As the father of two young boys, nothing would make me prouder than attending a sports event or extra-curricular activity to watch my kids in action. And I know that day is no doubt coming. Although Nathan i 7-years old, he hasn’t actively expressed any interest in sports or outside hobbies beyond playing with me, at home. But I’m sure it’ll happen eventually. It would be all the better if he joined me at karate, but I don’t believe it would be constructive to push him into that.
However, there are a lot of parents who DO attend karate classes to watch their children. And although some of it can appear dry or boring to a non-practitioner, adhering to dojo etiquette is almost as important (if not more so) for the parents and observers as it is for the children and practitioners who are part of the class. After all, those children and practitioners are looking to their parents and visitors as an example of how to behave, right? Here are some key points to remember when visiting a dojo as a non-practicing observer:
1. Remove Your Shoes: Okay, I get it… You’re not participating and the thought of removing your footwear in a public space isn’t for everyone. The takeaway here is that the removal of footwear within a karate dojo is not only a sign of respect but also a matter of cleanliness for the dojo. If it happens to be a rainy or snowy day or you simply drag mud and/or dirt in from outside, your causing an issue for the practitioners who NEED to be barefoot in the dojo environment;
2. No Food Or Drink: Although this one obviously makes sense for the students and practitioners, observers don’t usually give it much thought. But even though the thought of sipping on your favourite mocha-choca-latte with skim milk and non-fat foam while your child trains may seem like a reasonable idea, not only is the potential for spills and messes a bad idea, the smell of food can be incredibly distracting to someone who’s working hard at their training;
3. Get Off Your Device: Look, be in the now! If you’re there to observe your kids, then observe your kids. That game of candy crush can wait until later. Be respectful enough to pay attention and be present for your child or whomever you may be visiting with/for. If it’s a phone call and it’s necessary to answer it immediately, have the respect to excuse yourself out of the dojo to answer it, which brings me to my next point;
4. Keep Noise And Idle Chatter To A Minimum: This one is a personal pet peeve of mine and should go without saying but since I’m here I’m gonna say it, since some folks don’t seem to understand. Quiet while observing a karate class is a must, not only from a respect standpoint but from a training one, as well. Not only does karate require a certain level of focus and concentration, which can be broken by the distraction of a couple of Karens trying to decide who’s voice can reach the highest volume but it can be difficult to properly hear instructions AND is incredibly disrespectful. Conversation among the observers should be saved for outside the dojo, for break periods (if your dojo has them) or for after class; and
5. Be Respectful In All Things: I get it. Even if your kid is in this class or you’re visiting a friend or family member who’s a participant, this world may not be yours and it can be confusing and the rules may not be clear. That’s why it’s not only important to ask but once you know for certain, be respectful and follow those rules. Be seated only where you’re told you can sit and do no more than what you’re told you can do. Respect for the dojo and maintaining the ambiance of the environment can be critical for proper training.
Every school of martial arts is different and even two schools of karate may have different rules and protocols, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. There’s nothing more embarrassing than getting kicked out of your 5-year old’s karate class because you decided to answer the phone and laugh loudly while chatting with someone DURING class. Not that I’m speaking from experience… Jus’ sayin’. But by clarifying the rules from the get-go, you can better ensure that you won’t cause unnecessary distractions or disrespect the rules of an art that holds respect as one of its core values. ☯️