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Ann Arbor | Martial Arts Etiquette

The purpose of etiquette in martial arts is to ensure the safety of those training and enhance the quality of training.

How to Bow

Standing (Shizentai)
The heels are together, the back is straight, and the hands rest naturally at the sides of the body.



To bow, bend at the waist.



Looking up is a sign of distrust. Bending too far forward is dangerous and off balancing.


Sitting (Seiza)
In order to move from standing to a formal seated position, the left leg kneels before the right leg. The toes are kept under the feet until the practitioner is completely seated. In practice, the feet are primed to move quickly from a seated or kneeling position to a standing position.


The palms are flattened and rest in the middle of the thighs.



In order to move into a bow, the palms form a triangle and placed in front of the practitioner. Both hands move to the ground at the same time, unless the martial artist is a swordsman. To bow, the practitioner bends at the waist.



The head should not touch the ground and the posterior should not lift from the heels, because historically this meant risking decapitation. Lifting the head is also unadvisable, because it signals distrust and disrespect.


Series of Commands

This takes place at the beginning and end of class. Martial artists stand in line, from highest to lowest belt rank. The highest ranking sempai gives the following commands:

    ⁃    Kiotsuke - Come to attention! Stand up straight.
    ⁃    Shomeni - Face the front, or shomen
    ⁃    Seiza - Sit formally
    ⁃    Shomeni rei - Bow to the shomen in respect to the old masters. When bowing, the martial artist only rises after the senior student before him rises.
    ⁃    Sensei ni rei - Bow to the sensei in respect to the lesson he or she is giving. Again, the martial artist only rises after the senior student before her rises. At the beginning of class, the students say, "Onegaishimasu." At the end of class, the students say, "Arigato Gozaimasu."
Then, the lowest ranking kohai gives the command:
    ⁃    Mokuso - Call to meditation. The practitioner must close his eyes and clear his mind.
When the sensei believes that the meditation is sufficient, he gives the command:
    ⁃    Yamei - Stop.

Behavior on the Mat

When the Sensei is Teaching
Unless instructed otherwise, it is expected that the students are in seiza. This isn't just to show respect, but is practical in letting other people see the instructor. When the sensei gives a command,  the proper response from the students is "Hai!"

Working with a Partner
Before working with a new partner, it is important to bow. In principle, it acknowledges that there is reciprocal trust, especially when the moves are more risky. Safety of oneself and ones partner comes above all else!

Coming Late to Class
If a student is late, she should bow onto the mat, sit in seiza at the edge of the mat, and bow again to the shomen. When the sensei has the opportunity, he acknowledges the student. She bows to the sensei and joins the other students.

The uniform should be clean and odorless. Make up should not be worn, as it can stain the uniform. Jewelry is not safe to wear while doing martial arts. Nails should be trimmed. Good general hygiene is encouraged. Shoes are taken off at the door to protect the mat from contaminants.

When warming up, the sensei usually gives the first four counts in Japanese. The students give the next four counts at the same tempo and volume. The counts are martial, meaning that the numbers are abbreviated. The warm-ups set the tone for class. Each warm-up exercise was developed for the martial art. For example, the ebi in Judo is a structural move in groundwork.


For more information on our Ann Arbor martial arts dojo, contact info@japanesemartialartscenter.com.

Serving Southeast Michigan:

JMAC students come to practice from throughout Southeast Michigan, from such areas as:

  • Ann Arbor
  • Birmingham
  • Bloomfield
  • Brighton
  • Canton
  • Chelsea
  • Clinton Township
  • Detroit
  • Dexter
  • Dundee
  • Fenton
  • Fowlerville
  • Grass Lake
  • Howell
  • Inkster
  • Jackson
  • Lansing
  • Livonia
  • Manchester
  • Milan
  • Milford
  • Monroe
  • Novi
  • Okemos
  • Pinckney
  • Plymouth
  • Rochester
  • Romulus
  • Saline
  • Southfield
  • Tecumseh
  • Troy
  • Whitmore Lake
  • Wixom
  • Ypsilanti
  • University of Michigan
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Michigan State University
  • Washtenaw Community College
  • Oakland Community College
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Ann Arbor - Martial Arts Mecca

For the prospective martial arts student, Ann Arbor is a mecca in the Midwest. More than any other location in Michigan, Ann Arbor has a wide variety of martial arts styles taught by many well respected sensei (teachers). You can find training opportunities at community centers, college and university gyms, health clubs, fitness centers and dojos (training halls). Among the styles available are: aikido, iaido, judo, jiu-jitsu (also called jujutsu), karate, kendo, kung fu, MMA (mixed martial arts, sometimes called BJJ) tae kwon do, tai chi, and many westernized martial arts systems. At JMAC, we offer world class instruction in judo, jiu-jitsu, iaido (Japanese swordsmanship), and karate for kids.


Aikido is a martial arts descended from jiu-jitsu. It includes joint locks, throws, takedowns, and pins. The philosophy of aikido is a peaceful one - to use the attacker’s energy to neutralize his or her attack without causing injury. Aikido is taught in several forms, such as Aikikai, Ki Society, and Yoshinkan. Aikido was founded by Ueshiba Morihei, who studied with Takeda Sokaku, the most famous practitioner of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu. Its principles can be found in almost every Japanese martial art, especially jiu-jitsu and judo. Read more about the physical and philosophical principles of Nihon Jujutsu.

Iaido in Ann Arbor

Iaido is Japanese sword drawing. It was created by the Samurai to defend against surprise attacks by an armed opponent. Most iaido involves the practice of pre-arranged forms, which are excellent tools for training the body, improving concentration, and entering into a meditative state. Finding a talented instructor in iaido with legitimate credentials is rare … in the Midwest it’s practically unheard of. For those with a desire to compete in swordsmanship for sport, kendo is the activity of choice. Those who are willing to endure an occasional whack on the head may pursue bokken kumite (sparring with wooden swords) with our director’s authorization once they reach black belt at JMAC. Read more about iaido at JMAC.

Ann Arbor Judo

Judo was founded by Professor Jigoro Kano. It is both a martial art and an Olympic sport. It includes throws, pins, joint locks, and chokes. It is among the most vigorous of martial arts and is very popular with children as well as adults. The Japanese Martial Arts Center offers classes in judo for children as young as 6 years old, and for adults (starting at age 16). One fact not widely known is that sport judo is a narrow cross section of the complete art of judo. Proponents of the entire art, such as Satoh Tadayuki Sensei of Waseda University in Tokyo, recognize that the founder’s vision encompassed not only “judo” throws, but joint locks, takedowns, redirection, strikes, vital points, dynamic ukemi, kata, and weapons. Judo training at JMAC includes many of these opportunities. Read more about Judo at JMAC.

Ann Arbor Jiu-Jitsu (Jujitsu / Jujutsu)

Jujutsu - which is also written "jujitsu" and "jiu jitsu" - is the ancestor martial art of aikido and judo. Although it includes many of the techniques found in aikido, as well as many more combative techniques that did not find their way into aikido, the philosophy of jujutsu is more practical. Techniques are applied more directly, with a greater emphasis on pain compliance. Those who study jiu-jitsu over the long term improve their fitness, concentration, and ability to defend themselves. The Japanese Martial Arts Center offers serious jiu-jitsu classes for adults starting at age 16. You can learn more about the differences between Japanese jujutsu and Brazilian jiujitsu.

Karate – Kids Karate in Ann Arbor

Karate involves mainly strikes, kicks, and blocks. It was originally developed in the Ryukyu Islands (now Okinawa), and was later exported to Japan before finding its way around the world. Karate is an excellent martial art for those who prefer striking, and helps develop physical strength, stamina, and confidence. There are many forms of karate taught around the world today, including Shotokan, Shorin-ryu, Chito-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, and Kyokushinkai. If you’re looking for a way to help your child learn enthusiasm, fitness, discipline, and manners while having a lot of fun, consider the kids karate program at JMAC. We have an incredible core of talented instructors who have made it their business to inspire kids to be their best. Read more about our karate program for kids.


Kendo is a sport descended from Japanese swordsmanship. In Kendo, participants wear padded armor and attempt to score points by striking vital points with bamboo swords called "shinai." Practice is fast paced, involves much spirited shouting, and is a lot of fun. The Japanese Martial Arts Center does not offer kendo, but can refer you to a reputable kendo instructor in the area.

Kung Fu

Kung Fu is a Chinese martial art that actually includes many sub-styles. Like karate, kung fu involves strikes, kicks, and blocks, but also includes many esoteric motions that can be applied to take down or otherwise defeat an opponent. Kung fu often appeals to imaginative people because of the many references to animal forms, but it is also a very challenging and practical martial art.

MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

MMA (mixed martial arts) to a modern competition-based collection of techniques. Most MMA schools teach striking as well as grappling. Although not a traditional martial art - and thus lacking many of the character development and spiritual aspects of ancient Asian arts - MMA is nevertheless a fantastic form of exercise and a lot of fun. Because many MMA fighters have employed judo and jujutsu successfully, the Japanese Martial Arts Center offers private instruction to top-level competitors as well as occasional workshops for our members.

Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do is the Korean counterpart to Japanese karate. As a striking art, it includes punches, kicks, and blocks, but typically Tae Kwon Do emphasizes more kicking than does karate. Competition (usually for points rather than full contact) is very common among Tae Kwon Do practitioners. It is an excellent form of exercise, but seems more susceptible to commercialization than more traditional arts such as aikido and iaido.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is another form of Chinese martial art. It is usually taught with slow, controlled movements and deep stances. There are many health benefits associated with Tai Chi, including strong bones, cardiovascular health, and calmness.

Getting Started in Martial Arts in Ann Arbor

If you are considering taking up martial arts, you will find many superb opportunities in and around Ann Arbor, including outlying cities such as Brighton, Canton, Howell, Northville, and Plymouth. Students from the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, Cleary College, and even Michigan State University have supplemented their education with martial arts and found that the physical activity helps them concentrate on their studies. We think the Japanese Martial Arts Center offers the best programs in Michigan, but we’re interested in people who are willing to work hard and do what it takes to become truly accomplished. We encourage you to look around to find the martial arts club or school that best meets your needs.