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Never Go Empty Handed

Karate means "China Hand," at least that is how I interpret it.

When I think of "Empy Hand" I think of the saying that "you should not go empy handed to a person's house." When you visit someone's house, particularly for the first time, you should bring an omiyage. An omiyage is a thoughtful gift. The emphasis is on thoughtfulness, not price.

This rule also applies to the dojo. When you visit a dojo, you should not go empty handed. It is best to bring a pie, cake, pastries, ground coffee, or something thoughtful. This is a token of your respect to the dojo and its members.

When any of my students plan to visit another dojo, I always say "don't go empty handed!" I might even send an omiyage specifically from our dojo. The students would also bring their own omiyage, unless they are visiting on my behalf.

From time to time, we get visitors to our dojo. I will sometimes ask my students to predict whether the visitor will bring an omiyage or token to the dojo. Unfortunately, many guests do not do so. It seems that the practice is most prevalent in Japan, Okinawa, and the east -- and students who study these cultures.

Also, a fair percentage of visitors who come to train (men or women) will wear jewelry, make up, cologne, etc., which is not permitted in our dojo. It is awkward for me to inform them of this.

If you plan to visit a dojo, especially for the first time, please bring an omiyage. If you are traveling, bring the omiyage from your home town, perhaps something special to your area. Then you can say something like, "these are macadamia nuts from Hawaii" or "this is sourdough bread from San Francisco." You get the idea.

Please don't misunderstand. I don't sit around eating sweets! The pastries or gifts are not the focus. They are just tokens. In fact, bringing a expensive gift is even worse than bringing nothing at all because it would obligate our dojo and members. We will have to reciprocate. An omiyage is a token of appreciation for being allowed to enter the dojo.

Remember, don't go empy handed.

And if you visit a dojo for the first time, you might inquire about any protocols followed, such as not wearing jewlrey.

See: Omiyage On Return.


Charles C. Goodin