As in other martial arts, it is important for each judoka to follow certain rules of etiquette. This shows respect for the long history of judo and those who have developed it, starting with Jigoro Kano (1882) to the present day. Moreover, correct etiquette facilitates learning and cooperation, and application of two major judo principles, “Maximum efficiency” (of mental and physical energy) and “Mutual benefit and welfare”.
Bowing is done to show respect for your teacher(s) (sensei) and fellow judo students (judoka). It is also used to show gratitude for practice. Bowing is not religious in any way and is analogous to the ‘American Handshake’. Bowing is done before and after you practice with your partner, as you enter and leave the practice mat and/or the dojo (judo hall), and when you line up. Judoka also may bow to each other and the sensei as a formal greeting. To perform a proper bow, bend at the waist with a straight back and shift your hands from your sides to the front of your legs forming an angle of about 30 degrees.
Before entering or leaving the dojo, as well as the practice mat, it is important to bow. For entry, perform a standing bow with your toes just behind the edge then step forward with the left foot. To exit, bow with your heels to the edge and step back with your right foot.
At the start of practice, everyone lines up according to rank; when facing the sensei, higher ranks are towards the right. After everyone has lined up, sensei says “Kiyotsuke”. This means attention, and after the sensei(s) kneel, all ranks from brown belt to white belt kneel down in unison. Sit with your back straight and your feet together. This is the preferred formal seiza position. (Note: in the dojo, the only other preferred way to sit is ‘anza’, or cross-legged with a straight back). Sensei says “Rei” and everyone bows. After sensei has taken a standing position, all other ranks stand in unison. To stand, start with the right foot first, then the left foot. At the end of practice, straighten the judogi (judo uniform) and line up with the same procedure as the beginning of practice. The final “rei” may be said by the sensei or the most senior brown belt.