Contents Blogs Introduction Fisher One Page Contacts Links



By Charles Rhodes, P.Eng., Ph. D. and Sensei Malcolm Fisher

The general conduct required of any student of Shotokan Karate is expressed in the Dojo Kun (Dojo Rules of Behavior). The Dojo Kun is explained at However, an issue that should be emphasized is that karateka are expected to adhere to the Dojo Kun at all times, not just in the dojo.

Shotokan Karate is much more than just a martial art. It is a way of life. Fisher Shotokan involves the capacity to deliver devastaing amounts of energy. Hence practitioners of Fisher Shotokan must always behave in an exemplary manner. This issue is of extreme importance when instructing or otherwise acting as a role model for juniors.

A practitioner of Shotokan karate should try to own the space within 1 m of his/her body and should maintain spacial content awareness out to a radius of at least 3 m. Any athletic person within a 2 m radius is a potential threat because that person can close the radial distance in 0.2 to 0.4 seconds, which is the minimum time for human reaction. When rouunding a blind corner as a matter of habit always try to maintain at least a 3 m radius of curvature so as not to be caught unaware by a concealed threat.

Karate instructors are in a position of privilege, power and control and hence should never become intimately involved with any of their students. In general karate students, other than committed monogamous couples, should avoid intimate relationships with other persons attending the same dojo. When such relationships fail usually one person leaves the dojo and may quit karate.

In recent years our society has become extremely sensitive about martial arts instructors touching students, especially minors and persons of the opposite gender.

The potential for miss-interpretation by the student, his/her parent or the instructor is too great to ignore and the consequences today are far more severe than in the past. In martial arts such as judo, aikido, wrestling etc. where grappling is required there is a real need to grab each other but for the most part the grappling is usually centered on the uniform or arms and legs and not the body. There are of course exceptions but the need to touch is directly related to the need to perform a grappling art. It is necessary to be more hands on in these arts than in karate when teaching.

In order to avoid the possibility of any unpleasantness, it is better to avoid manipulating students with an open hand. The challenge for the karate instructor is to find effective ways to convey specific information visually and verbally. This challenge is even greater for an assistant instructor who is not free to talk during a class. In those cases where non-contact instruction is not successful, do not interrupt the flow of the class. Instead address the problem later, after class if necessary.

It may be faster and more effective for an instructor to use his hands to manipulate a students body into correct position as was done in the past, rather than using words. However, in today's social climate non-contact verbal instruction is a better way to go. Non-contact verbal instruction provides a degree of protection for both the student and the instructor.

A shinai provides a means for a karate instructor to position students without direct contact. Do not weild a shinai with force. Only use it to help align the student into position. There is no acceptable occasion for an instructor to whack anybody. Sensei Fisher has experienced shinai wacking in both Canada and Japan and in his opinion it is a useless distraction at best and accomplishes nothing but production of fear or animosity.

There should be no touching of an adult student's body by a karate instructor's hand, regardless of gender. A shinai should be used if it is necessary to touch a student's body. Using the instructor's foot to align a student's knee or foot, or an instructor's pointed fingers to touch a student's arm may be acceptable but using words or a shinai is much preferred.

Today's parents are particularly sensitive to adults touching their children and they always notice it. People are having fewer children today than 50 years ago and hence have a greater emotional investment in each child. Parents tend to be more sensitive about their children today due to news stories regarding inappropriate touching of minors by persons in charge of children, about which most people were blissfully ignorant 50 years ago.

With minors in the age range 10 to 18, there should be no touching of the student's body by the instructor's hand. Shinai and words only. However. moving a student's knee or foot with the instructor's toes or foot is acceptable if it is not done aggressively.

It may be necessary to manually move a small child's arms into the position when teaching him/her. Such positioning is often needed when children are having extreme difficulty in coordinating their arm movements when first learning Karate.

The above comments relating to touching do not apply to students training with each other. It is normal for students to momentarily touch each other during daily kumite practice.

Just because your karate or athletic skills are superior to those of an opponent does not mean that you should hurt your opponent. In karate you can only practice to the level of the skill of your partner. If you hurt your partner you will not have him/her to practice with tomorrow.

From an organizational perspective your loyalty should be to the central orgaization such as Ontario Karate Federation, Karate Canada, Pan American Karate Federation, World Karate Federation or possibly the JKA. All the splinter organizations are just ego trips for individuals. Up to the mid-1980s the JKA was the central karate organization. After the death of M. Nakayama several lead JKA instructors were so tied up in their on egos that they each tried to form a separate organization. This breakup led to lawsuits and did nothing to promote karate. A karate-ka owes his/her allegiance to the organization, not an individual instructor.

The karate-ka of an individual dojo are usually only as good as their chief instructor can make them. It is important to promote instructor capability. An instructor may no longer be young and highly athletic but he/she should know what to teach to allow a young and athletic person to excel. If the instructor does not know something the probability of a student learning and mastering fine detail entirely on his/her own is remote. That is especially true when the instructor has poor habits which the student copies.

This web page text last updated April 5, 2017.

Contents Blogs Introduction Fisher One Page Contacts Links