By Jenifer Tull-Gauger

Dojo Kun #4 is translated as “Develop a respectful attitude.”  At East Valley Martial Arts – Kenshin Kan, we tell the Little Dragons (3 to 5-year-old students) that it means “Be nice to others.”  When we want to go into more detail we talk about treating others the way you would like to be treated, and about taking care of things that belong to others or ourselves, as well as respecting ourselves.

We strive to do that and use respect at the dojo as well as all other areas of our lives.  Following dojo etiquette is part of Dojo Kun #4.  Traditional karate etiquette at times may seem foreign, but it is all built around respect.

When it comes to modern etiquette, I am more of a dunce than an expert.  I know that generally you use the utensils on the outside of your table setting first, but I love to put my forearms (and sometimes elbows!) on the table—it’s relaxing and just the right height for me.  There are a lot of rules in etiquette that don’t make sense to me.  It’s supposed to be a no-no to use your napkin for a bib.  I say if you’re messy and want to prevent stains with your napkin, more power to you!  As far as no elbows on the table, I think that’s a throwback from when tables were homemade and maybe just boards on sawhorses. In that case, please keep your elbows off and don’t lean, because you could end up with all the food in your lap. If you’re lucky enough to have one of the plentiful sturdy tables, enjoy it.

I wouldn’t mind ignoring many of the unnecessary etiquette rules.  However, the majority of manners stem from being respectful.  I endorse those wholeheartedly.  Unfortunately a lot of the ways of respect seem to be fading in the same way as the quaint, inapplicable rules.

Showing respect with manners is just as important at the dojo as at home or wherever you go.  If we implement basic manners, and teach them to our kids, the dojo and our corners of the world will be better.  Here are four basics to remember:

-Greet people when you see them for the first time each day, by making eye contact, smiling and saying hello in a clear voice.

-Kids can learn to shake hands firmly (but not too tight) when they greet men, or women who offer their hand.

-Be sure to say goodbye (and “thank you” when appropriate) when you leave someone’s home, class or event.

-If others are talking and you need to speak to them, either wait until they are done, or politely say “excuse me” when there is a pause in their conversation.

We can set a good example by taking personal responsibility to put these manners into place ourselves.  Gentle reminders for kids are also in order.  Just practicing these basic acts of human kindness will improve your day, and your environment.

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