Dojo Etiquette – Reishiki

Tradition, Respect, and Discipline

One of the most important aspects of the study of Budo is learning to discipline our own behaviors and improve self-control.  A prime example of this discipline is the tradition that we observe that is often confused with worship.  Iaido is not a religious practice.  When we bow or observe special ceremonies, we do so for the purpose of training our minds, not to worship or show submission.

The etiquette we practice should reflect respect.  However, respect is a feeling that comes from deep inside the individual and cannot be forced into existence by rituals or other people.  We cannot demand respect but we can show respect to ourselves, other in the dojo, and the art itself by following the correct procedures of the dojo etiquette.  It is not so important that other respond to our respect; to be respectful is the important part.

To be impolite is to be lacking in consideration of others; to be inconsiderate is to be lacking, somehow, in some essential kindness.  Correct etiquette in Iaido is acting politely and with consideration for others.

It is no secret that the world today contains many examples of people who regard each other as meaningless.  In contrast, in the dojo a person learns to depend upon others for both safety and the close interpersonal relationships necessary to further one’s knowledge in the art.  More importantly, it is pleasant to study in an environment where people try hard to accommodate one another.  Naturally we are all human and as such, inter-personal difficulties sometimes surface.  It is in the way we deal with these personal differences in the dojo that makes the difference.  Unless common respect for fellow students becomes a part of dojo life, the dojo ceases to be different from the outside world.  Few people would choose to spend an hour of their lives in another heartless environment.  The dojo must be a different place – benevolence must replace anger.  The dojo must be a place where kindness and understanding reign; it must be a refuge from the insensitivity of everyday life, and where one’s values continue to grow.

In the dojo, cleanliness is more important that worldliness; quit is more important than noise.  The dojo is a place where people are able to cast aside their mental entanglements of the world, and for a few hours, train their bodies, minds and spirits.  In the dojo, training takes precedence over worrying; consideration takes precedence over rudeness.

The cardinal rule of etiquette in the dojo is simple: Consider other before you consider yourself.  Yet to do so, first it is necessary to understand that small things have great effect.  Below is a list of common procedures and behaviors performed by all at the dojo.

  1. Safety is paramount. Training with swords, whether wooden or blunted steel brings with it the possibility of injury.  At all times be mindful of your surroundings and your fellow students.


  1. Always consider your personal hygiene and the state of your uniform before entering the dojo. Both yourself and your uniform should be clean.


  1. Please take off your hats and shoes, dispose of cigarettes, food, drinks, chewing gum, and stop other distracting practices that might interfere with our training or other training. Be grateful for the opportunity to study Iaido. We want to focus all our attention and energy on that one task.  Visitors are also expected to observe these guidelines for conduct.


  1. At the dojo, please take off our street clothes and put on a training uniform (Dogi). This helps us shed our outside concerns and focus our attention on our current task: Iaido training.


  1. Complete uniforms are preferred. Our study is a formal one and the completeness of our dress reflect the attention we give to our study.


  1. When we greet a fellow student or an instructor, we greet them with a traditional bow. This is customary in the practice of Japanese Budo.  Bowing is also a sign of humility and reminds us that we are unendingly involved in a relationship with the people around us.


  1. When coming into or leaving the practice mat, we bow again to the front of the dojo. This expresses our intent to concentrate fully on our Iaido training, and acts as recognition for all the individuals, past and present, who have contributed to Iaido.


  1. All students should follow the daily clean up routine:
    1. Dry mop mats before class
    2. Vacuum rug areas after class
    3. Wet mop mats after class


  1. Anyone not a member of the Dojo should be greeted and asked if they have any immediate questions, offered a brochure, and asked to watch a class if they are interested.


  1. The back door of a facility normally should not be used as an entrance.


  1. Please use hook and benches for street clothes in the appropriate rooms, if available.


  1. All jewelry and watches must be removed before practice. Make sure all finger and toe nails are trimmed short so as not to cause undue injury to others.


  1. Upon entering the dojo, when you see the instructor, greet him or her by bowing and saying “Osu!”. This form of etiquette may be different from dojo to dojo.


  1. Shoes should be placed neatly in the shoe racks at the entrance if available, and dojo-only sandals (if used) should be lined up neatly at the edge of the mat.


  1. The senior student should bow as Sensei enters the mat at the beginning of class and also when Sensei leave the mat at the end of class.


  1. Visiting instructors sit off to one side at the start of class and at the end of class. Along with the senior student, visiting instructors should bow as Sensei enters and leaves the mat.


  1. When class is ready to begin, before the instructor sits, the students line up sitting in Seiza in a straight line. The person to your right should be of equal or higher rank; the person to your left equal or lower rank.


  1. Officially, the rank of “Sensei” (teacher) is reserved for 3rd Dan and above, but can be used at 1st Dan and above if you are teaching your own class. The term “Senpai” (senior) is used for someone at least 2 kyu ranks or 1 Dan rank above you and not your teacher.  The term “Kohai” (junior) is used for someone 2 ranks or more below you.  The term “Dohai” (same level) is used for someone within one rank of you or at the same rank.


  1. The instructor of the class will announce the command “Rei”. This means “bow” and is a sign of respect to the teacher of the class and the tradition of Iai-Tate-Do.  The instructor will then indicate for students to place their swords into their belts by saying “Datto”.


  1. If you come to class late, change into your Dogi and when you enter the mat and sit in Seiza until the instructor gives you permission to begin training.


  1. When a technique is being taught, the students should kneel quickly. When corrected by the instructor, they bow and say either Osu or thank you.


  1. Keep conversation to a minimum when practicing to get the most out of your training time.


  1. During the class, any student wishing to leave the mat or practice something other than what the class is practicing must first ask the permission of the instructor.


  1. Always begin and end your training with your partner by bowing to each other.


  1. Never shout, curse or become angry on the mat. If there is a disagreement, ask the instructor to settle the issue.


  1. Notify the instructor immediately of any accident or injury. Due to health concerns, blood should be immediately and thoroughly cleaned off the mats and dogi.  Cold water works best.


  1. When the instructor is off the mat, treat the senior student with the same respect you do the teacher.


  1. When the class is ending, the students quickly line up in seiza, before the instructor sits and completes the bowing out routine.


  1. At the end of class, students will be sitting at attention in seiza until the instructor has left the mat.


  1. Students should wait for the class to be dismissed, then if training occurred with a partner, find their partners and bow to them to thank them for training together.


  1. Ours is a serious study, so no kicking, wrestling or play is allowed in the Dojo. The use of weapons for “play” is strictly forbidden.  Please remember rule # 1.  When sitting, sit in Seiza or Anza (cross-legged) only.  Do not lie around the mat.


  1. Other important aspects of etiquette deal with more commonplace concerns. Please remember to pay your dues on time.  In our enjoyment of Iaido training, we may forget about our responsibilities to Iaido, and to our instructors.  When training as a visitor in another Dojo, please check the visitation policies, and remember that your behavior reflects on your home Dojo.

In short, your practice of correct etiquette may be thought of as courtesy or kindness, and an extension of our Iaido training that is not to be overlooked.  Finally, when in doubt, ASK!