Traditions Guide

Written by Sabumnim Chris Crockett (3rd Dan) of the Drexel University Jung Sim Do Martial Arts Club


Many students enter the martial arts for various reasons which may include self-defense, fighting, or physical fitness. However, these are only secondary benefits of the martial arts since little time of many persons lives is spent fighting. The primary benefits that come from the martial arts usually involve improving ones character, integrity, and honor. The essence of these qualities is shown through manner and respect for others and oneself. The ultimate goal of impeccable manner and respect involves a continuous effort to always improve upon an individual’s self-discipline, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

The goal of this document is to provide for new students to the martial arts as well as students experienced in other styles a guide for adjusting to this new atmosphere as well as provide an understanding behind the reasons for various activities. Since this is for reference throughout one’s early time of training, the guidebook is divided up by the various situations or scenarios where manner and respect come into play during the course of a normal class. Questions regarding the material herein should be discussed with the instructor. The following is a brief listing of the various topics this guide covers.

I. Bowing

  • Upon Entering/Leaving the Dojang
  • Beginning of class
  • End of class
  • To instructors/black belts
  • To judges
  • To other students
  • When black belts enter

II. Lining Up

  • For class
  • For Tae Kwon Do
  • For Judo
  • For Hap Ki Do, Fighting Techniques, Sparring

III. When You Need Instructors Permission

  • During the workout
  • During the remainder of class

IV. General

  • How to Address Instructors
  • Asking Questions During Class
  • When friends or family come to class and need to speak to you

V. Cleaning the Dojang


I. Bowing

Bowing is an important part of the martial arts. An improper bow can show disrespect or distrust and can mean the difference between a second chance or fifty push ups. Therefore time and effort should be made to provide a proper bow to an instructor, judge, or student.

Bowing Upon Entering/Leaving the Dojang

When you enter or leave the Dojang you must stop in the doorway and put both feet together and bow until your head is at waist level and then rise. The hands should be at your side if you are not carrying an object. If an instructor is present in the room you should immediately face the instructor and repeat the same action.

Bowing at the Beginning of Class (To the Flags)

At the beginning of class the students kneel facing towards the flags. In the kneeling position, the fingertips should be touching the knees. When the instructor gives the command “Kyung-yae” which means “bow” the students bow with their hands making a triangular shape upon touching the ground. The students rise when the instructor gives the command “Barro” or “rise”. This action is repeated twice during the beginning of class. The first time to show respect for the countries and style, the second shows respect for the instructor. The third bow is only a partial bow. When the second bow is completed, the instructor will say “see each other”. At this time the highest ranked student will turn to face the far corner of the dojang. The remaining students will place their fists at their side and turn their body towards the high belt to face them. The high student will say “Jung Sim” and bow their head only. The students will immediately afterward repeat “Jung Sim” in unison as they bow their heads as well. This bow also shows respect for the style and between students. After this is completed the workout usually begins and the instructor will ask the students to stand.

Bowing at the End of Class

The first three bows are exactly the same as the beginning of class from kneeling; however there are two additional bows from the standing position. Upon the completion of the third bow, the “Jung Sim” bow, the instructor will clap their hands. This is the command to stand up in attention stance. From this position the instructor will bow towards the students. The students will bow to the instructor at the same time. The instructor will then turn towards the flags and bow again. The students will also bow at the same time. Like all bows at the beginning and end of class they are performed in unison.

Bowing to Instructors/Black Belts

Whenever an instructor tells you to do anything from lining up to commanding you to do push ups, you must stop whatever you are doing and come to an attention stance and bow. The only times you do not bow are when an instructor tells you to begin or “She-jak” actions such as Tae Kwon Do or Sparring. A basic rule of thumb is “When in doubt, bow!” Never look into a black belts or instructors eyes when bowing, it is disrespectful because it means you do not trust them. At the black belt level they have earned that trust.

Bowing to Other Students

When facing another student for sparring, Hap Ki Do, or anything else. You will be standing in attention. The instructor will give the command “Kyung-yae” or “bow’. The students facing each other will then bow towards each other and look in each others eyes will saying “Jung Sim”. This bow is a bow and rise, you do not stay bent over.

Bowing When Black Belts Enter

Whenever a Jung Sim Do black belt enters the dojang it is the responsibility of the highest ranking student to clap their hands loudly and yell “face the doors”. If their are no other black belts present it is the high belts responsibility to bring everyone to attention and give the commands to bow to the black belt. If the highest ranking student is not aware of a black belt entering the dojang, anyone should clap their hands to alert them. From there the high belt can takeover the bowing.



II. Lining Up For class

Students line up facing the flags according to rank in rows of 3 or 4 students. The highest student is located in the far front right hand corner towards the flags (See figure). The student ranked below them line up to the left until the first row is full. The students behind them will fill up the remaining rows in a zig-zag like manner. Students should be at least arms length apart and standing in attention. Students line up with the person at the far right and in the far front of them. All lines should be straight.

For Tae Kwon Do

Students should line up similar to class, facing the direction the instructors choose. However, the lines are usually a little more compressed than during class and may even involve 8-10 people per row. Again students should run to line up.

For Yudo

Yudo actions require a student to fall or roll in various directions back and forth. Therefore students should line up according to rank similar to Tae Kwon Do, but allowing for more space between rows and columns to prevent accidental collisions with other students

For Hap Ki Do / Fighting Techniques

Hap Ki Do/ Fighting Technique actions require students to “pair off” to practice techniques. Students are paired off by the instructor. As they are paired off, they line up facing each other with the higher ranked student on the right side of the room. As another pair is made, the students adjust the line accordingly so that the pair with the highest ranked student is in the front and the last pair in the back of the room is the pair with the lowest ranked of the higher students.


III. When You Need Instructors Permission

During class it is important to provide an atmosphere of structure and discipline in order to promote learning and practice. The cornerstone of this principle involves the complete compliance with an instructor’s commands. In other words, if the instructor did not tell you to do something, you should not do it unless their safety is in danger. A good example of this is a student given a command to practice a kick. Even if the instructor walks away to work with other students they will practice the kick. Even when the student gets bored, they will practice the kick. The only time they should quit is when the instructor tells them or they can no longer physically continue the action or their safety is at risk.

During the Workout

During the workout, you are being pushed to improve your physical and mental abilities. This involves at times, strenuous exercise that may cause various levels of discomfort. The only times/situations a student does not need permission to do something is when they feel sick, dizzy, are injured, cannot breathe, or cannot physically continue. Upon reaching that state a student should bow to the instructor and step out of the workout to stretch, sit, or lie down. If a student is injured, sick, dizzy, or bleeding, they must notify the instructor immediately. Getting a drink of water is not permitted until the workout is complete. Students should only ask for water when they feel that it is absolutely necessary to their health. Students should drink water prior to taking classes to prevent these events.


During the remainder of class

Perfect practice and repetition are the key to making an action a reaction. Much of the training involves repetition of basic movements and difficult techniques for long periods of time. Though the main goal is to improve the technique, the other goal is to improve you self-discipline to force yourself to practice with the same intensity from beginning to end.

When you are asked to practice an action, technique, or techniques, that is what you practice. Students do not have the liberty of deciding what to practice. Nor do they have the liberty of asking for permission to practice another set of techniques unless it is a special situation. Discussions should be limited to the techniques and should be kept to an absolute minimum. Excess talking will result in physically uncomfortable exercises.

IV. General Manners / Traditions

How to Address Black Belts & Instructors

Black belts have earned a rank which is accompanied with a certain level of respect. They should be addressed as “Sir” or “Maam” depending upon gender. When you use their name they are addressed as “Mr. Last name” or “Ms./Mrs. Last name”.

Instructors holding the rank of second degree black belt have earned a special respect. They should be addressed with the title of “Sabumnim” (pronounced SA-BOOM-NIM). When using their name they are addressed as “Sabumnim Last name”.

Asking Questions during Class / during the workout

Students should come to attention bow to instructor and raise their hand if they desire to ask a question. They must wait until the instructor acknowledges them. A student should begin the question with “Sir or Sabumnim” and end the question with “Sir or Sabumnim”. Upon receiving an answer from the instructor they should bow properly and return to whatever they were doing.

During the remainder of class

A student should wait until the instructor is finished with another student before getting their attention (unless it is an emergency). The student will come to attention, say “Sir or Sabumnim” bow, and state the question beginning with “Sir/Sabumnim” and ending with “Sir/Sabumnim”. Upon receiving the answer, they must bow and return to wherever and whatever they were practicing.

Answering/Talking to Instructors

As a whole class – When an instructor asks the class for a response, the students should respond in unison as loudly as possible. The response should begin and end with “Sir/Sabumnim”. An example would be, the instructor asks “Does everyone understand?”. Everyone would respond “Sir, Yes, Sir” or “Sir, No, Sir” depending on the situation.

Individually – When an instructor asks an individual for a response, the student should respond as loudly as possible if they are lined up in a group during class. The response should begin and end with “Sir/Sabumin”. If the student is practicing alone or with another person and the instructor is asking questions about the technique, then the student should respond loud enough for the instructor to hear.

Talking During Class

Talking during class about non class issues/material is not permitted. Only during individual or pair practice for a technique is talking permitted and only permitted to comment upon the technique. Excess talking wastes valuable practice time and will result in physically uncomfortable exercises.


To prevent injury to oneself and other students, all jewelry including wedding rings, necklaces, anklets, bracelets, and earrings must be removed before class.

When friends or family come to class and need to speak with you:

Sometimes emergencies occur or friends stop by to see you at practice. It is important to remind your friends that the classes are formal and they cannot just walk out onto the floor and interrupt class. They should instead ask the instructor to get you if it is extremely important. If it is not important, the guest should wait quietly until practice is over.

Lining Up For Class

  • Flags/Front of room
  • Highest student
  • Lowest student
  • Back of room
  • Any direction chose by instructors

Lining up for Tae Kwon Do

  • Highest student
  • Lowest student
  • Back
  • Any direction chose by instructors

Lining up for YuDo

  • Highest student
  • Lowest student
  • Flags/Front

Lining up for Hap Ki Do

  • High Rank
  • Highest student
  • Lower ranked Students in pair
  • Higher ranked students in pair
  • Low Rank

V. Cleaning the Dojang

In traditional martial arts training the dojang or school is treated as a revered location. In fact, in many cultures one must first spend several months just cleaning the dojang before being allowed to train. The reason for this exercise is to teach the student patience as well as provide an appreciation for the school that they train. Looking at this from a more recent perspective, a person that visits your dojang and finds it dirty and unkempt will associate that with the quality of the students and instruction and decide not to join. Another more practical reason for the cleaning of the dojang is to provide a sanitary environment where people can train without fear of infection or disease.

Students Responsibility: Students are responsible for cleaning the dojang before and after every class. This involves using a broom or brush on the hardwood floors, mopping down the mats after practice is over, and hanging (if necessary) up the flags. Those that clean should sign their initials and note if they swept, mopped, or hung up the flags. EVERY student should take part in these activities at least once per week. Those students that clean should note that this effort helps improve your manner score at promotion which can help in borderline pass/fail cases. In other words, cleaning works like extra credit to some extent.