Most martial arts classes, whether Korean, Chinese or Japanese in origin have formalities which govern certain procedures, the most common being those at the start and end of the class. The nature of these formalities, the seriousness with which they are carried out varies between styles as well as schools. The formalities and etiquette below are from my dojang, Keom Mu Kwan (검무관), in Daegu, South Korea.
Paying respects is an integral part of Korean culture and the dojang
ENTERING THE DOJANG
Students should bow on entering the dojang and then greet the Master.
ADDRESSING THE MASTER
In Korea, one approaches the Master with little or no formality except upon initial meeting and departure. Maybe the relaxed atmosphere in Korea is the product of martial arts being a business where it is taught mostly to children. Certainly, I’ve experienced more formality in even the most relaxed Western schools. Further, high-ranking belts do not have to same prestige in Korea where dojangs appear on every street corner all run by 5th, 6th or 7th dans. Indeed, you will not find any Korean dojangs in which the instructor is anything less than a 4th dan. Indeed, little or no deference is given to 1st, 2nd or 3rd dans, usually because they are children or teenagers though older dan grades will be deferred to. Despite the relaxed appearance of a Korean dojang, students will address Masters and teachers in a respectful manner and afford them all the formalities in terms of age and status – these may go unnoticed to Western observers who may not speak the language or understand social mores.
As is customary in the East, shoes are rarely worn indoors and certainly not in a dojang. Once again, Korean dojangs, certainly ones that cater for young students, tend to be relaxed in terms of dress. First, there tends to be winter and summer-style doboks and secondly, students sometimes train in casual or even street clothes. However, those not in doboks will train at the back of the class regardless of belt. In winter, some schools have knee-length, parker-type coats which are worn over the dobok during training and also used as an outdoor coat between the dojang and home. In summer, dobok bottoms are often shortened to shorts, for school children. In the 1990′s and early 2000′s, white polo-neck vests were common under the dobok, especially for taekwondo students, but I rarely see this now. Because of the large number of dojang and the fact students are mostly young, doboks are often quite distinct. On this point, my dojang’s dobuk is probably more conservative than most other styles in our area.
Students should face the rear of the dojang when tying their belt or adjusting their dress.
This follows the usual procedure of the senior student on the far, right-hand corner of the class facing the front of the dojang. Belts descend in rank from the senior-students position.
All dojang have rules but I will deal with these separately.
START OF CLASSES
We have no formal start to lesson which usually commence with meditation. However, on special occasions such as gradings or open days, the class formally greets the Master.
END OF CLASSES
At the end of classes there is a formal procedure similar to that which I experienced in my first dojang, the Song Do Kwan, in Osnabruck, Germany. Classes end with saluting the Korean flag and then the paying of respects to the Master or teacher. The senior student, positioned at the front, right corner (if facing the front of the dojang), directs the class for the bowing.
Procedure in Korean and Translated
Master – 차렷! 준비! 경례 (Attention! Ready! Salute! – left palm over right breast facing flag)
Master. 바로! (At ease!)
Senior Student. 차렷! (Student, looks to see if everyone is ready – in some schools students adjust their doboks accordingly which it is polite to do while turned to face the rear of dojang).
Senior Student. 사범님께 경례! (This command is given when everyone is ready. Salute/bow to our Teacher/Master/Sir!)
Students. If no weapon is carried, students place hands together they say ‘검무’ (dojang name) and while in bow: ‘수고셨습니다’ the respectful form of ‘thank-you.’ Note: Males place hands left over right, females right over left. The reverse positions are used only when deceased.
Master. 수고했습니다! (I thank you!)
Master. ‘해산!” (Dismissed!)
Note: 수고하다 actually means to work and the literal translation is ‘work hard!’ However, it implies gratitude.
Master – 차렷! 준비! 경례 Charyeot! Junbi! Gyeong-nae!
Master. Baro! (At ease!)
Senior Student. Charyeot! (Attention!)
Senior Student. Sabeom-nim-kkae, gyeong-nae! (This command is given when everyone is ready. Salute/bow to our Teacher/Master/Sir!)
Students. Keom-mu, sugo-shyeoss-seum-nida!
Master. ‘Hae-san! (Dismissed!)