Respect – The Most Important Word in a Dojo

I’m Paul Willson I am a brown belt in Ju Jutsu, a centuries old Japanese martial art.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on

For me the most important thing in a dojo is respect. Respect for the dojo where you train, respect for your teacher, the teacher having respect for their students, respect for your training partners, respect for other club members. Showing respect for all these is why we bow at the beginning and end of each training session.

This is something that is really not hard to do because respect in a dojo is based in just good manners. As we train in bare feet the risk of spread of foot infections is high so we respect the dojo and club members by not walking on the mats with our shoes on. We show respect to the teacher by listening to what they tell us, asking questions when we are not sure and working hard. We show respect to training partners by not injuring them by being reckless, we show respect to other club members by being polite.

We need respect because it keeps us safe in the dojo. Very few martial artists are professional martial artists. We have day jobs which we need to do the next day. Listening to our teachers will help us learn to do techniques correctly and not injure our training partners. No one wants to injure our training partners so we need show respect to their bodies when doing techniques and they should do the same to us. We do this by releasing when they tap and if doing a throw with a lock we don’t have the lock fully on when we do the throw.

I have twice been in a situation where I have been potentially seriously injured by someone not showing respect to my body. First time was when a black belt invented their own wrist lock combining Ju Jutsu and Akido techniques and nearly broke my wrist in the process. My wrist has never really fully healed. Second time a fellow brown belt threw me with my arm hyperextended, if I hadn’t jumped my arm would have most certainly have been broken. The same brown belt refused to listen when we disagreed on how to do a technique and refused to accept the possibility he was wrong, needless to say he was wrong. I rarely get angry in a dojo but these were the only times I have because both of these people should have known better. These are three examples where respect wasn’t shown.

I have also trained with someone who was a bit of a joker but when he was doing techniques he was very serious and did everything properly so even though they liked to joke around he respected other club members by not injuring them.

I have in the past been kicked and punched in the head. I have been left in pain after a lower grade did a technique wrong. This is forgivable. It is part of the learning process. I made the same mistakes when I was a lower grade and you have to accept some risk when doing martial arts and accidents do happen. Injuries, if they happen, should be by accident. Not showing respect to peoples bodies makes injuries inevitable.

I have had other disagreements as well. We overcame the disagreements by working through each others ideas. Sometimes I was right sometimes I was wrong but we got through it by showing mutual respect.

Being polite to fellow club members creates a good atmosphere to learn and train. It helps us make friends with fellow club members and have fun whilst training.

In my opinion without respect it is impossible for a martial arts club to run as we need it to learn, avoid injury and create at atmosphere where we can work hard and have fun doing it.

Would do you think are the most important things have in a dojo.


Published by Paul Willson

I am Paul Willson. I have reached the rank of brown belt in Ju Jutsu. Thanks to Coronavirus I not been able to take my black belt grading stopping my martial art's journey in its tracks which the only polite word I can think of as frustrating. I have created this blog to try and help anyone who is thinking of starting a martial art or has just started a martial art.

4 thoughts on “Respect – The Most Important Word in a Dojo

  1. This is an important aspect of any dojo, Paul. And I’ve also had to deal with a lack thereof throughout the years. As the newer generations are rolling through, I’ve seen a lot of entitlement and the belief that if they sign up for a class, we “work” for them and aren’t entitled to some of the ceremony and traditions we require of students when they train in martial arts. It can be rough. Having students who injure others and refuse to acknowledge their mistakes can be a drain on the morale of the dojo.


    1. Hey Shawn, accept for one person, luckily I have to say I have never seen any real lack of respect. Biggest issue with youngsters in my dojo is staying power. They pass their yellow belt grading and start their green belt training (first real hard belt with big, heavy throws) and realise martial arts are hard and quit. My training partner is a big, tall guy and deals with anyone who steps out of line by dumping them extra hard on the mat when doing techniques. They normally get the message. It is way better than how I deal with these issues.


  2. You make a lot of great points. Here’s a more controversial one—instructors need to treat their students with respect too and don’t necessarily deserve automatic respect. I have seen the “cult of personality” in martial arts where respect and admiration is demanded but not given in return. Those instructors end up with a lot of burned bridges and ex-students. On a more positive note, my best teacher was as kind and respectful toward his students as he expected us to be toward each other. He always preached about “being a good partner.” I took that lesson to heart.


    1. You are absolutely right. An instructor to needs to respect their students. They should do this by teaching properly and showing the correct conduct in a dojo. Respect is a 2 way street. I know what you mean by cult of personality. I experienced it once and this was my 1st time at his dojo. I didn’t go back. Having a cult of personality in a dojo is a kind of bullying. Where I do find a cult of personality is in martial art federations. The heads of the federations tend to want to be treated as a celebrity, needing to stay in 5 star hotels and be showered with gifts.

      Liked by 1 person

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