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Close the Windows

In the early days of Karate in Hawaii, some instructors would close the windows when training started. It is very hot and humid here. It must have been unbearable! But the instructors did not want outsiders to peek in the windows and "steal" techniques.

Today, most dojo are open to the public. However, this mindset still exists.

I cannot close the windows in my dojo, but I do teach differently when someone is observing (unless I know them personally). For the most part, I will only teach basics when there is an observer. Part of this is to preserve the advanced techniques.

But another reason is that I do not want to attract students by the use of advanced techniques. The basics are the most advanced thing. I don't want to attract students by showing things like chokes or takedowns. This will give them the wrong idea.

I would also prefer for visiting instructors to think that we focus on basics. In their case, I am actually guarding the advanced techniques. In some cases, I will make the class so basic that the visiting instructor might get a poor impression. This is my way of closing the windows.

When you visit a dojo, you should realize two things: (1) what you see might not be representative of what is usually taught; and (2) your presence is affecting the class. Because of the latter, you should be careful to follow the proper protocol when you visit a dojo.

You should also be aware that visiting a dojo to train is not an insignificant thing. Traditional dojo are not like restaurants where they hope for walk in customers.

Years ago, a person asked if he could visit my dojo to train. I responded that I generally do not allow visitors outside my very small style of Karate.

He replied (by email) that he was a kumite champion, had a very high rank and title, that I would have been very lucky to have him visit, and that if he did, he would have wanted to spar and kick my... butt.

Well, I guess that it was lucky for me that he did not visit.

When it comes to etiquette in Karate, the greatest caution must be taken when visiting another dojo. How you act during a visit will reflect on your dojo, teacher and even your style. You should not take this lightly. You should also remember to Never Go Empty Handed.


Charles C. Goodin