This list will help you get into the flow of class:
To begin: Classes start promptly. Allow time to change before class. Most students find that arriving 10-15 minutes beforehand is ample. Arriving late deprives you of warm-up time.
Lining up: Class begins with students lining up and facing shomen (which means “the front”). We line up according to rank, with the most senior student to the left, and with instructors facing the students. New students will be toward the right end of the line. The Sensei (which means “teacher”) will ask the class to kneel on the mats, with hands resting on the thighs, by saying “seiza” (which means “proper sitting”) or “kneel down for meditation.”
Meditation and Beginning Class: We begin and end every class with a few minutes of meditation. The Sensei will say “mokuso” (which means “close your eyes for meditation”). Meditation gives us a chance to clear our minds of concerns from the day so that we may concentrate on training. It is a time to become calm and centered, and to prepare for the class ahead. Many students focus on their breathing, with a focus on inhaling and exhaling, at this time. If you arrive late, you will need to kneel and meditate on your own for a few minutes before joining the class. At the end of meditation, the Sensei will say “mokuso yame” (which means “stop meditating, open your eyes”), and then “rei” (which means “bow”). Students bow from the kneeling position by placing their left hands on the ground (palm down), followed by their right, and then putting their foreheads on the ground. Students rise in a wave of rank order starting from the most senior student. After the first wave bow, the senior student will say “sensei ni rei” (bow to sensei), and students respond another bow from the kneeling position, saying “onegai shimasu” (which means, “please let me train with you”), then rise at the same time. The senior student will then say “otegai ni rei” (which means “bow to each other”), and students respond with another bow from the kneeling position, saying “onegai shimasu.” It is then time to begin class.
Bowing: We often bow in class to show our respect for instructors, other students, and traditions of the art. We bow before formal exercises, kata (choreographed patterns of movements integrating formal stances, attacks, and blocks), before practicing with partners, and before transitioning. It reminds us that we are not striking each other in anger or to hurt, but as an exercise from which we are both planning to learn.
Warm-Ups: At the beginning of class, we do 20 minutes of stretching, cardiovascular, and/or strengthening exercises to prepare our muscles for the strenuous work of karate.
Basics: After warm-ups, the class lines up in rank order for Standing Basics, the basic punches, blocks and kicks that are the backbone of our karate. During the first few classes, beginners may be taken aside by advanced students for more individual instruction. More advanced classes such as the tournament preparation class and blackbelt training classes may engage in Enhanced Basics, which include more complicated movements.
Counting and Kiai: The Sensei will usually count the exercises with abbreviated Japanese number. There are one-syllable versions of the following: ichi (one), ni (two), san (three), shi (four), go (five), roku (six), shichi (seven), hachi (eight), ku (nine), juu (ten). On juu, everyone in class lets out a loud yell called a kiai. The kiai is a “spirit yell” and it symbolizes the strength and effort you are putting forth in your karate focusing. It may frighten or startle your opponent, makes your strength greater, and actually makes you less vulnerable to injury by tightening your core muscles. We practice our kiai on every tenth technique during formal exercises, at certain places in kata, and when delivering or receiving a blow during kumite (sparring).
Meditation and Closing: We go through the same meditation at the end of class as we did at the beginning. This is to help us transition form our training to getting ready to leave the dojo and rejoin our families and communities. We meditate to remember that the ultimate aim of karate is to resolve conflict before it turns into violence. We line up by rank, the sensei says “seiza” (kneel), and then “mokuso” (meditate). At the end of meditating, the sensei says “mokuso yame” (end meditation), then rei (bow). The senior student will say, “sensei ni rei” and all students will bow and respond “arigato gozaimashita” (which means “thank you”). The senior studet will then say “otegai ni rei” and all students bow and respond “arigato gozaimashita.” After this, the sensei will make any announcements before dismissing class.
Evaluation and Ranks: Students are evaluated regularly by the chief sensei and other black-belt senseis. Evaluations occur every two months, alternating between empty-hand evaluations and kobudo (weapons) evaluations. At evaluations, senseis will decide which students are ready to advance to the next rank. Ranks are called kyu and are numbered from 10 to one. The ranks are: white belt, yellow belt (10th kyu-ho), orange belt (10th kyu), first blue belt (9th kyu), second blue belt (8th kyu), first purple belt (7th kyu), second purple belt (6th kyu), first green belt (5th kyu), second green belt (4th kyu), first brown belt (3rd kyu), second brown belt (2nd kyu), and third brown belt (1st kyu). The full curriculum for empty-hand practice can be found here. After completing all of the colored belt ranks, a student advances to sho dan ho (provisional black belt) with testing completed in Hawaii or Sacramento. Ranks give you an idea of who has mastered the technique well enough to help you. These evaluations also help the senseis assess the overall strengths of the school, as well as what needs additional practice.
Gi: The gi is the white cotton uniform that we wear to practice. They are comfortable and designed to practice karate. You can begin training in any workout clothing that lives your wrists and ankles visible. A beginner’s gi is included in the three-month beginner’s introductory package.
Tuition and Fees: Tuition is paid monthly before the 10th of each month. A 10% discount is available if you choose to pay for a full quarter (three months at a time). There are several options for paying. There are also fees for promotions.