Judo Etiquette and Protocol

Many students start class having no idea what Judo etiquette is. The art of Judo is very structured and has a specific way of doing things. There are a great deal of things you can do which will offend not only other students, but may annoy your instructor as well.

To display proper Judo etiquette when entering the dojo, a student should bow to display a respect of the art itself. When addressing the instructor (sensei), the student should bow.

When the class begins, displaying Judo etiquette, the head student (sempai) will call the class to attention (kyosuke). Then they will call for the class to bow to the front (shomen ni rei). Finally, they will call for the class to bow to the teacher (sensei ni rei).

When drilling throws or other moves, to display proper Judo etiquette, the torii and uke should bow to one another. When demonstrating a throw to the entire class, torii and uke should bow first to sensei, then to each other. Once the demonstration is finished, they should bow to each other, then to sensei.

There is very specific Judo etiquette which must be observed when performing the Katas. The Nage no Kata in particular begins with a ritual which involves stepping together in unison toward the center, and bowing to Joseki (place of high honor – where sensei is located). Then torii and uke kneel and bow to one another. Then they stand in unison and begin.

Just as with any of the other martial arts, students should show proper respect by bowing and obeying higher belt ranks. Proper respect should be shown of same and lower belt ranks as these are your training partners. Of course it should go without saying that this is especially true when addressing sensei. If any other art is taught at the school, the student should respect all students of those arts as well.

Judo etiquette can be intimidating when a student first arrives at a school, but if you follow these tips, you shouldn’t offend anyone at your new dojo.

Judo Terminology and Pedigogy

Judo terminology can be confusing for some. The Japanese language features words that express ideals more than specific things like English does. It is for this reason that many of my students have a hard time memorizing the names for moves and vocabulary items in both Japanese and English.

The first bit of Judo terminology that I teach is the word Judo itself. It comes from two ideals in Japanese. The first is ‘ju’ which means gentle or softness. The second is ‘do’ which means way or path. This varies from Jiu-Jutsu in that ‘jiu’ still means gentle or softness, but ‘jutsu’ means art. Jiu-Jutsu is therefor a collection of moves comprising an art, and Judo is a way of living through the art.

Another part of Judo terminology that confuses students is the three parts of a throw. Those parts are kuzushi, tsukuri, and kake. Kuzushi means to take balance (of your opponent). That is to move the opponent in such a way that they are unstable. Tsukuri means to enter (your opponent’s space). Once balance is taken, you must replace it with your balance to control the throw. Kake means to complete the action. Completing the action entails either throwing or sweeping the opponent. Breaking each action down into three parts makes it easier for students to grasp the concept and effectively learn the technique.

The next Judo terminology that I teach is Uke and Torii. The Uki is the person receiving the action (being thrown, choked, etc.). The Torii is the person doing the action. When your instructor asks for uke, they are in effect asking for a demonstration partner to throw.

The Judo term Kata can be really confusing. It means both a demonstration like the Nage no Kata and also shoulder as in Kata Guruma (shoulder wheel). Used alone, it’s usually referring to the demonstration, however.

You can find individual throw names and translations on the Judo page.