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Visiting Another Dojo

These are some things for my students to consider before visiting another dojo. Students of other dojo should follow the rules applicable in their dojo as taught by their sensei.

First, ask your sensei first. Your sensei might know the sensei of the other dojo. This will give him the opportunity to discuss your visit with the other sensei first. If you show up at the other dojo without your sensei's permission (often with a written letter), the other sensei will feel awkward. He might not want you to visit unless your sensei has agreed first. He will want to welcome you to his dojo out of courtesy to your sensei, but will not want to allow you in his dojo for fear of offending your sensei.

From time to time, students will ask to visit my dojo. Most do not ask for their sensei's permission. I rarely allow such visits.

I will give you an example. If a student of Morio Higaonna asked to visit my dojo, I would expect to be contacted my Higaonna Sensei (because I have met him and he has taught at my dojo). If Higaonna Sensei does not contact me, I would think that the student does not have permission. Since I would never allow a student to visit without his sensei's permission -- particularly a sensei I know and respect -- I would decline the visit request and make a polite excuse.

I would not want to contact Higaonna Sensei about his student because this would put the student in an awkward position. Do you see this difficulty this could cause?

Second, do not go empty handed. Take an appropriate gift (omiyage).

Third, be very restrained. Do not show off. Do not challenge any students. Do not challenge the sensei. Do not practice kata from your dojo in the other dojo -- unless the sensei has specifically asked you to do so.

Karate history is rich with visitors who have foolishly challenged a sensei and been taken away in an ambulance.

Fourth, try your best and realize that you are visiting to learn.

Fifth, when you return to your dojo, do not show things that you learned in the other dojo -- unless your sensei asks you to do so. If, for example, you started to practice an outside kata in my dojo without my request, I would politely ask you to train elsewhere.

Remember that how you act as a visitor reflects directly on your sensei.

After your visit, the sensei of the other dojo will almost certainly contact your sensei and give a report. What I want most to hear is that my student was very courteous.

After your visit, you should also give a report to your sensei. The other sensei might have asked you to carry a letter or omiyage to your sensei.

Something else to consider, if I were going to visit my friend's sensei in Okinawa, I would mention this to my friend first so that he could give me any letters or omiyage that he might want me to carry to his sensei. This is the proper courtesy. If I did not show this courtesy to my friend, then what kind of friend am I?

Also remember that the sensei of the other dojo might not show the usual things while you are visiting. When I have a visitor, I often will keep the class very basic. I will not show deeper techniques or body dynamics. Visitors might sometimes leave thinking, "what a basic class!" This is what I want. Remember that other sensei might do the same thing. You cannot judge the level of the dojo by what you saw during your brief visit.

Lastly, you should be aware that not all dojo allow visitors. If they do not, you should respect their policy. Karate is not a business to many sensei -- it is an art and lifelong pursuit. Many sensei are not seeking new students or attention. Many sensei do not want to be written about or photographed. You should respect their wishes.

The main thing to remember is to ask your sensei first.


Charles C. Goodin