Basic Knowledge

This is a small, noncomprehensive list of basic knowledge and protocols. The art of Okinawan protocol is vast and taught in class every day in a traditional school. While it may seem like a lot of rules, at its base it is meant to convey respect.

  • How do you count to ten in Japanese?
    1. ichi eech-ee”
    2. ni “nee”
    3. san
    4. shi shee
    5. go
    6. roku rokoo” or “do-koo” or “lo-koo
    7. sichi  sitchee
    8. hachi  hachee
    9. kyu  “coo”
    10.  ju joo
  • R can be sounded as an “r,” “l,” or “d” sound.
  • What do Sensei and Sempai mean?
    • Sensei- It means teacher. Literally, it translates to have walked before or born before.
      • In our style, it designates a 4th-6th degree black-belt. It can also be anyone who runs a dojo.
    • Sempai- This is an assistant instructor.
      • In our style, it is a 1st-3rd degree black-belt. 
  • When do you bow?
    • When you enter a dojo.
    • When someone makes a correction.
    • Before working with someone as a partner.
    • When you greet your teacher or a higher rank.
    • When in doubt.
    • Never slap your hands along your side to bow. Place them there quietly.
  • How do you greet someone in the morning, afternoon or evening?
    • morning – 12:00p Ohayou Gozaimasu
    • 12:00-6:00pm Konichiwa
    • 6:00p- evening Konbonwa
  • What style of karate do you do
    • Shorin Ryu Matsumura Seito
      • Matsumura is a family name of two grandmasters.
      • Seito means orthodox/unchanged. This is Matsumura’s style preserved as perfectly as we can.
      • Shorin – pine forest
      • Ryu – style or methods handed down
      • Karate – (kara) empty     (te) hand
      • Do – way
  • Taboos in the Okinawan culture:
    • Do not aim the bottom of your feet at a higher rank. The bottom of your feet are considered dirty, and it is disrespectful to aim the bottom your feet at someone.
    • Do not walk between two people talking.
    • No whistling at night.
    • Never put your obi(belt) or certificate on the floor. The floor is dirty. This means that you don’t care about what was given to you.
    • Don’t point with your finger at someone.
  • Other Vocabulary:
    • Obi “o-bee” is your belt.
    • Dan- blackbelt ranks. Literally translates to man.
    • Kyu- ranks below blackbelt. Literally translates to boy.
    • Gi- This is your outfit. It is meant to be all white until you are a blackbelt, and kept clean and wrinkle free.
    • Hai- This means “yes” or an affirmation of understanding. Usually in conjunction with a bow.
    • Onegaishimasu “own-ee-guy-she-muss”- The most formal way of saying, please. Usually said when bowing to a partner or in the beginning to bow into class. It means please teach me.
    • Yudansha- A group term, referring to all the blackbelts in a dojo.
  • Who are the former grandmasters and teachers in this style? Our lineage.

Satunku “Tode” Sakugawa (~1733-1857)

Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura (~1797-1889)

Nabe Matsumura (1860-1930)

Hohan Soken (1889-1982)

Fusei Kise (1935- living)

Shihan Greg Lazarus (1956- living)

                                                                                 ↓                                 ↓

Mike Abrams               Kelsi Thompson

                                                                               ↓

Scott Thompson                                    .

  • What is Kata?
    Kata is the soul of your style. It was originally was designed as a way to practice and pass along karate in secret when Okinawa was under attack. The real fighting moves are disguised as bunkai, or a disguised move. When practiced altogether these moves form a sequence or routine. Students will take days to learn a kata, but a lifetime to understand and master it. 
  • Protocols Outside the Dojo
    • Karate, in its purest form, is not an activity that you practice and leave in the dojo. It is a lifelong dedication and the protocols are maintained outside of the dojo.
    • Maintain bowing to your yudansha (blackbelts).
    • Do not point your chopsticks at anyone. Even when you set them on your plate, do not have the dirty ends aimed at someone, especially a higher rank.
    • The highest rank orders their drinks and food first. They also take a sip of their drink first and take a bite of their food first. It is just a way to show respect and is how meals are served in Okinawa, Japan, to the grandmaster.
    • Toasting a drink is done in a particular way. You put your left hand under your glass and make sure your glass is lower than the higher ranks’ glass when they touch and you say a toast, “kumpai!”
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