Unless you’ve been doing karate since you were a kid, chances are you remember the first time you stepped onto the dojo floor: seeing a bunch of people wearing different colour belts, seemingly understanding a bunch of Japanese words, and bowing to the guy in the front… We get it – setting foot into a karate dojo can be nerve-wracking, even for the most confident person.
We’ve all been there though, and the one thing we can promise you is that the learning never stops. In fact, the first lesson you learn is to approach each class with grace and humility, and that everyone will learn from one another, no matter where you rank.
Whether you’ve just signed up for a demo class to see if it’s for you, or whether you’ve skipped that step and have already bought your gi, here are some tips to make sure you’re prepared for your first time in the dojo…
It’s good practice to arrive early for class in general (giving you a few minutes to catch up with your class mates, have a stretch, remove jewelry, etc), but when it’s your first time, try to arrive a little earlier than normal. It will help soothe any nerves you may have.
Most newbies start out wearing a tracksuit or anything comfortable for the first few visits, before investing in a gi (the white uniform we wear in the dojo). Once you’re ready, we’ll let you know how / where to get your yours.
Clear your mind
Take a deep breath, clear your mind of any work or home worries, and focus on listening to your sensei and following instructions. You will soon learn that being in the moment for your hour of training clears away the day’s stress.
Whether it’s your first day or 10th year, you’re constantly learning and you will make mistakes. Have fun, stay humble and positive, and adopt an attitude of learning. You’ll also learn that being corrected by your sensei is a fantastic opportunity to refine your technique and be the best you can be. Don’t dwell on your mistakes or become apologetic; acknowledge the error, fix it and move on. You will soon find yourself encouraging other newbies who feel the same way you did when you started.
Bowing in the dojo is a sign of respect do the dojo, the practice and your fellow karateka. You will bow as you enter and leave the dojo (both times, facing inside). You will also bow to your sensei as a group at the beginning and end of training, and you will bow to your sparring partner before you work with them.
Not sure when to bow? It takes a bit of getting used to and there’s no need to feel embarrassed. Simply follow the lead of those around you.
You’ll hear a lot of terms flying about when you train. Don’t worry – you’ll soon be counting to 10 in Japanese with the rest of us! Here are the most basic terms you’ll hear from the get-go:
- “Dojo” refers to the place of training.
- “Sensei” is your instructor – the one who leads the class and who we bow to at the start.
- “Kumite” is in the most basic terms, the fighting segment of your training. This is when you spar / train against another person, using the techniques you have learned.
- If Kumite is the fight, then “Kata” is the art of the battle. It’s a series of detailed choreographed patterns of martial arts movements, ranging from simple to complex.
- “OSU” (pronouced “OSS”) is basically the answer to every instruction or question in the dojo. It means “yes” or “I understand”. We say that a lot!