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student manual

The dojang is a formal training environment with special traditions that are unfamiliar to most new students. Many of these rules and customs will eventually become clear through osmosis: as new students watch more experienced practitioners, they understand what is expected in our school. This manual may help shorten the learning curve for newcomers, and even experienced students may learn a thing or two that may not have been obvious from their time with us.

This manual isn’t intended to be comprehensive. If it were, it would be dauntingly long. Look to other posts in the Traditions, Concepts, Stories section of our school blog for in-depth treatments of certain topics. Even better, bring your questions and observations to instructors. We’re always impressed when any student, new or experienced, is curious about the fundamental traditions of Jidokwan and the culture it comes from.

  • We train barefoot. Wear shoes or flip-flops outside the dojang but leave them just inside the door so they are not on the training floor.
  • There should be no unnecessary noise or conversation in the dojang.
  • If you see a fellow practitioner doing something (moving chairs, sweeping, etc.) offer to help.
  • Because respect and self-discipline are important when practicing a martial Way, use formal behavior and avoid foul language in the dojang.
Five Tenets of Jidokwan
  1. Loyalty to Country
  2. Respect the Elder
  3. Friendship among Peers
  4. Love Widely
  5. Practice Justice
  • New students may wear loose-fitting athletic wear that allows for a free range of movement.
  • Do not wear piercings or jewelry in class. Tape over a piercing if you can’t remove it.
  • When students join the school, they receive a dobok, the traditional uniform.
    • When you receive your dobok, remove the manufacturer’s logo patches from the top and bottom, and sew the Jidokwan patch onto the left panel of your dobok
    • You should always wear your dobok for class. If you do not have your dobok, wear regular athletic wear and stand at the end of the line.
  • Students should wear the following undergarments, as applicable:
    • Sports bra (should be white or black with no visible text or graphics)
    • Cup and athletic supporter
    • Undershirt, if necessary (should be white or black with no visible text or graphics)
  • If you need to straighten your dobok, turn to face the back or side wall, not the front of the dojang or any other student. Your dobok doesn’t need to be obsessively straight, so there’s no need to make constant adjustments while you train.
  • New students also receive a white belt, making them an “8th Geup” (1st Geup being the highest brown belt rank). The color of a student’s belt signifies their rank within the school:
    • White 8th Geup
    • Yellow 7th Geup
    • Green 6th-4th Geup
    • Brown 3rd-1st Geup
    • Black 1st Dan and higher
  • On rank test and evaluation days, your dobok should be washed and ironed. Warm up in regular work-out clothing, then change into your clean dobok for the test period.
Starting Class
  • Stop at the edge of the training floor, and bow to the front center of the room when you enter the dojang.
  • Only tie your belt around your waist when you are inside the dojang. Take it off and drape it over your shoulders if you need to leave the dojang during class.
  • Face the side or back walls when tying or untying your belt. As a sign of respect, do not straighten your dobok or your belt when facing the front of the dojang or when facing an instructor or any other students.
  • If you notice that nobody has swept the floor yet, do so. If you don’t know where to find the dry mop, ask a senior student for help.
  • When instructor calls the class to line up, arrange yourself in rank order, with the highest ranking student in the front right, second highest to their left, and so forth. Align yourself directly behind the student in front of you and with your toes in line with the toes of the student to your right. Black belts stand facing the class. New students or anyone without a dobok stand to the left rear of the room.
  • The instructor will give the command charyot (Attention) followed by kyongye (Bow). Students bow first to the black belt instructor, then to the other black belts. The instructor will then say the command: joonbi  (Ready) position.
    • Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and your feet parallel. Your hands should be at your belt height, in fists, held a fist’s distance in front of your body and a fist’s distance from one another.
  • Do not talk or fidget in line. If you need to straighten your dobok, turn around and do so (quickly) then turn back to the front and resume joonbi position.
  • Try not to arrive late, but if this is unavoidable, warm up in the back of the dojang.
    • After warm-ups, wait until the instructor gives you permission to join the ranks. When asked to do so, go to the correct position in the room, given your rank.
    • If this displaces other students, they should adjust the lines accordingly to make room, walking quickly and avoiding talking or unnecessary noise.
    • Habitual lateness is strongly discouraged. If a scheduling conflict makes it impossible for you to start class on time, discuss this with an instructor.
  • If you are asked to do a technique that you do not know, let the instructor know. If so directed, follow along as well as you can and assume that someone will work with you on it.
  • When going into front or side-fighting stance, have your right foot back unless otherwise specified.
  • When switching positions, take the shortest possible route.
  • Always step back into bahro (Return to Ready) with your left foot.
  • Maintain your most recent stance and position until an instructor asks you to do something different. Don’t relax or step out of line unless you are injured, feel light-headed, or have a similar medical emergency.
  • The black belt will give some commands in Korean. Here are some of the more common ones.
    • Kihap translates as “spirit/energy shout.” A kihap is often used to emphasize or add power to a technique or to provide protection when receiving a blow. Kihap at the moment of peak energy or intention while executing a technique. If asked to kihap while doing combinations, kihap on the last technique in the combination. You should also kihap when switching sides during drills, changing directions during combinations, and at important moments in poomse (forms).
    • Dwiurodora, turn and face the opposite direction. Always kihap when you turn.
    • Bahro return to ready position (joonbi).
  • Assume you shouldn’t speak unless an instructor asks you a question. If you didn’t hear or require clarification when asked to do something, it’s okay to ask instructors to repeat themselves.
  • When drilling in ranks, don’t leave the lines unless you have permission.
  • Training will be challenging, so don’t over exert yourself in the beginning. Remember to breathe and pace yourself. That said, always do your best, and try to be aware of the difference between putting your body in danger and merely being uncomfortable.
Individual Training
  • Use unstructured workout time wisely. Consider what is challenging for you, or what you haven’t worked on in a while.
  • Avoid using classroom time to stretch unless you are addressing acute muscle tightness. Don’t stop to rest unless you feel light-headed or must stop to remain safe.
  • Don’t leave the dojang in the middle of class except in an emergency.
  • Try not to take unnecessary breaks during training, e.g. to drink water, unless you need to. If you must drink water to be safe, do so quickly and return to training as soon as you can.
  • When you have a question for a senior student or a black belt, approach them and wait for them to acknowledge you, then bow.
  • Feel free to work out with other students. However, do not feel obligated to work with another student if you do not think it will be beneficial to your training.
  • When a black belt approaches you, finish whatever technique you are working on and come to attention (charyot) unless they instruct you to do otherwise. Never turn away from a black belt.
  • It is better to show respect by bowing than to accidentally neglect to do so when appropriate. When in doubt, bow.
  • New students and white belts may not spar.
  • Sparring is always non-contact.
  • We strongly recommend a cup and athletic supporter be worn to every class by applicable students holding the rank of 7th Geup or higher, in case they are asked to spar
  • When you are called up to spar, first bow to the black belt, then to your opponent
  • When students sit on the side during sparring, they should sit cross-legged or kneel on their knees. Students should not lean against the wall.
  • Do not talk when sitting on the side.
  • When you are called up, stand and walk quickly to the center of the dojang. Turn around and quickly fix your dobok (if needed) then face the black belt instructor and bow. Do not keep the black belt waiting.
Ending Class
  • When the black belt instructor gives the command, line up in rank order, as at the beginning of class. If anyone has joined class late or left early, adjust the lines accordingly.
  • Kneel, turn around and straighten your dobok. Then turn to face the front of the room again.
  • Geup level students kneel with their knees together, and black belts kneel with their knees apart.
  • When the instructor gives the command, turn to face any black belts who are not leading the class. Place your hands in the shape of a diamond on the floor, and bow.
  • Then turn to face the instructor who is leading the class and bow again.
  • Finally, the entire class (including the black belts) will face the front of the room. The instructor will give the command to bow (kyongye). While bowing say the words, “Thank you Mr. Choi” to pay respect to Choi Bong Young, who brought Jidokwan style Taekwondo to the US in the 1960s.
  • The black belts will turn to face the class again. Do not stand until you are dismissed.
  • Face the back or side wall when you untie your belt, then drape it over your shoulders. Before you leave, stand at the edge of the training floor and bow to the front of the dojang.
Inside + Outside the Dojang
  • Stretching on your own and/or experimenting with weight training or other forms of conditioning can help supplement your practice in important ways. Classroom training gives you tools to work with, but independent training in its many forms often leads to a deeper and more satisfying overall experience.
  • Taekwondo techniques are serious and not toys. Treat them as carefully and respectfully as you would any dangerous weapon. Never pretend you’re going to strike or kick anyone, even as a joke—your classmates will find it childish and tacky, and non practitioners will think less of our school and of martial artists in general. If you’re unlucky, someone tougher than you will take it seriously. . . since inexperienced students are typically the ones who do this kind of thing in the first place, they are especially vulnerable to learning hard lessons about playing with fire.
  • We encourage students to wear street clothes to the dojang and change into their doboks before class.
  • If someone rubs you the wrong way or exhibits behavior you interpret as dangerous or disrespectful, use your judgment about whether it’s better to ask them to stop or to report it discreetly to an instructor. Unless there is an immediate risk, it’s best to do this outside of class to avoid putting anyone on the spot. Our instructors will be careful to handle your issue in a way that protects you and is fair to all involved, so don’t keep things to yourself that are harmful to your training or the school as a whole.
  • If you plan to leave the school, we always appreciate it if you inform an instructor of your intentions instead of just disappearing. We won’t try to talk you into staying, or into justifying your decision, we just like to know when you decide training at RVTKD is no longer for you. Hearing the decision from you also helps us understand that you’re acting with intention and not just carelessness. Informing an instructor that you’re leaving also helps protect you from thinking “I’ve got to get back into Taekwondo”—but never actually doing so, until one day you realize you quit without knowing it. Finally, if there’s anything we might learn from your decision to discontinue training at River Valley Taekwondo, which could make our school better, we are interested in knowing about it.

This manual was drafted by Hannah Trobaugh as part of an assignment from her primary instructor, Z, who then helped edit the document.

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