Proper Dojo Etiquette
The Aikido dojo is a place where we cleanse and enrich our mind, body, and spirit. A dojo is only effective to you when it is filled with grace, respect, proper etiquette and positive mutual support. When you enter the dojo, you will notice that everyone works diligently and sincerely to maintain these feelings; so feelings to the contrary shall be left outside of the dojo.
Aikido is not a religion. Aikido is the education and refinement of the spirit. You will not be asked to adhere to any religious doctrine; only to remain spiritually open. When we bow it is not a religious gesture, it is a gesture of respect to the same spirit of universal creative intelligence within us all and in unison puts our minds in a state of non-dissension that is necessary for proper learning.
The following are some of the traditional forms of etiquette that are an essential aspect of our training in the dojo and beneficial to our daily life. They should be practiced with sincerity. The number sequence does not reflect the order of importance. All are to be considered as of first importance.
- Bow upon entering and leaving the training area of the dojo, in the direction of the designated front [Shomen].
- The opening and closing ceremony of each class is performed with a moment of meditation and a formal bow towards the Shomen. Then with hands together, two claps, another bow to the Shomen and a bow between the Instructor and the students. The bow towards the Shomen symbolizes respect for the Aikido spirit and principles, and gratitude to the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba for developing this system of study. Bows exchanged between the Instructor and students or student and student symbolizes mutual gratitude and humility for each other.
- Be on time for class and participate in the opening ceremony. Be on the mat a few minutes before class starts to warm-up and then quietly be seated in folded legs position [seiza].
- All students shall be seated in seiza upon the entrance of the Instructor and wait for the Instructor to step onto the mat and begin the Aikido class.
- When class has already started; quickly change into your uniform [dogi], then be seated in seiza at the back edge of the mat until the Instructor gives permission for you to join the class.
- The proper sitting position on the mat is in seiza. If you have a leg injury you may sit cross legged [anza]; but never sit with legs outstretched toward the Shomen, or lean against the walls or posts. When sitting in seiza becomes uncomfortable, bow then sit in anza position.
- When you are waiting your turn to train sit in seiza by the wall. Never stand idle on the mat during class when everyone is training.
- The proper training uniform [dogi] shall consist of a white jacket and pants. Belts shall be of white color, unless otherwise authorized. Training skirt [hakama] shall be of solid black or solid navy blue and requires authorization to be worn.
- At all times your training dogi shall be clean and mended. Your feet shall be clean before stepping onto the mat.
- After every class, your training dogi and other training equipment shall be taken home. No personal articles shall be left at the dojo, unless authorized.
- All training equipment shall be treated with respect. Your training weapons shall be in good condition and in their proper place when not in use for safety reasons.
- No personal jewelry shall be worn on the mat during class that may cause injury. Trim long finger and toe nails to minimize injury to others and oneself.
- No shoes, sandals or slippers shall be worn onto the mat area.
- No eating or drinking during class. Cigarettes, chewing gum, drugs and alcohol are also not allowed on the mat or in the training area during class.
- Please make sure that your nails are clipped, your hair is clean and groomed and your dogi is clean and mended before coming on the mat.
- No one shall be permitted to train on the mat when under medical care or under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol to prevent any possibility of bodily injuries to yourself or others.
- During training, if your dogi becomes disarranged, you shall bow to your partner then sit facing away from the Shomen to arrange your dogi. Stand, bow to your partner and resume training.
- Except in the case of injury or illness, no one shall leave the mat area when a class is in session. You shall first ask permission from the Instructor before leaving the mat area.
- You shall refrain from training when you feel physically ill or exhausted during class.
- All dojo etiquette shall be applied at all times. When you are at the dojo but are not able to train you shall still apply all due respect to your dojo, Instructors and fellow student members.
- It is your honor to care for the Chief Instructor’s well being. Your Chief Instructor shall be treated with respect at all times.
- Learn from your seniors the proper method of folding the Chief Instructor’s hakama and the placement of the Chief Instructor’s other personal items.
- There shall be no conversation of any kind while the Instructor is demonstrating or explaining a lesson of Aikido to the class.
- During class, when the Instructor demonstrates a technique to the class or to you personally, sit quietly and attentively in seiza, unless the Instructor uses you to demonstrate their point. After the instruction, bow to the Instructor then to your partner and immediately resume your training.
- Keep your conversation on the mat to an absolute minimum during your training. Aikido training is to be a meditative experience for yourself.
- You shall follow in accord to the best of your ability the technique the Instructor has taught to the class. You shall not attempt to move ahead to another point, assuming you know the present lesson and know the next point to be covered.
Stop immediately when a technique is signaled to end, bow to your partner and quickly line up with the other students.
- Students shall not discuss or argue about the technique to be practiced on the mat. Immediately request for the Instructor to resolve the difficulty.
- Never call the Instructor from across the dojo. If you need to ask for help raise your hand or go to the Instructor, bow, then request instructions.
- When another student nearby is being instructed, you may stop and sit in seiza to learn. After the Instructor is finished, bow to acknowledge the instructions and resume your training. Never interrupt another student’s instructions, wait until the Instructor is personally available.
- No student shall compare one Instructor with another Instructor’s teachings for any purpose on or off the mat. Every Instructor has some unique Aikido lesson to share. Be attentive and eager to discover it. Respect the instructions.
- Demonstrate your understanding of the technique’s movements by leading your partner through them as an uke and nage. Respect the effort made by your partner. You shall not correct or instruct your partner.
- Regardless of rank, you shall not correct or instruct another student when not conducting the class. Your personal idea about the technique need not be verbally imposed.
- All students, regardless of rank shall train with each other. Beginner students shall be eager and are encouraged to seek and train with advanced students.
- Advanced students shall be supportive and are encouraged to nurture and groom the beginner students.
- Pay close attention to your seniors, as it is through them you will learn the basics of Aikido. Pay close attention to your juniors, as it is through them you will learn and observe your understanding of the basics of Aikido.
- Please greet guests and visiting Aikidoka with courtesy and respect and extend an invitation to train with us.
- Express your care and consideration to the newer students to our dojo by treating them with understanding and courtesy. Share with them your joy of Aikido.
- It shall be every students’ responsibility to educate, inform and remind each other of the etiquette and policies of our dojo.
- Everyone shall participate in keeping our facilities safe and clean at all times. The personal character of our students and Instructors are reflected by the appearance of cleanliness and safety of our dojo. Aikido Misogi is an important part of our training and shall be attended to by all, before and after each class.
- Please help keep the outside of our dojo clean and in good order. Assure it is a pleasant. Have pride of place where you study you Aikido, internally and externally.
Your dojo is a sacred home from where you employ yourself to be a proper citizen of this earth. It is your responsibility to train Aikido daily, on and off the mat.
Rev. Zenko N. Okimura, Shihan
These are a lot of rules to remember, but they should come naturally to you in time. Keep in mind that etiquette means more than just having good manners, or just a set of rules. It means caring for your fellow students, your teachers, and your dojo. In every aspect of your aikido practice, try to show respect, courtesy, and good sense. If you practice with a positive and willing attitude, you will learn quickly. If you have any questions about etiquette or other aspects of aikido practice, please feel free to ask the Sensei or any one wearing a hakama (traditional Japanese pants). We appreciate your interest in aikido.