Missouri Karate Association
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The dojo is a place of learning. To respect the dojo and those who train within its bounds, the Missouri Karate Association abides by certain dojo rules (see Rules tab).

Shotokan karate itself has a tradition for how karateka conduct themselves.

The protocol we follow during our class is an expression of our interest in upholding Japanese tradition in our karate training.


  • Before entering the dojo, we take our shoes off. Upon entering, one must be ready for class (thus, for example, the belt must be put on prior to entering the dojo). The dojo is not a locker room.

  • Any time we enter or leave the dojo, we bow toward shomen, as a sign of respect for everything that the dojo means to us. Shomen is the front wall of the room; sho means "true" and men means "face". Bowing is a Japanese custom for displaying respect, humility, and lack of arrogance. It is not a matter of "bowing down" to a superior; as you notice, black belts bow to lower belts and vice versa.

  • Considering that we train barefoot, the floor of the dojo must be cleaned prior to class. This is a task fulfilled by lower ranked karateka and is done with a mop, before class.

  • When class begins, we line up shoulder to shoulder, in rank order, with higher ranks to the right, lower ranks to the left. One of the senior students will then issue commands:

    1. Seiza ("kneel down"): done in rank order, starting with the higher ranks first.
    2. Mokusoh ("meditate"): we take one minute to empty our minds and prepare for maximum concentration during class. Meditation should be done with eyes closed, body relaxed, and exclusive concentration on your breathing.
    3. Mokusoh yame ("stop meditating"): gently return the focus from your inner self back to the environment you are in.
    4. Shomen ni rei ("bow to shomen"): we bow as a sign of respect and thanks to the founder of Shotokan and the ancestors.
    5. Sensei ni rei ("bow to sensei"): the entire class bows to the teacher. If sensei is not present, the command will be senpai ni rei, thus bowing to the leader of that day's class.
    6. Senpai ni rei ("bow to senpai"): we all symbolically bow to each other by bowing forward. This is a way of giving thanks to everyone for being present and helping us learn karate.

  • When a karateka arrives late, he/she warms up and stretches prior to entering the dojo. Then the karateka comes inside, bows, and goes through seiza, mokusoh, and bowing to shomen. At this point, wait for sensei's or senpai's permission to join the class.

  • Sensei or senpai will then instruct us to stand up and form a staggered line, for warm-up. We all stand up, in order of rank from highest to lowest; it is a sign of disrespect to stand up before the person to your left. Next we stretch and warm up, after which we start the class.

  • During class, all karateka concentrate on what is being taught and on practice, avoiding distractions. One should not leave the class without sensei's or senpai's acknowledgement; it is perfectly OK to ask for a break if something is wrong (you're injured, etc.). It is also OK to ask questions and clarifications that are of general interest to your fellow karateka (individual questions can be asked after class). Unless absolutely necessary, do not interrupt class during an exercise -- wait until sensei or senpai gives students a brief break in between sets.

  • When class is over, sensei or senpai will ask us to line up. Then we go through seiza and mokusoh. Then we recite the dojo kun ("rules of the dojo"). These are a set of five rules that were passed down from the masters of Okinawan karate, and are an affirmation of things we believe in and must keep in mind at all time:
    • Seek perfection of character
    • Be faithful
    • Endeavor
    • Respect others
    • Refrain from violent behavior
  • After the dojo kun, we do the three bows: to shomen, sensei and senpai. After that we stand up, in order of rank, and bow once again.

  • Class is now over.
MKA Rules
  • Karate is a way of life, you must train hard and be true to receive positive results.
  • Show Respect to everyone, instructors, students, family members, friends and anyone else you associate with.
  • Always present yourself with a clean appearance. (Karate-gi clean, shower, no chewing gum, no jewelry or metals etc.).
    Under shirts must be white.
  • Exercise good behavior and manners with yours partners, always be courteous and treat everyone as an equal.
    There is NO physical contact between students, you must practice control.
  • Respect the line of formation, at beginning and end of classes; pay particular attention to your Seiza and Dojo Kun.
    (Advanced students will help beginners.)
  • In the dojo we all are the same, there is no distinction in beliefs, economics position, or culture, we are all just human beings
  • Don’t be late for classes, if you do, for reasons beyond your control, wait at the entry door in a formal position until you get permission to enter.
  • Assist your Sensei by helping with new student arrivals; don’t wait until Sensei demands it. Everyone will appreciate this.
  • You must inform your instructor(s) of any injury before training.

MKA Kumite Rules

  • There will be no horseplay during Kumite training or competition.
  • There will be no negative or reckless attitudes or behavior.
  • Sparring equipment will be brought to every class and each student will be responsible for his/her own equipment – This includes gloves, mouthpiece, groin cups (all males), and optional equipment such as boots, shin guards, headgear, and rib/chest pads.
  • There is to be no physical contact to be made during free sparring activities. The activity is to be performed within the rules, and any intentional act to injure another participant or spectator is not condoned, encouraged or permitted by the Missouri Karate Association.
  • Missouri Karate Association reserves all rights to dismiss any students, at any time, for misconduct and/or actions, which may convey a bad image.
Ranks are measurements that show proficiency. The early ranks, called the kyu (級) levels, are based upon the understanding and ability to execute fundamentals. Ranks are achieved by testing; each rank has its own special test which involves the execution of certain fundamentals (kihon and kumite) and a kata designed for the rank. Kata is a predefined sequence of karate forms that help the student practice balance, timing and transitions to leverage the power potential of the body.

級 There are ten kyu rankings:

Karate practitioners (karateka) who have become proficient in the fundamentals have the opportunity to test for black belt (Shodan).

What you have achieved at this rank
To get to next rank
10th white
(beginning kyu)
9th yellow
Learned Heian Shodan kata
8th orange
Learned Heian Shodan kata
7th blue
Learned Heian Nidan kata
6th green
Learned Heian Sandan kata
5th purple
Learned Heian Yondan kata
4th purple
Learned Heian Godan kata
3rd brown
Learned Tekki Shodan kata
2nd brown
Learned Bassai Dai kata
1st brown
Proficient in all kyu kata

Karate practitioners (karateka) who have become proficient in the fundamentals have the opportunity to test for black belt. In Shotokan Karate there are ten Dan (段) levels of black belt. As with kyu, black belt levels measure proficiency. The highest level 10 (Judan) is traditionally used to designate the singular head of Shotokan Karate.

The ten Dan levels or degrees:

Dan Level

What you have achieved at this rank
To get to next rank
Shodan (1st degree) Mastery of basics Nidan test
Nidan (2nd degree) Mastery of basics applied to one's unique body demands Sandan test
Sandan (3rd degree) Chief instructor (sensei) Yondan test
Yondan (4th degree) Godan test
Godan (5th degree) Rokudan test
Rokudan (6th degree) Master instructor (shihan)
Schichidan (7th degree)
Hachidan (8th degree)
Kudan (9th degree)
Judan (10th degree) Singular head of Shotokan Karate
Below are the twenty precepts by Master Gichin Funakoshi that express his view of karate.
Precept Description
1 Karate-do begins with courtesy and ends with courtesy.
2 There is no first strike in karate.
3 Karate is an aid to justice.
4 First know yourself before attempting to know others.
5 Spirit first, technique second.
6 Always be ready to release your mind.
7 Accidents arise from negligence.
8 Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo.
9 It will take your entire life to learn karate, there is no limit.
10 Put your everyday living into karate and you will find "Myo" (subtle secrets).
11 Karate is like boiling water, if you do not heat it constantly, it will cool.
12 Do not think that you have to win, think rather that you do not have to lose.
13 Victory depends on your ability to distinguish vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.
14 The outcome of the battle depends on how you handle weakness and strength.
15 Think of your opponents hands and feet as swords.
16 When you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you.
17 Beginners must master low stance and posture, natural body positions are for the advanced.
18 Practicing a kata exactly is one thing, engaging in a real fight is another.
19 Do not forget to correctly apply: strength and weakness of power, stretching and contraction of the body, and slowness and speed of techniques.
20 Always think and devise ways to live the precepts of karate-do every day.
As with any mature discipline, karate has a rich set of terms and concepts. The terminology of Shotokan karate is consistently used in all instruction. A karateka who has learned the Japanese karate terminology is able to enter any karate dojo in the world and participate.

Beginners to karate should reference the basic terminology section to see the terms most often used in the practice of karate.

Advanced karateka should refer to the full terminology listing.

Among the most basic terms we find:

Term Meaning
KarateEmpty Hands
Karate DoThe Way of Karate
KaratekaPractitioner of Karate
DojoSchool or training room
Osu"I understand and will try my best."
Also used to show respect, enthusiasm.
Do not use outside of the dojo!