Uniform Etiquette

Image2.gifHow to fold, and put on your uniform:

In martial arts -- there are traditions and rituals associated with the wearing, and tying of the belt and the uniform.  There are many reasons stated from different instructors, master’s and sensei about how these traditions have evolved.   It is, in my mind, all about mindfulness.  It is a practice which reminds us that we are entering and leaving a place, a dojang, where the realities of everyday life can be set aside, and a focus upon the person’s physical, mental, and spiritual training can be primary.   A reminder, that now, this moment, this class, is where I am, choose to be, and to embrace this moment.  

The folding, and putting on of the uniform reminds us of a commitment to our art, and to our personal development.   It is a reminder of how far we have come, and of our goals.  It is a reminder as we greet, and work with others that they too are on their path, and we can take a moment to acknowledge their work, as well as our own.   

I am not fully traditional, in that I don’t follow the ritual of folding set forth below, but always a uniform should be hung, or folded with respect as it is a symbol of my journey, my process, and of the space, the school that affords my opportunity to practice --- the team of which I am a valued, and supported, member.  

Why do we wear uniforms?

There are several reasons for wearing a Dobok (doh bock) when we practice Tae Kwon Do. Among these are:

  1. They're practical, and designed for martial arts use, much more so than "workout" clothes or street clothing.  They also are modest in the way they cover the body.  Humility and modesty are a part of our practice.
  2. They honor the traditions of the people who created and fostered Tae Kwon Do.  They honor the school, the history, and oneself.
  3. Putting one on says "I take this seriously, and I'm ready to train."
  4. No matter what our situation outside the dojang, how much money we have or how prestigious a position in life, we all wear the same uniform. The only status we have in the school is acknowledged by the color of the belt we wear, and everyone earns that for themselves.
  5. They are a universally understood sign for the instructors about what training program, and frequency the students are on.


image credit:  Staten Island Dojo

What about jewelry and watches, hats, scarves, etc?

You may not wear jewelry or watches in the dojang, partly because it's unsafe, and partly because those things are considered disrespectful. Again, we are not in the dojang to show off. If you have a permanent piece of jewelry (a piercing) that can't be easily removed, you must tape or bandage it down. No hats will be worn. 

Instructors often wear watches to monitor class times, and intervals.  When working with a partner though watches can and have hurt others, and the wearer.

We also know that people do not like to take off some significant jewelry such as wedding rings.  We support you wearing them; however, make them safe for partners by turning stones inward, and be aware that when punching they can be bent or damaged.  

What if I forget my uniform? Or just forget to bring my belt? May I still practice?

Yes, you may still practice, but traditionally that person will line up at the end of the last row after the white belts, with people in street clothes. You must have a complete uniform to line up in the position your rank should occupy in line.

I've seen people wearing t-shirts during workouts. What's that about?

In hot weather, in lieu of a dobok top you may wear a MIMA t-shirt and be considered in uniform. Check with the instructor beforehand to make sure it's appropriate. This does NOT apply to promotion tests, even if testing falls upon a designated tshirt day.

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About the Author:
MeLisa Turcott Strongheart is a Master Instructor and owner at Mercer Island Martial Arts. She is a 7th Dan Master Instructor. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology, Mental Health Counseling. She brings these two areas of specialization to her work with families, children, teens, and in designing curriculum.

Master Strongheart emphasizes and has taught thousands of students the value and power of respect. Respect for oneself, others, and the community.

(MIMA), located on Mercer Island between Bellevue and Seattle in Washington is celebrating 24 years on the island in 2021. MIMA's curriculum is intentionally designed to build fitness, flexibility, self-defense, as well as to create a milieu that engenders physical and psychological growth, respect, courage, community activism and leadership.

MIMA has programs for families to practice side by side, as well as adult, teen, and children's classes. Also offers before and after school, and summer camp programs for kids.

You can contact through email: strongheart@mercerislandmartialarts.com; calling 206 230-9050.

The school is located at:
2630 77th Ave SE #106-108 Mercer Island, WA 98040
Parking free under the building.

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  • Great, reminder on etiquette.  Thanks for posting this Grand  Master Strongheart. 

  • Awesome blog post! I especially love the part where you talk about choosing to embrace the moment, and about showing respect to the journey, the process, the school, and the team.

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