Good Manners Never Go Out of Fashion


Mark Lonsdale, Judo Training Development

Last year I had two scruffy looking individuals walk into my dojo while I was teaching, 20 minutes after the start of class, and begin walking directly to the changing rooms. Each looked to be 20ish with a ratty looking judogi over his shoulder. I asked if I could help them and they replied they had come to do judo. I asked if they were a member of one of the national judo bodies, to which they indicated they had been at one time. I told them that they could not train unless they had current membership cards and, next time, they needed to come early to introduce themselves. They left in a huff and never came back. Obviously their former sensei had never taught them judo etiquette or good manners when visiting a dojo.    

Parents of novice judoka often comment how much they appreciate the Respect and Discipline their children have learned through judo. From the first day, they are expected to respect the dojo as a place of learning; the tatami as a place of training; their training partners since they are helping them learn; and their Sensei for taking the time to teach them.

Becoming a senior competitor, even a national champion, judo thug, yaburi (dojo stormer) or Kosen grappler does not give reason to neglect basic judo etiquette and respect. Unfortunately, even at the international levels, we have seen some atrocious behavior and total lack of respect for the traditions and practices of judo.

The traditions and dojo etiquette (reishiki) of judo is, in all reality, no more than old fashioned good manners. The fact that we depend on the Sensei, dojo, and training partners to help us learn and perfect our judo, requires the appropriate respect for all three.

The following suggestions are for those who would like to be welcomed at other clubs and dojo:

  1. Come to training with a clean judogi, clean feet, short nails, no sticky or oily hair products in your hair, and a good attitude. Judo is a contact sport so no one wants to randori with someone in a stinky gi, with poor personal hygiene, or a bad attitude.
  2. Serious senior judoka should own two or three judogi so as to always have a clean, dry judogi for training. (One white and one blue for competition and another for training works well)
  3. When entering a dojo, step out of your boots or flip-flops and bow. It may just be a short, perfunctory bow, but you’re acknowledging that you’re entering a place worthy of respect.
  4. When visiting another club’s dojo, arrive early, go directly to the Head Sensei, introduce yourself and request permission to train (even if he is well known to you).
  5. Volunteer to help with laying, cleaning and vacuuming the tatami. Dan-grades in particular should set the example for kyu-grades.
  6.  If you leave the mat or the dojo for any reason, wear your shoes.
  7. When going to the toilet (banjo) wear your shoes or the provided Crocs or zori. Keep in mind that the floor in the bathroom is probably splattered with urine so you do not want to track that back onto the tatami.
  8. Always walk around the edges of the mat, and never walk in front a Sensei who is watching his students train (unless you want a smack in the head).
  9. Stop immediately when the Sensei calls “Matte!” and pay attention when he is teaching a technique or drill.
  10. At the end of practice judoka stand and leave in order of grade. Be sure to go up to all the Sensei and express your thanks (if you want to be invited back).
  11. A visiting team may be honored by being lined up at the end of the dojo near the picture of Kano.
  12. Some Head Sensei do not kneel (seiza) for the bow (zarei). This can be attributed to age and bad knees. If the Head Sensei does not kneel then everyone should remain standing for the ritsurei.
  13. If you are visiting another dojo, do not assume that because you are a Sensei at your own club you will sit with the Head Sensei. If in doubt, line up with the others in order of rank and wait for the Head Sensei to invite you to sit with him.
  14. A few additional rules if training in New Zealand, especially at University Judo Club:
  1. If you have spent all day wearing sandals or flip-flops, your feet are not clean, so wash them before coming to judo
  2. If you are visiting a dojo, bring beer
  3. If you get promoted, be prepared to buy beer
  4. If you have just promoted to Shodan, buy a lot of beer
  5. If you took Gold at a recent Judo Championships, buy beer
  6. If in doubt, bring beer
  7. Japanese beers are appreciated (but they are also quick to drink all the Corona I have provided)


About Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator
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