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Etiquette in Martial Arts

Etiquette in Martial Arts

Etiquette in martial arts is a fundamental component of the martial lifestyle, inside the dojo and in everyday life. Respect towards others, obey instructors, students, sparring partners, or, even strangers, should be practiced always. Although rules and expectations vary between styles, and even practitioners, there are several ‘general’ rules that should be adhered to.


Some martial arts will have a more relaxed approach to their dress code, but you should always endeavor to wear the appropriate uniform. It is not good enough to be lazy. Take pride in your gi, and clean/iron it between classes wherever possible.

Belt (obi)

your belt should be worn with pride and treated with respect. It is as vital to bring to training as a water bottle, and a priority when packing your kit bag. Some styles discourage washing your belt as it ‘washes the spirit out’. Use discretion to ascertain if it needs to be washed occasionally for hygiene purposes.

The Dojo

Whether it is an ancient temple or a community hall, the dojo is your shelter, your shrine, and the womb that carries you to your martial goals. Always treat it as such. Follow the rules set by your Masters, for example:

  • removing your shoes prior to entry
  • bowing as you enter or depart

The dojo should be free from clutter, and cleaned before and after every class.


Appropriate language and conversation should always be used during whilst in the dojo. Refrain from cursing, always address others with their correct title (e.g. Sensei, Master, Sifu). General chit-chat and conversation should be avoided during class, only asking questions related to the technique being taught at the time. General questions should be held until an appropriate time. Some schools have an expectation that you respond with a positive response whenever directed to do something – e.g. ‘yes’ or ‘hai’. Never decline a reasonable instruction, and never complain about an activity being too physically demanding or complex.

Etiquette in Martial arts

Etiquette in Martial Arts: General

  • It is best practice to bow before and after each activity, movement or pattern.
  • Never fidget, wipe sweat away, scratch etc. when you are asked to hold a position. The only movement you should make in class is one that you are directed to make, unless, of course, you are free sparring, or you have told you can be “at ease”.
  • Your instructor will tell you when you can take a drink. Do not leave the floor until you are given permission.

Etiquette in Martial Arts: Hygiene

It sounds simple, but it needs to be said. Your personal hygiene impacts the enjoyment of others in the class. Make sure you are showered, your hands are clean and your nails trimmed.

Etiquette in Martial Arts: Ranking

Respect the instructors and any senior ranking people in the class. Do not question their instructions, challenge them to sparring, or attempt to discredit them inside of the dojo, or out.

This is an overview of some fundamental disciplines in Martial Arts. It is not conclusive, so you should take the time to discuss with your Master the expectations of the school.

Discipline, etiquette, humility and bushido are fundamental components of the martial arts, and will create for you a safer, more comfortable and more enjoyable environment to nurture you as you train as a humble warrior.

Joe Cox
Joe Coxhttps://www.martialartsexplained.com/joseph-cox-sensei/
Joseph is a proud ambassador of the Eastern Martial Arts who has spent the majority of his adult life sharing his passion and knowledge with all those who seek to learn and grow. After spending over 15 years training and teaching both Goju and Shotokan Karate, his excitement for the triumphs of Martial Training has only grown. He believes that respect, etiquette, humility, passion and enduring spirit are the forces of a Martial Lifestyle that underlie victory in the smallest of tasks and the most insurmountable challenges that you face in life.



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