Dōjō Etiquette

Etiquette or Reihō (礼法) is an important part of martial arts practice. Reihō represents both respect and shared values, but also has practical reasons for its use.

It is customary to bow before entering a dōjō and again before entering the training area (mat area). You only need to bow once at entry and once when leaving, moving between the training or dōjō during training does not require additional bowing.

In Japanese 
dōjō and homes it is customary to remove the shoes at the entrance and put on slippers or wear socks. It is rare for Japanese to walk barefoot or wear sandals barefoot, because it is polite to have socks on if the host doesn't have additional slippers. This custom is primarily for hygiene purposes. 

At the beginning of each class we bow in formally together facing the kamidana (神棚), which is a shinto style alter. In Honbu 
dōjō (Headquarters), the kamidana is dedicated to Takamatsu Toshitsugu, the Grandmaster's teacher. If the dōjō does not have a kamidana, the idea of showing respect to the dead and past generations is kept within the heart and mind.

The bowing in ceremony begins by kneeling and placing the hands in Gassh
ō (合掌) or praying posture. The instructor or teacher will be directly behind the kamidana, while the rest of the class is lined up at a respectful distance behind the instructor. This distance was usually measured as 3 shaku (about 1 metre), but in Honbu dōjō this distance is 12 shaku, so the distance varies. After kneeling, there is a short pause and the phrase 'Shiken Haramitsu Daikōmyo' (四拳 波羅蜜 大光明) is uttered, followed by two claps of the hands. After clapping twice, the practitioner bows again, rises and claps once more, then waits. The teacher turns around and the whole class bows again uttering 'Onegaishimasu' (おねがいします).

At the end of the class the same ceremony is performed again, except instead of saying 'Onegaishimasu', the class will say 'Domo arigat
ō gozaimashita' (どもありがとうございました).

 Shiken Haramitsu Daikōmyo is a Buddhist mantra, which is roughly translated to 'May everything that I learn enlighten me'. 

Onegaishimasu means 'please do for me', but a more accurate English translation in this context is 'please teach me'.

Domo arigat
ō gozaimashita means 'thank you very much', but in this context means 'thank you very much for teaching me'.

Other important things to remember is to never sit with your back facing the kamidana or to point the soles of the feet at someone while sitting, these actions are considered disrespectful.

Other things to remember in the dōjō is not to fidget while watching techniques, slouching or leaning against a wall or lying down. While on the training area, you should be alert and have good posture. 

Although some Japanese dōjō force people to sit in seiza (正座) or kneeling posture, this is not necessary in Ikari dōjō. Sitting cross-legged or tucking the legs to the side are acceptable ways to sit.

A final point, never bring food or drink onto the training area or mats, this excludes drinking water.