Did you know that there is some common etiquette that everyone should know when visiting a martial arts school?
Whether you are brand new to the martial arts or are a seasoned practitioner there are some general rules that you should follow when visiting any martial arts school, dojo, kwoon or academy. Be aware there are different rules depending on your intention for visiting the class. For example, are you visiting just to watch or are your hoping to train with them for an evening?
If you are just visiting to watch a class, the rules are pretty simple:
1. Call the head instructor ahead of time to ask permission to watch a class. Be sure to secure what time the class will be held as well. Be on time. This is important as some instructors have advanced classes that they do not allow the public to watch.
2. Never step on the mats/training floor with your shoes on! Immediately remove your shoes at the door. This alone will impress the instructor.
3. Be polite. Don't interrupt class. Let the instructor come to you. Don't question their teaching methods. Keep your opinions to yourself and just watch politely. If you have questions pertaining to taking a class, wait for an appropriate time when the instructor or assistants aren't busy.
4. Thank them for allowing you to watch their class.
If you are seeking to train at a martial arts school for a class or two, the rules are a little more detailed. First of all, it is assumed that you already are a martial artist with a uniform and some training under your belt. If this doesn't apply to you, then its better to watch a class instead.
Here's what we tell our Branson Karate students when they visit another dojo.
1. Always ask permission. You should ask permission from your home instructor first. It's polite to do so. Plus, it could be embarrassing for you if the head instructor contacts your home instructor or another student says they saw you at another school, for example. Once your home instructor grants you permission, then you must contact the school you are hoping to visit and ask permission to train with them. They may ask your rank to confirm the appropriate class for you to train in.
2. No matter your rank, offer to pay for the class. Don't expect a free visit.
3. Confirm that the uniform you have is appropriate to wear to their class. For example, some martial arts schools only allow white traditional uniforms. You should be able to wear your current belt rank from your home school. However, some traditional karate dojos prefer that visitors wear a white belt. Drop the ego and strap on a white belt if necessary.
4. Show respect for all those in the dojo, especially the instructor. Use polite manners, remove your shoes at the door and bow when expected.
5. Don't try to prove anything. If you are about to start a sentence with, "at my school we..." then you are NOT being respectful and are trying to prove yourself. Bite your tongue. The adage, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" applies to you in this situation.
6. Have a "beginner's mind" seeking to learn something from your visit. You can always learn something new from others if you are open to doing so!
7. Never request to spar. If pressured to spar by the school you are visiting, keep it playful. Tell them you are here to learn something new, not to prove anything.
8. Have fun and thank everyone for allowing you to train with them!
Visiting other martial arts schools is a wonderful way to grow the martial arts community and good will. At Branson Karate we enjoy having visiting students to watch or train with us. However we do have a vetting process that starts with a phone call. If the student is seeking to train with us and shows a respectful attitude, then great! They are welcome to train with us. If they are there to prove something, such as how well they can fight, then we will simply show them the door.
"Be open minded. You will find that doors open for you. A closed mind that seeks to prove something will find that doors slam shut. There is always more to learn, if you are willing and leave your ego at the door." ~ Vashon Borich-Leach
Vashon Borich-Leach, Sensei teaches traditional karate and tai chi in Branson, Missouri. She considers herself a life-time student of the arts. Her blog is an open journal of lessons learned in the martial arts. If you are a martial artist and would like to contribute to her blog please contact her.
©2012 Branson Karate & Kobudo™