable saying, can be meaningful. Another alternative is displaying the belt and other personal items in a prominent place within the martial arts school or headquarters where he/she taught.

If you are a martial arts instructor, you are competing for time against many of your students' outside interests and activities besides school or work. I'm referring to other activities such as sports, music and hobbies. It is good that today's younger people have different interests, because it makes them more rounded and helps them to make decisions later in life. However, as a martial arts instructor, it is difficult to get your students to practice once they're outside of the martial arts environment. There is never enough time in a martial arts class to cover what an instructor feels that the student should learn (in the correct manner). Through this web site, you, the martial arts instructor, cannot only increase your knowledge of the many topics offered, but you can pass that knowledge on to your students. One topic that can be challenging to a student in and out of the martial arts school is martial arts etiquette, which also coincides with proper everyday etiquette. Everyday etiquette is separate from the martial arts, but it is similar in many ways. Other than the bowing in your martial arts school, almost everything else is transferable to the home, school, workplace and the public arena.

If you are attending a martial arts function of any kind, an announcement of a black belt's ranking over a speaker is permitted. However, when in a small or private situation, you may introduce your instructor or a known black belt, but do not include his/her rank. If that person is a black belt or equivalent, but is not an instructor, introduce that person as a senior member of your martial arts school. If ranking is to be mentioned, it should be brought up between both black belts or equivalents. The reason for this is that ranking is very prestigious in the martial arts. If you introduce rank in the beginning, before a mutual friendship is accepted, the lower rank might feel inferior to the more senior of the two.

Section 42. General advice.

Over the years, you will be faced with many paths to follow and many doors to be opened. Each correct path you choose will lead you (hopefully) to the right door that will reveal the hidden information that you seek, so you will advance toward your goals. Eventually, after traveling many paths and opening many doors, you will better understand the real meaning of the martial arts and learn many of its hidden and unknown secrets. If you were to break down your first years of learning the martial arts, you will note that there is a constant challenge of training your body and mind to cooperate and work together. Let's put some numbers on your progress to illustrate: In your first year as a martial artist, if you are average, your body has difficulty keeping up with the demands that your mind puts on it. So, if there were a graph, it would show that in the beginning your understanding of the martial arts is about seventy five percent physical and about twenty five percent mental. Somewhere between the second and third year in the martial arts, you begin to better understand the relationship between the body and the mind, so perhaps your balance is about fifty percent physical ability and fifty percent mental understanding. As a few more years pass, and you achieve black belt ranking, the numbers continue to slowly shift more and more towards the mental. Periodically, your physical ability is more in tune with the mind so you become much quicker, sharper and more precise than ever before. Let's take a large leap forward to a decade or two later into your martial arts career. If you started the martial arts older than a teenager, most likely your body has difficulty performing as quickly anymore. Recovering from injuries is slower, and injuries are more painful. But, there is a bright side to this. As you age, you began to understand what you were not capable of understanding or seeing when you were in your prime. During the later years, you became wiser and find the correct paths to follow. You are no longer making unnecessary movements. Each movement you perform now requires less energy but produces more power. You are slowly, but gradually, coming closer to reaching the martial arts pinnacle of ninety five percent mental and five percent physical. As you age, you really don't lose; rather, you gain everything that a martial artist could ever hope for, knowledge and perfection. The question is, will you know or be aware of it when that time arrives?

Instructor & student interactions.

Section 43. Instructor & student interactions.

When the instructor asks you a question, on or off the training floor, the proper procedure for answering is the following:

  1. While in motion: Stop what you are doing and face the instructor.
  2. When sitting or kneeling. Stand and face the instructor, unless given other instructions.
  3. Come to attention.
  4. Address the instructor by his/her correct title and name, unless class procedures require a different response.
  5. If you know the answer, answer the question directly without adding any unnecessary extra information.
  6. If you don't know the answer, do not guess. State that you don't know the correct answer.
  7. If you think that you might know the correct answer, but are not sure, state to the instructor that you are not sure before giving your answer. Never try to answer a question if you don't know; you would be wasting valuable learning time.
  8. Wait for the instructor to respond to you or to the rest of the class. When the instructor is finished, since the question was originally directed to you, bow to the instructor and thank him/her verbally by his/her correct title.
  9. Take one step back starting with the right foot followed by the left foot, turn in the direction you want to go, and return to your previous position.

If you have to ask a question while the instructor is teaching, do not approach the instructor. Remain where you are.

  1. If you have a question for the instructor in class, wait until the instructor finishes speaking, then raise your hand until you are recognized by the instructor. Once recognized, respectfully bow according to the depth required by your system or school stating his/her name; if master ranking, include his/her title before the name. The instructor may or may not return your bow at that time, or possibly return your bow with a nod to indicate you have your instructor's full attention. When asking your question, be sure that it is loud and clear so the rest of the class can benefit from your question. Make sure that your question relates to only what is being taught. After your question has been answered by your instructor, respectfully repeat the bow and thank your instructor, by stating his/her name, and title if required. At that time, the instructor should return your bow in equal depth or with a higher bow given to you as a means of returning respect, and thank you for asking the question. Most likely, if the question is related to what is being taught and is beneficial to the rest of the class, the instructor may elaborate on your question with an answer that is also beneficial to the rest of the class. (Note: When bowing to someone higher ranking than yourself, your bow should be deeper or lower than that of the higher-ranking person.)
  2. Again, in the same situation, but the assistant is of master ranking, when approached by the master's assistant, state his/her title and name and bow, and your bow will be returned. Then ask your question. When answered, again state the master assistant's title and name, thank him/her for answering your question, and repeat the bow. The master's assistant will return your bow.
  3. If it is the same situation, but the assistant is of black belt ranking, but below master level, state his/her name, then bow and ask your question. The black belt should return your bow and answer your question. When your question has been answered, thank the black belt by stating his/her name, but omitting his/her ranking if under master ranking, and again respectfully bow. You will be respected with a return bow.
  4. If the class is broken up into several groups, and there is a color belt (non-black belt) assistant to the instructor who is working with your group, and you are not of ranking (black belt), raise your hand until you are recognized. Once recognized, do not recognize the assistant with his/her grade or name, but respectfully do a 15-degree bow (some systems may require a deeper bow) and, in turn, the assistant will respectfully return your bow with a 15-degree bow. Then proceed to ask your question. When completed and your question has been answered, thank the assistant and bow again. In response to your formal respect, the assistant will respond by returning a 15-degree bow.
  5. Unless you are totally confused, try to hold your question to an appropriate moment or until after class. Remember, when asking the instructor a question, you are interrupting the lesson's normal rhythm or flow. When asking an assistant a question, you are stopping only those in your group.

When the instructor chooses a student so he/she can be used as an example, or to demonstrate an attack or technique to the other students, the student should not move or shy away from the instructor's movement because that is a sign of disrespect and distrust of the instructor. A student should not flinch or move when the instructor uses him/her for a demonstration on. Moving quickly to avoid a technique due to being nervous could cause your instructor's technique to injure you, unless the instructor advises you to move quickly.

If you need to speak to the instructor, whether on or off the training floor, do not call or beckon for the instructor to come over to you unless it is of extreme importance or an emergency. Of all the etiquette in the martial arts, calling or beckoning for the instructor or a black belt to come to you is extremely rude. When you want or need to speak with your instructor, you should approach him/her.

If one instructor shows you a movement, and another instructor shows you the same movement done in a different way, do not play one instructor against the other. There is a reason for everything, and perhaps there is a misunderstanding on your part where you do not understand the reason for the differences. If you are sure that one of the instructors could be mistaken, go to the highest instructor and have it clarified in private.

When students raise their hand to answer a question, one student will be selected to answer. When a student has been selected, all other students must drop their hands until the person has finished. Do not raise your hand again until the instructor asks another question. It is considered rude to wave your hand in the air when another student or the instructor is speaking. Never call out that you know the answer when hands are raised. When speaking to the instructor, do not move your body. Stand still, unless you have to move your body to demonstrate what you are discussing.

Usually a question will be asked by the instructor. If the student is seated, it is proper for them to stand first before answering the question. If standing, the student should keep their body erect with their feet together. They should avoid moving their body, arms or hands unless necessary. In responding, move quickly and speak loudly and clearly to indicate that you are aware that you were called upon. Once facing the instructor, bow correctly, then follow the class procedure in stating name or title. Answer the question directly as asked and to the point without elaborating. Maintain eye-to-eye contact. If you don't know the answer, do state so, and do not guess. When finished, bow, take one step backwards with the right foot first followed by the left foot, and then proceed to where you were before on the floor. Every student should act dignified from the beginning to the end while moving as a martial artist.

Leaving the training floor or when the class ends.

Section 44. Leaving the training floor or when the class ends.

Proper martial arts training goes way beyond your regular class or work out. The martial arts school is a training place that teaches you proper conduct, respect, humility, cleanliness and many other important things. Usually, the last class of the day is the one that maintains the school's cleanliness. After finishing a class, students should help put training equipment away, straighten things up and clean the training area. This may also include sweeping or wiping down on their hands and knees with cloths and wipe down the entire training deck, from one end to the other. The reason for this group effort to clean the school is to:

  1. Help instill a sense of camaraderie among students.
  2. To teach students to work together as a team.
  3. To establish a connection between each student and the school itself.
  4. To instill a sense of responsibility for the school. If there is no following class, someone should be in charge of straightening up the dressing area and looking for forgotten or lost items. The more advanced students will usually take charge to ensure that everything is completed before informing the instructor that everything is satisfactory.

There are certain areas that a student should not clean, such as the bathroom, unless it is voluntary. The bathroom should not be cleaned by students, even as a form of punishment. Parents who pay for their child to take lessons may feel upset or angry to learn that their child cleaning a bathroom because it is unsanitary and inappropriate. Generally, simple tasks as a means of taking part in a group effort to maintain a clean martial arts school is acceptable and good training. However, students are not to be used as a cleaning service. A student who cannot afford to pay for lessons may agree to clean the martial arts school in exchange for his/her lessons; that would be an appropriate exception, but it should not be abused.

Stepping away from the training area is the opposite of stepping on it. Go to the edge of the training area, and turn towards the instructor if he/she is still there. If the instructor is not on the training surface, then face towards the center of the training area and bow. If there is a place where there is a shrine, then the bow would be performed in that direction. Performing the bow can take place just at the inside edge of the training area, or just outside the training area, according to the procedures of your school. (Usually, the bow is performed just off the training area.) When you reach the edge of the training surface, turn around and stand facing the center of the training area. Then bow, step back with your right foot first followed by the left foot. This is the exact opposite of stepping onto the training area. If you have flip flops or other footwear at the edge of the training area, step into them. Then place the feet together and bow at the depth that is required by your system.

Section 45. Martial arts away from the school.

There is nothing wrong with training at more than one martial arts school, but it is proper martial arts etiquette to first ask permission from your original instructor. It is also respectful to inform the new instructor that you are currently taking lessons at another school.

If you are going to perform or do a demonstration of the martial arts, it is proper to let your instructor know beforehand. Your instructor can be instrumental in improving your performance and demonstration. Don't forget that you are wearing the patch of a school or system that you are representing. Notifying your instructor after the event is disrespectful and not proper martial arts etiquette.

Tournament fighting – Referees.

Section 46. Information about the referees.

Note: Tournament rules and regulations vary with different systems and organizations. International judging is very precise and is laid out in great detail. We are only referring to the general rules and attempting to simplifying them. This is because there are so many technical rules and regulations within each tournament. For detailed information, check the internet.

When referring a free fighting competition. All referees are required to wear appropriate martial arts uniforms without school or system patches, Business suits are not appropriate martial arts attire for referring tournaments in a free fighting ring, yet they are widely worn. The reason for unmarked uniforms are so the referee cannot be identified with any one particular system, eliminating the possible fear of favoritism towards a particular competitor. Street clothes, street shoes, or inappropriate head covering show disrespect toward the martial arts when refereeing. Refereeing in street clothes or a suit can present a safety hazard, because buttons and shoes can injure competitors when the referee has to interact with the competitors. There are certain exceptions to a proper referee's dress code, such as in a closed tournament or an open tournament where many schools compete. In this case, the school's or system's tournament shirt may be worn to hide the identity of a school from which the referee comes. This prevents the perception of school favoritism and scoring bias.

Referees may wear a suit only in the black belt division when a final champion or grand champion is chosen. These black belts are experienced enough to follow direct commands when given. These matches may include both the women's and men's divisions, which may be broken down further to various weight classes. The following standards and safety rules are to be followed by the referees and the competitors: Under no circumstances should street shoes be worn on the training floor. Referees in suits should not wear the same street shoes when refereeing on the competition surface. It is disrespectful to the martial arts.

  1. The side or corner referees must remain a safe distance from the ring, allowing the competitors to have room to move if they are forced out of the ring.
  2. The center referee enters the ring to speak with the competitors. The rules and regulations must be explained, such as immediately stopping on the center referee's command.
  3. The competitors should be standing in the center of the ring and facing the center referee when being spoken to. When the center referee is finished speaking, the competitors bow to the center referee and the center referee returns the bows.
  4. The center referee has the two competitors face each other and bow.
  5. The center referee steps back to the edge of the ring and gives a verbal command to the participants to take a fighting stance. This is followed by another command to begin fighting.
  6. The center referee then steps back away from the ring's edge to a safe distance so he/she does not interfere with the competitors.
  7. When the center or a side/corner referee signals a call, the center referee gives the command to stop fighting.
  8. The competitors must immediately return to the center of the ring in a standing position facing each other. Their heads face the center referee when a decision to score or not to score is to be made.
  9. This is done by the center referee raising one of his arms at the center edge of the ring, indicating that one of the competitors receives the point, or is the winner of the match.
  10. The center referee no longer needs to re-enter the ring.
  11. The competitors return to the center of the ring and bow to each other. Traditionally, the loser would congratulate the winner.

Before the tournament begins, the tournament director has a meeting with everyone who has a role in the tournament, including referees, time keepers, score keepers, judges and other key persons. The tournament director controls all aspects of the tournament, including how it runs, the selection of judges, referees and competitors, and handling complaints. The tournament director, who will usually wear a suit and tie, makes sure that proper martial arts etiquette is observed. The tournament director must make sure that the tournament remains on schedule.

In a free fighting competition, the center referee is in charge of the ring. The center referee is usually the highest ranking or senior black belt of that ring, or the black belt with the most seniority and experience. The center referee may overrule all side referees and ensures that both competitors follow all tournament regulations and safety rules required at the competition. Chief referees are also responsible for the score card keepers and timers doing their jobs, and to resolve any issues. Another job of a chief referee is help to prevent delays and to assist keeping the tournament on schedule.

Corner or side referees are there to assist the chief referee in scoring. When arriving at the ring, it is proper etiquette for the corner or side referees to show respect to the center referee by bowing. This indicates who is in charge and acknowledges his/her ranking. Before the side or corner referees take their positions, the center referee must reiterate the tournament and his/her rules and that he/she will enforce all safety standards. The responsibility of the referees is to promote equality and fairness; not to favor one competitor over another when scoring points; to make sure competitors remain within the ring's bounds; and, to prevent any others from entering the ring during the match. If you are a side referee and see a problem, discretely and quietly explain your point of view to the chief referee so the competitors don't hear. If you are a side/corner referee and have to leave the ring, politely bow to the center referee. Referees should be replaced if others feel that they are biased or not qualified. If a referee is not sure of a call in free fighting, he/she doesn't have to go along with the other referees. Instead, that referee should signal that he/she did not see the technique by placing his/her hands over his/her eyes. Referees are not to manhandle competitors, unless it is to break up a physical fight beyond the normal competition.

Referees are required to respect each competitor, from white belt and up, from young to old. The only time a referee becomes physical with a competitor is when the competitor becomes uncontrollable and force has to be used to intervene restore and bring control back to the ring. When a competitor has completed performing, a referee should not instruct or give his/her opinion on what should have been done to improve, or to discuss the competitor's mistakes. It is up to his/her instructor to do so. A referee crosses over the line by interfering, and may be changing the instructor's teachings. Referees do not have to explain decisions or calls to a competitor. There is a proper procedure to be followed: All complaints by a referee or the competitor have to be presented to the tournament director. The referee's job when refereeing is to ensure the safety of each competitor, decide fairly and impartially, and maintain ring control. If a competitor is injured or the referee sees that a slight injury, if continued, could cause further complications, the match should be stopped, and the competitor checked out by a doctor or a medical technician. The referee's primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of the competitors.

Whenever there is a replacement of a referee in free fighting, it is proper for the person leaving the ring and the person replacing him/her to bow towards each other, exchange positions, and pass on any changes or information. The black belt referee of the lowest rank must begin the bow.

If two of the four corner/side referees award each competitor an even scoring point, the chief referee makes the final decision whether, no points are scored, or scores one competitor over the other, depending upon what the center referee sees or did not see.

Under no circumstances should a competitor argue with a referee. The center referee has the final word and decision on all matters related to his/her ring. Arguing or becoming physical with the referee is sure to get the competitor removed from the match, and even suspended from the tournament. It will also ruin the competitor's reputation. If the competitor feels he/she was treated unfairly, the competitor should bring this to his/her instructor's or representatives' attention immediately, so the instructor or representatives' can plead his/her case to the tournament director. If the competitor has no instructor to represent him/her, then the competitor can approach the tournament director immediately. The competitor must realize that the grievance must have proof to reverse a decision.

Under no circumstances should a referee give a competitor advice or critique his/her fighting. At the end of the match, congratulating the winner is permissible, but no advice on what the competitor should or should not have done is allowed. This could be against the competitor's instructor's teachings. This could also be a direct insult to the competitor's instructor, especially if he/she is present and outranks the referee giving the advice. The referee may not take it upon his/herself to override the instructor's authority. Referees must remember that they are there only to referee, even if the referee knows that the advice given by the competitor's instructor is incorrect.

Referees are not permitted to have conversations with a parent or anyone else who is not an official regarding a competitor's performance, as this could delay the competition. Non-martial art participants should be advised to see the tournament director about any concerns.

If a referee or a forms judge is caught being unfair, that referee or judge should be removed from refereeing or judging in competition. The tournament director makes the final decision regarding that referee or forms judge. Martial arts etiquette has no place for biased referees.

Fighting and ring regulations

Section 47. Before fighting regulations.

Both competitors must remain within the ring boundaries for a point to be scored. Once one foot from either the attacker or defender of the attack touches the surface outside the ring's boundary, no point should be scored. However, it the receiver of the attack is in the air while outside of the boundary, and the attacker is still inside the ring's boundary, a point should be scored. Referees should not only be aware of the fighters in the ring, but also be aware of anyone, especially children, passing through the ring.

All bandages and padding have to be approved by the chief referee. If there are any questionable bandages that the competitor must wear, and the center referee is unsure, the tournament director must make the final decision.

When a competitor is not wearing an appropriate uniform or safety equipment, the chief referee can put a time limit for the competitor to correct the problem. Once that time limit has passed, that competitor may be disqualified.

In free fighting, the center referee is required to warn the fighters before they begin that any contact to the face, throat, or the groin is strictly forbidden. During the match, the chief referee must determine if the competitor who made contact receives a warning, loses a point, or should be disqualified. If the contact is excessive, that competitor should be disqualified to prevent further mishaps. If the attack to the forbidden areas is not the fault of the attacker, is due to a collision, or is the fault of the receiver of the attack, no penalty should be given. Safety rules of the tournament should be re-explained before the competitors continue. If it should happen again, the competition must stop and the tournament director should be advised.

Applying a joint leverage technique in free fighting is strictly forbidden. Techniques involving manipulation of a joint where it reaches its maximum range of motion or is hyperextended beyond its normal degree of motion can cause injury to the muscles, ligaments and tendons around a joint, and can possibly cause a dislocation or bone fracture are prohibited. Kicking to a knee joint or other joint is also forbidden.

Any competitor displaying poor etiquette to the other competitor or referee should be warned or removed from the ring or tournament. Not following the referee's instructions or not following the safety rules of the tournament should not be tolerated.

A technique that is lacking power or proper form should not receive a point. Pee wee and such divisions have separate rules that are more lenient.

Section 48. Beginning and during the fighting competition.

Before competing, both competitors must have proper fighting protection on and in place, except for the mouth piece, which can be placed in the mouth just prior to starting the match. When your name is called, respond by acknowledging your name. If you have a competition card, it must be handed to the person who handles them at the ring. Most competition events have a score keeper. There is no need for a time keeper. Side referees are black belts or of higher ranking than the competitors. In the black belt division, because of the competitors' speed, there should be four corner referees. The competitors should be facing the center referee. It is the job of the chief referee to check and make sure that both competitors are wearing proper protection and are prepared for competition, including making sure that their belts are secure for the match. A respectful bow is given to the center referee on his/her command. The center referee will have both competitors face towards each other and bow at his/her command. The command to take fighting positions will then be given, followed by a starting command.

Turning your back to your opponent during an attack is not considered proper fighting etiquette, unless the competitor is in the process of spinning and following up with an attack of his/her own.

In free fighting competition there is no such thing as a tie score. The competitor with the most points becomes the winner. If a competitor is eliminated for other reasons, the other competitor automatically wins the match.

If a competitor attacks his/her opponent with a trip or a sweep, and takes the opponent down to the surface, and immediately follows with a precise punch or kick, no point can be scored. However, if the sweep or trip to the opponent causes him/her to begin to fall, and an attack with sufficient technique is made before the opponent's torso touches the surface, it is considered a point.

Any competitor who fakes or exaggerates an injury beyond what damage the attack caused displays poor martial arts etiquette.

If a competitor falls or is knocked to the floor during competition, he/she is usually given 10 seconds to come to his/her feet. If the competitor still can't stand, the chief referee must call for medical assistance or stop the match completely, after which a final decision will be made. If the competitor feels determined that he/she can still continue after being knocked down, the chief referee has to evaluate the competitor and use his/her judgment if it is safe for that competitor. If necessary, medical examination may be required to determine whether the competitor should be allowed continue in the competition.

Section 49. Health and Safety.

If hair is too greasy or not clean, the competitor may not be allowed to free fight. Long hair cannot be allowed to fly freely; it must be controlled with something soft that stays in place or braided.

Competitors may be required to wear head protection if the tournament director requires it. Some tournaments may allow black belts not to wear head protection because of their ability.

All fighters must wear a mouth guard and should be checked by the chief referee just prior to starting the match.

All males must wear a cup (groin protector), preferably one that stays in place when kicked. A kick to the groin is very painful, and is followed by direct pain to the lower abdominal area causing nausea, tearing, pounding headache and possible collapse. The body's natural endorphins help relieve some of the pain, but only temporarily. Visible effects may include bruising, discoloration of the area and swelling. More severe injury to that area may include blood in the urine and difficulty urinating. If any related symptoms occur, seek immediate medical help. Females should also wear protection in that area to reduce pain and/or injuries.

If you are injured, pull a muscle, or suffer any significant injury, you must inform the chief referee immediately. Don't be a hero and continue fighting. Pain to the body is an important warning something may be in danger of become worse. The chief referee's concern is the safety of each competitor. The chief referee will ask you the nature of the problem and whether it is temporary. If so, you will be given a short period of time to recover. If the chief referee feels that a doctor should be called into the ring to examine you, it will be up to the doctor to decide whether you may continue or to end the match.

If a competitor receives a nose bleed and is temporarily out of commission and cannot continue, then the chief referee has to make a decision. The competitor who is injured should be given first aid. If the injured competitor is permitted to continue, he/she is given a certain amount of time to recuperate. If that time elapses, that competitor has to leave the match. Blood must be handled correctly and cleaned up properly before the match continues to prevent risk of transmission of infection.

When a competitor bleeds or is seriously injured and requires medical attention, the chief referee must stop the match immediately so the injured competitor can be looked after. The chief referee must follow martial arts etiquette which mandates that safety of the competitor overrides all other rules. If there is medical staff available, they can decide whether the competitor may continue.

Section 50. Interference during the competition.

It is not proper tournament etiquette for a competitor's instructor to interfere with a match or have words with any referee. The chief/center referee should warn the competitor's instructor that his/her student may be disqualified if the instructor's actions continue. If the competitor's instructor sees something that is not normal with his/her student regarding health or safety issues that may cause further complications, that instructor can call an immediate stop to the match and request the tournament director to be summoned to the ring, providing it is warranted.

When an instructor has a student competing in free fighting, and he/she sees something that he/she believes is unfair, that student's instructor has an obligation and the right to protect the student. The instructor must follow the proper procedure of etiquette. If an unfair act or call was made against the student, or an unfair non-call of an attack was not credited to the student, the competitor's instructor is not permitted to speak to or interfere with any ring referee. The instructor has to go to the tournament director and voice his/her formal complaint without delay. Once the formal complaint has been heard and looked into, it is up to the tournament director to make a final decision. In most cases, once a call has been made, it remains. It is best not to reverse a decision on a call, even if it is a mistake, because it will make the referee seem unfair. If the calls seem biased and a bias is proven, the tournament director should remove that referee from the ring.

Sometimes people are unaware of their actions when watching an event and forget that there are rules that must be followed. Parents, friends, or spectators who disrupt a match between competitors must be educated and warned. If the problem continues, "the next time" the offender may be removed from the tournament. If a spectator enters the ring, there is the possibility that the spectator could be injured during the match. Spectators, such as parents, also have rights. No one wants to see his/her family member lose; it leaves them unhappy. The tournament director should spend time with the competitor and his/her family members and explain what they might not understand. Win or lose, a tournament should be an educational experience for the participants.

Forms, information & procedures.

Section 51. Information on judges and judging.

A long time ago in the Orient, training in the martial arts was secretly guarded from others when practiced. Each style in training represented the characteristics from that martial arts school, whereby forms were developed to train and understand tactical movements both with the use of weapons and in unarmed combat. Today, forms are no longer a secret but are demonstrated in competition worldwide. The needs and the demands to survive are no longer in existence except in the most remote parts of the world. In today's forms, competition has a completely different perspective when performing in front of judges, or does it? When performing forms, a true martial artist is that unique individual that can make a form come alive and captivate your imagination of him/her actually fighting an invisible opponent. With or without a weapon, each movement is explosive with power and precise to the finest detail so the onlooker (judges) see that martial artist performing the form as it if were an actual living combat. Black belts performing forms in competition should also be aware of performing forms that are equal to or forms that are advanced or higher than their present ranking. Performing a form that is below black belt ranking most likely have major points deducted. There are the exceptions, providing the black belt advises the judges before starting the form of a logical, medical, or about the way in which they perform the form, in which case the judges may accept the form without any reductions.

Below black belt competition, there should be no less than three black belt judges. In black belt competition, there should be no less than five judges, and the lowest ranking judge should be at least one grade higher than the highest competitors ranking, if possible. High ranking black belts can enter competition, but, in all fairness to the other competitors, should be in a separate category.

When judging forms competition, the judges should be black belts or equivalent when judging divisions under black belt. When judging black belts or equivalent doing forms, the judges should be of master ranking or equivalent due to their years of experience. When judging forms from one type of system, the forms must follow certain criteria and be performed to perfection. The judges are expected to know each form that is being performed. Any single mistake can be quickly identified, in turn any outstanding performances would be considered for the finals competition once the total scores are tallied up. When judging open competition, meaning that there are over two hundred different forms from different styles and systems, the judges are not expected to know all of the forms. When judging black belts or equivalent in the open categories, the masters are selected due to their years of experience whereby their knowledge of movement, technique, and mental discipline will help determine the differences between each competitor.

When a competitor is finished with his/her form, the score keeper will ask the judges to give their scores. In international competition, scoring can be done in several ways, electronically, score cards, or the use of raising their fingers, at the same time for all to see. The score keeper then tallies up each competitor's score. In some tournaments, the judge's fingers are held above their heads, the number of fingers on hands would indicate the first number of points such as 6. The judge's hands would then close and re-open again a second or two later with a second score, 4. That particular competitor received a score of 6.4 from that one judge. The highest scores determine first, second, third and possibly fourth place. When there is a tie score, those competitors must then do a different form whereby they will be scored a second time, whether it is for first, second, third or fourth place, until the tie is broken.

Judges are seated next to each other outside of the rings. This seating arrangement is for several reasons, such as:

  1. When a competitor enters and leaves the ring, he/she can address all the judges in a single bow.
  2. When the competitor states his/her name, style, and form, it can be addressed to the judges in a single location.
  3. The judges are close enough to see each competitor's details when performing. However, there is a drawback with judges centered in one location: when the competitors are facing away from the judges. The judges' forward view of the competitor is in seen.
  4. If the judges are outside of the ring, they are distant from the competitor, but this gives the competitor sufficient room to perform his/her form without any interference. Judges and other competitors have the ability to move further away from the competitor when he/she is using weapons.

Judges in forms competition must make sure that all judges are fair and that score keepers keep accurate records. Judges in forms should not delay their scores when being presented. In fairness to the competitors, it is common for the first three competitors to perform their forms before the judges announce their scores. Standards in scoring are set by the first three competitors. All following competitors scores are based lower than, equal to, or higher than the first three competitors. When the use of score cards are being used where judges hold their scores up for all to see when asked to present their scores, this could or may present a problem or criticism among the competitors toward a particular judge for scoring too low or too high among the other judges. If that judge judges all competitors either with higher or lower scores and is constant throughout the scoring, then there is not a problem. It is when the judge is way off in the scoring that it becomes questionable. To prevent this from occurring, the person taking the judges' scores should walk behind the judges where the judges can cover their mouths and quietly give their score to the scorekeeper.

Section 52. Competitors that compete.

Each competitor should be dressed properly in accordance with the tournament's regulations and guidelines. In free demonstrated forms, exceptions are made for the uniform worn, providing it falls within the guidelines for the theme being presented in the form and it follows etiquette guidelines. It is important to remember that if you intend to enter a forms competition at a tournament, it is strongly suggested that your uniform is clean and not torn. A sloppy, worn out uniform does not impress the judges, they have been around for a long time and follow old school traditions.

Prior to entering into forms competition, when your name is called for you to enter the competition area (the ring), do not run, but walk briskly to the edge of the ring. You should only enter the ring facing the judges. Do not enter from the side, unless there is only limited room. Stop when you reach the edge of the ring, with both feet next to each other, heels touching and your toes 30 degrees apart. Step forward into the ring with your left foot first and then followed with the right foot. Once in the ring you should bow in the direction of the judges, then briskly walk forward towards the judges. At no time should you turn your back on the judges, except if your form requires you to begin that way. When leaving the ring, do not turn your back towards the judges. Back away to the edge of the ring that is facing the judges and bow. After the bow, step back with your right foot first, followed by your left foot, then turn and walk away. Do not run.

You have to determine the correct distance between you and the judges. It is suggested that when you are about three-fourths into the ring you should stop. You should then be at a distance where you are not too close to or too far from the judges and that they have no difficulty hearing you. Remember, the judges are outside of the ring.

When you have reached the correct distance from the center judge, you should stop, stand erect with your feet together and hands at your sides, and perform a bow that follows the tradition of your system.

When speaking to the judges, make sure that you are speaking loudly, slowly, yet not too slowly, and definitely clearly. When speaking, make sure that you are speaking loud enough that your voice can be heard at a good distance away from you. Speaking softly is a sign of insecurity or nervousness. Do not lean forward when speaking. Do not move your arms. When speaking to the judges, do not focus your attention to one judge, scan from left to right with your eyes as to announce yourself to all judges. You must demonstrate your ability to control your posture and voice, show proper etiquette and the ability to show self-confidence, including controlling nervousness. If you have a physical disability or injury that may not be noticeable, it is best to inform the judges before you begin.

When calling out your information to the judges, it is not exactly a yell, and it is not like having a conversation. To give an example: it is loud enough for the spectators to hear what you are saying. Start off by stating your name, "my name is..." This is followed by the name of the system and/or school that you are from, and the name of the form you are going to be perform. If it is a closed system, there is no need to mention the system. If it is an open tournament, by all means mention the system. If you want to, you may include your instructor's name. If it is an open tournament, your instructor should excuse him/her self from judging you. Your final statement will be the name of your form which you are to perform. Be prepared to repeat the same information in the same manner if there is a draw between you and another competitor with the same score, and be prepared to have a back-up form.

Going back in time to the era of the samurai warrior, it was traditional for the samurai to prepare himself for battle. This was done either on foot or on horseback, and each samurai would go forward to seek out an individual enemy. This was done by loudly announcing his rank, family lineage, and perhaps even his school of training, and presenting any official documents which he may have. Once faced off evenly, it was samurai against samurai until one was defeated. At the end of the battle, the heads of the defeated samurai were cut off and brought back to their leader where the heads were counted, tallied, and then presented to the overlord as proof. A samurai's life was to serve his master, and to die in battle was considered an honor. It was important to the samurai that if his head were to be cut off, he would make sure that his hair was perfectly brushed in the traditional top knot way and scented so his head could be presented with dignity. Is there a tradition between a samurai of yesteryear and a competitor announcing his/her name and form in competition in performing the same procedures?

If you are holding a weapon, hold it properly and, if asked to present it for examination, step forward to the judge that has requested to see the weapon, then bow and return back to the upright standing position. Extend the weapon out toward the judge to present it to him/her. The judge may or may not want to remove the weapon from you to examine it. If the judge just examines the weapon without touching it, he/she will thank you. Again, bow and step backward to the point where you were standing. If the judge removes the weapon from your hands to examine it, place your hands back at your sides until the weapon is presented back to you When the weapon is returned to you, bow and thank the judge. If your weapon is passed to other judges for examination, remain at the judge who first requested your weapon. If the weapon is not returned to the original judge, walk across to the judge holding it, bow and hold out your hands to receive the weapon back. After the weapon is back in your hands, bow and step backward to your position. Be prepared to know your weapon well, including its history, if asked. If your weapon is not a demonstrational weapon and it has a real blade, you must inform the judges before performing. Be prepared to bring a demonstrational weapon if the judges refuse to have you perform with a real weapon. For safety purposes, if the weapon while swinging it, should leave your hands, it could seriously injure another person. Once the judge or judges have finished examining your weapon, how you performed in your presentation and your answers to their questions may be included in your scoring.

Section 53. Important Information.

There are over three hundred rules of martial arts etiquette and procedures. Do not take it upon yourself to follow everything that is written here. You must follow the standards which your instructor teaches you. Please also be aware that if you are taking martial arts classes at different schools, do not display the etiquette, procedure and standards from one school if they are different from the other school.

Traditionally, as a means of respect in a formal martial arts class, when students and the instructor rise either from a sitting or kneeling position, students' heads should not be higher than the instructor's during the process of rising. Adjustment should be made if the student is taller than the instructor, this is done by adjusting the students timing.

In a martial arts class, providing it is permissible by the instructor, proper etiquette should be used for the more senior belts (of color and black belts) to correct or assist the newer students and/or students below their grade or rank, providing it don't interrupt the class in session or override the instructor 's previous instructions to a student. The term grade is used to describe color belts, the term rank is used to describe black belts.

Students in a martial arts school should not disturb or enter the instructor's office when his/her door is closed and the instructor is inside. Instead, students should approach and speak with the most senior student or the assistant instructor regarding any questions or information. If the instructor's office door is open and the instructor is inside, it is permissible to knock first, address the instructor by his/her correct title and name, and request permission to speak with him/her. The exception (of course) is if there is an emergency or a matter of utmost importance. Waiting for the right moment to approach the instructor when he/she is not busy would be the better choice.

When bowing in the standing or kneeling position, it is not proper to expose the knap (back) of the neck. When at the lowest point of the bow, keep the head and neck in line with the spine. Don't tuck the chin down.

When entering or leaving the school's dressing room or area, it is not proper to be partially dressed or in the process of dressing or undressing. In fact, traditionally, it would be considered extremely rude to be partially dressed, including not wearing the belt correctly.

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