Taekwondo Etiquette


This section details specific customs of etiquette within Shin Ho Kwan Taekwondo.  All etiquette should be guided by the Shin Ho Kwan Creed and Principles and arise from a sincere desire to show appreciation for people, places, and world that one is encountering.  In this mindset, much of etiquette may seem like common sense.  However, there are many traditional customs of etiquette that one may not be aware of that must be followed in a traditional Taekwondo schools.


There are two types of bows in Taekwondo: the standing bow and the kneeling bow.  Each has a specific way it must be performed.  A bow is performed the same way whether it is for part of the class opening ceremony or for greeting an instructor or fellow student.

Standing Bow

The standing bow starts with the body at attention stance with the legs and feet together, back straight, neck and head upright as if suspended from above, and hands at one’s sides, palms facing inward.  From this position, the bow begins by bending at the waist to lower the torso while keeping the back straight.  Simultaneous with this movement, the hands gently slide down and to the forward side of the thighs, and stop when the finger tips reach the upper base of the knee cap.  The elbows should also be slightly bent so as to allow for a slightly deeper and more respectful bow.  The standing bow is completed by simply reversing these movements back to the attention stance.

The kneeling bow starts from the kneeling attention position.  In this position, the practitioner sits with the knees and tops of feet against the ground with the upper thighs and torso resting on top of the heels so that the torso is perpendicular to the floor with the back straight.  The practitioner may not cross his or her feet, or rest one on the other, but the big toes may cross if desired.  There should be one forearm’s distance between the kneeling practitioner’s knees.  The arms are relaxed at the practitioner’s sides and the hands rest palm down, fingers inward, halfway between the practitioner’s waist and knees along the top thighs.  The neck and head should be upright as if suspended from above.

From this position, the kneeling bow begins by leaning the torso forward by bending at the waist and keeping the back straight.  At the same time this is done, the hands gently slide forward across the thighs in unison until they reach the floor.  The practitioner continues the downward motion of the bow until the person being bowed to is about to be lost in the practitioner’s upper peripheral vision (This way, the practitioner knows how long to hold the bow).  When it is appropriate to do so, the bowing motion is reverse to return to the kneeling attention position.  As the hands are retracted across the floor, the finger tips should linger on the floor for a moment as if being somewhat stuck.  This is a final prolonging of the bow to further honor the person being bowed to.  At all times, the rear end of the bowing practitioner should not move.

In both types of bows, the student should hold the bow just slightly longer than the instructor or higher ranking student holds the bow.


Fellow students should greet each other in a warm manner and call each other by their first names.  Students should shake each others’ hands in greeting unless it would be awkward to so: such as reaching across a full table.  The Taekwondo hand shake is the same as the standing bow listed above except that the right hand and arm are stretched out to shake the other’s hand, and the left hand is palm down under the right elbow so that the right elbow rests on the back of the left hand.

Blackbelts should always be referred to by their last names with the appropriate title in front (ex: Mr. Smith).  The title “Mr.” should be used for male blackbelts, and the title “Ms.” should be used for female blackbelts regardless of marital status.  Blackbelts of 5th Dan or higher should be referred to by the title “Master,” and blackbelts of 8th Dan or higher should be referred to by the title “Grandmaster.”

The Instructor should be greeted by bowing.  If the student encounters the instructor while the instructor is standing, the student should perform a standing bow towards the instructor along with an appropriate salutation such as “Hello, Sir,” or “Hello, Ma’am.”  If the instructor is seated at the time the student encounters him or her, and the student is a blackbelt, the student should first perform a standing bow and then a kneeling bow once the student has moved closer.  This latter practice should especially be followed when a student approaches a seated instructor in order to personally converse with the instructor.

When introducing people to each other, one should introduce the senior person to the non-senior person first.  For example, “Grandmaster Woods, this is Ms. Smith.”

Behavior on the Training Floor

Students should be attentive to their instructor at all times during a training session.  When the instructor addresses the class as a whole, all students should pause what they are doing to listen to the instructor.  If the instructor addresses only a few specific members of the class, the other students can continue training but should lower their noise level so the instructor can better converse with the group that he or she is working with.  After the instructor gives the class or an individual a direction, it is important to give an affirmation such as, “Yes Sir,” (or “Yes Ma’am” as appropriate) to let the instructor know that the direction was understood.  Upon receiving the instructor’s direction, students should comply as quickly as they can.  For example, if an instructor says “Class, line up,” then all the students should say “Yes Sir,” and promptly line up.

Students are focused and attentive in class

While in a training session, it is not appropriate for students to speak unless it pertains to the training at hand.  It is natural and appropriate for students to briefly greet each other while in class, but any other socializing should wait until after class.  There certainly should not be any talking among students while the instructor is addressing the class.  Students should demonstrate that they have come to focus on training and should respect the hard work and efforts of the instructor.  When addressing the instructor, students should always do so in a courteous and professional manner.

Students should carry themselves in a disciplined manner.  Leaning or slouching should be avoided since these indicate a lazy mind.  Students should stand upright and make eye contact while listening.  While speaking, students should speak at a reasonable volume and never use foul language.

Students of lower rank should demonstrate respect towards students of higher rank.  All students, including those of the highest ranks, should demonstrate courtesy and appreciation for all the other students in the class.

Students should avoid walking directly in front of the instructor during class as this blocks the instructors view and inhibits the instructors ability to see and help students.  If for some reason, there is no other way around the instructor and the student absolutely must walk in front of the instructor, the student should do so by placing the right hand in front of the chest, as if performing a centerline body hand block, and lowering the head and upper body while walking in front of the instructor.


As stated above, it is inappropriate for students to converse with each other during class unless it pertains to the training at hand.  Students should speak courteously to one another and avoid foul language or word choices that would offend others.

When speaking with the instructor, the student should be at the same level as the instructor; if the instructor is standing, then the student should stand too; if the instructor is seated, the student should sit as well.  The student’s word choice and attitude with the instructor should be professional and respectful.  It would be inappropriate for the student to speak to the instructor the same way the student would speak to a casual acquaintance.  Slang and abrasive language should not be used.  Conversation topics raised on the part of the student should be training related.  If the student wishes to have a non-training related conversation, the student should center the conversation on the instructor.  For example, instead of beginning a conversation about one’s own summer vacation, the student should ask the instructor how the instructor’s summer vacation was.  Students should never ask details about the instructor’s personal life unless they are offered.

Wearing the Uniform

The student’s uniform should be in compliance with the Shin Ho Kwan uniform guidelines.  The student should regularly wash the uniform in between training sessions to ensure that the uniform remains clean.  If the student’s uniform should come out of place during a training session, the student should briefly pause to turn away from the instructor and adjust the uniform before returning to training.  The student should wait until the instructor is done addressing the class or the student before fixing the uniform.

Behavior outside the Martial Arts School

Even outside of the martial arts school or training hall and while not in the company of other martial artists, the student is held to high standards of morality and behavior.  The student should always show courtesy and appreciation towards others regardless of social rank.  In appearance, the student should be well groomed and clad in clothing that is respectful and appropriate for the social situations the student attends.  The student should be respectful towards his or her community and towards the natural environment.

Electronic Communication

Students should be considerate of the instructor when calling him or her on the telephone.  Unless the instructor is expecting an important call from a student, it is inappropriate to call the instructor before 9 AM, after 9 PM, or on the weekends since calls during these times would probably be inconvenient for the instructor to take.  When on the phone with the instructor, the student should show courtesy by greeting the instructor with a traditional phone greeting such as “Yabusaeyo,” ( 여보세요) or a respectful English equivalent such as “Hello, sir, how are you?”  Especially if it is one of the first times the student has called the instructor, it is polite for the student to identify him or herself so that the instructor knows who is calling.  Conversations should be brief, professional, and focused.  The student should not hang up until the instructor ends the phone conversation.  A high level of courtesy and respect should be maintained throughout the phone call.

A similar level of professionalism is expected from the student when emailing the instructor.  Email messages should be concise and quickly get to the point.  An instructor probably has many emails to read, so it would be rude to send an email that is much longer than necessary.  The message should begin with respectfully addressing the instructor such as “Dear (Instructor’s Name),” and the message should end with a respectful end note such as “Sincerely,” or “Respectfully Submitted,” and then the student’s name.  It is also polite for the student to introduce him or herself in the beginning of the message.  Spelling, grammar, and punctuation must be correctly used when writing the instructor.  Professional and courteous word choice should be adhered to throughout the email.

The student should check with his or her instructor before texting the instructor to see whether or not this would be an appropriate method of communication.  Just as in the email, all texts to one’s instructor should use correct grammar and spelling, and should convey a professional level of respect and courtesy.

In all cases, it is in appropriate for the student to communicate with the instructor the same way the student would communicate with a familiar peer.  Causal expressions and word usages would be impolite when used towards one’s instructor.

Traveling in a Car

If the instructor is driving the car, the highest ranking student should be seated in the front passenger seat so that the instructor can easily speak with this student.  The second highest ranking student should be seated directly behind the front passenger seat, again to make it easy to converse with the instructor.  The student of lowest rank should sit behind the instructor.

There are many manners concerning arrangement of persons while in a car.

When the instructor is to be a passenger, the designated driver should always open the door for the instructor.  The instructor should be offered the front passenger.  If the instructor would like to sit somewhere besides the front seat, the students should accommodate the instructor.  If the instructor is to be driven somewhere and will be boarding the backseat area with other students, the instructor should be the last one to enter the vehicle so that he or she can be the first to depart from the vehicle once the party has arrived.

Table Manners and Seating arrangements

When gathered for a meal with other martial artists, the students should wait to start eating until the instructor begins to eat.  In smaller gatherings, assembled students should also not start eating until everyone has been served.  However, in large gatherings, as long as the instructor has started eating, students may start to eat as soon as they are served so that the food does not get cold.

Students should practice good manners while at the table.  Elbows should not be on the table while a course is being eaten.  Conversation should avoid personal topics such as money, politics, and religion.  Follow the above conversing guidelines when conversing with the instructor during a meal.  Students should be attentive to the needs of others gathered at the table, and offer to pass food or other things to others when things may be out of reach.

When eating with the instructor, the second highest ranking person should sit across from the instructor to better allow for conversation between the two.  Similarly, the next highest ranking student should be seated at the right hand side of the instructor, and the next highest should be seated towards the left of the instructor.  These seating arrangements would be the same while seated during a formal ceremony.


Be considerate while visiting

When a student is visiting an instructor, the student should be considerate of the instructor’s schedule.  The student should arrange a meeting time with the instructor prior to coming to visit.  It would be very rude to show up unannounced.  The student should avoid visiting early in the morning, late at night, at meal times, on holidays, or during other times when it may be inconvenient for the instructor to meet.  For a first visit, it is customary for the visiting student to bring a small gift or token of appreciation to the instructor.  The visiting student should not show up very early, and the student should never be late.

Guiding and Traveling

When traveling with the instructor, the student should be attentive to the needs of the instructor.  The student should walk to the side of the instructor so as to make conversing easy.  Holding doors, navigating, and other such traveling gestures should be offered by the student.  If a student should find his or herself in a guiding role, the student should maintain a respectful and professional attitude and never assume the role of the leader as the group but should rather be a helper to the group; the instructor is always the leader of the group even if the instructor is not navigating.

Behavior of Instructors

Instructors are held to the very highest ideals of etiquette, professionalism, responsibility, leadership, and morality.  These individuals should strive to be role models in every action that they put forth.  Instructors should lead by example.  Additionally, it is essential and appropriate for instructors to maintain a professional distance from the students and should avoid getting involved with the personal or intimate lives of the students.  Because students often put much stock into what ever an instructor does, an instructor should carefully consider his or her actions so as to avoid causing any harmful drama among the students.  Instructors should strive to be professional role models and leaders in everything that they do.

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