There are simple reasons, and more complex reasons, why etiquette is
still strictly enforced in traditional martial arts schools. Since I
keep getting asked about it, I thought I'd summarize the major reasons
why, in my experience, etiquette is so important in the martial arts.
1. SAFETY. I can't overstate this. So much of etiquette revolves around
providing a safe and challenging training atmosphere. Don't talk while
the Sa Bum Nim is talking, or you might miss something crucial, which
could lead to injury. Respect the Sa Bum Nim, and do as he or she says,
even if you don't always understand why; the traditions of the do jang
go back generations, and those that still exist have very sound reasons
for their relevance. Respect your fellow students, because that way you
can challenge each other without injury, humiliation or other problems
caused by a lack of self-control. If you don't respect them, they won't
respect you, and things can get ugly very quickly.
2. BETTER TRAINING. You get the most out of your training sessions when
you are able to fully focus on your training, and to focus on the
aspects that Sa Bum Nim is trying to emphasize. This means you need to
be able to hear her, you need to be able to do sparring drills and
combinations as instructed. This is impossible when others are talking
or others are playing around, doing their own thing.
3. SELF CONTROL. Remember that in do jang, we learn fighting arts. The
purpose is not to create thugs, who try to dominate and belittle others,
and are physically dangerous. The purpose is to build your own
strength, mental, emotional and physical. The true martial artist tries
to avoid the fight, not instigate it. We believe the strongest person is
the one who never needs to fight.
4. COURTESY. All of the above also relate to courtesy. Even as you wish
to get the best training possible, so does everyone else in the do jang.
Don't ruin it for them by talking out of turn, constantly interrupting
Sa Bum Nim, etc. If you have questions, ask politely, or defer it for
after class. Every interruption you make, you are depriving someone else
of valuable training time.
5. TRADITION. This is where the Eastern martial art seems to clash
hardest with the Western mind. Many Westerners aren't raised to respect
tradition simply because it's tradition, and in fact many of us are
raised to openly question or challenge many traditions. However,
sometimes you lose out on a lot by so doing. Tradition has its own kind
of beauty, a way of looking at things through older eyes, different eyes
than your own. Following a ritual created 100 years ago not only shows
respect for the creator, but ties you to him on some levels. Traditions
transcend the boundaries of time, and the physical act of bowing,
reciting the do jang creed, etc., allows you to experience things you
otherwise never touch. Never underestimate the value of that kind of
• When you enter or leave the do jang (training floor), stand at
attention and salute the flags. Then, if a Master, or an Instructor is
present on the floor, address them with a full bow (even if they are not
necessarily looking at you).
• Always show proper respect to Masters, Instructors, and black belts
with a full traditional bow, both in and outside the do jang. Bowing is
an integral part of your training and is an international, natural body
language that shows that you respect yourself and others. Another way we
show respect (more in line with Western customs) is always ending
sentences with "sir" or "ma'am."
• Address your seniors by their last name with the proper salutation
(e.g. “Instructor Smith”, “Master Smith”). This helps especially if
there are multiple people of that title on the floor. If you do not know
who someone is at the do jang, use the proper "sir" or "ma'am" and ask
them if they have a title and their last name.
• Always turn away from your Instructors when fixing your uniform. You
may have to ask permission and bow before you turn away and bow after
you're done, depending on the situation. If you're not sure, just do it.
• Do not try any techniques by yourself or with other people until the
Masters have shown them to you and given you permission to perform them.
This is for your protection as well as others.
• Do not teach any technique you have not been taught how to teach and have permission from the masters to teach.
• If you arrive to class after it has begun, enter the do jang and wait
standing at shyo (hands behind the back) at the entrance of the do jang
until the Instructor looks at you and gives you permission to enter.
Then you can bow and enter the class, lining up at the end. Do not leave
class without the Instructor's permission. If you need to leave early,
tell the Instructor before the class starts.
• Whenever you approach your Instructor at the do jang to ask or discuss
something, first bow and wait at shyot until called upon then speak
politely. Bow when your conversation is completed. They will always
return your show of respect. Do not interrupt the instructor while
he/she is teaching. If you have a question or need to go to the bathroom
address another instructor who is not leading the class.
• When a Master (sa bum nim) enter the do jang the highest ranking belt
should stop what they are doing and have the students bow to them.
• The following are prohibited in the do jang: shoes, smoking, eating,
drinking, chewing gum, intoxication, bad language, arguing, horse-play,
• Always wear a clean uniform to class. Always clean your gear regularly
and keep them deodorized. Fold your uniform neatly after you finish
class. Show respect to yourself.
• When sparring, full sparring gear must be worn at all times. When
sparring, always use maximum control. If you cannot, then stop. Follow
the directions of your instructor completely.
• Senior belts should always strive to set a good example by showing
respect and helping lower belt students. Lower belt students should
always show respect for their senior ranking students.
• Do not demonstrate or teach Martial Arts outside the do jang without the expressed permission of your Master.
• Talking or performing a technique while the Masters are trying to
teach is disrespectful. If you are talking during a workout you are not
getting the best workout that you could possibility get. Also, talking
is a distraction for other students and can cause others not hear or
understand what they need to know which can impede their learning
• High belts should know how to do the flag salute and the Korean titles
for the black belts. The highest ranking belt in line is the one who
does the flag salute.