Dojo Etiquette


Fundamentals of Mind, Body and Spirit Harmony

In an Aikido dojo, the observation of basic forms of etiquette is integral to the creation of a respectful and attentive atmosphere which is conducive to learning. Although Japanese forms are unfamiliar to most Westerners, over a period of time, they not only become comfortable expressions of courtesy, but also, as we come to understand the levels of meaning behind the forms, they can enrich and further our practice. Most central of these practices is a bow, a gesture of respect and gratitude.

In a broader sense etiquette facilitates the development of "Zan Shin" the state of relaxed and compassionate present moment awareness. Aikido has been called the art of the development of mind, body and spirit harmony with oneself, "attackers" and the world. Developing relaxed and compassionate present moment awareness is the spiritual aspect of Aikido. What follows are some of the fundamental "nuts and bolts" explained in a mostly Western way.

Cultivating Our Appreciation of Others & Thereby Ourselves | Point of View | Efficient Learning | Practice Etiquette

Be on time for class, preferably early.

Please remove all jewelry and keep your toe and finger nails short.

Make sure your feet are clean before stepping on the mat.

The mat should be swept before each class. It is the student’s responsibility to keep the dojo clean. Dojo literally means "place of the way". It should be a place for misogi i.e. purification, a place for overcoming the discord within our selves, our sincere personal work.

Wear clothes which allow light grappling and can withstand the friction of your knees against the mat.

Upon entering and leaving the dojo do a standing bow toward the shomen. Always walk around the periphery of the mat when class is already in progress. If you must cross in front of the shomen bow your head as you pass it.

Bow when stepping on and off the mat when getting a drink of water or for other urgent reasons.

Class is begun and ended with a seated bow to both the shomen and the sensei.

Bowing is a form of practicing respect for Aikido, O’Sensei, the dojo, sensei, your training partners and thereby your self. Alone the bow is but a hollow shell. It is the spirit or intention in which the bow is done that gives it value and meaning.

lf you are late, bow in alone (2 bows and 2 claps) and wait for the instructor to notice that you are entering the class by saying "onegaishimas" to you.

The proper way to sit during class is in seiza, formal Japanese sitting posture. Sitting with legs crossed in a "tayIor’s" position is OK too. Slumping, leaning or taking up a lot of space is not conducive to the practice of balance or centering.

Before and after training with your partner thank them with a standing bow. Do this also when the teacher gives you or your training pair/small group instruction.

lf you need to leave the mat during class tell the instructor and bow to them before you leave so that they know every thing is OK with you.

During class address the instructor as sensei and black belt students as sempai.

When awaiting your turn while training in a threesome or small group remain standing and alert so no one falls on you or on others because of you.

Do not lean against the wall when you are not directly involved with part of the class.

Do not turn your back to your partner(s) unless you’ve bowed out of the situation.

Carefully follow the Instructor’s teaching and do not compete to see who is the strongest.

Aikido is a way that teaches how to deal with several aggressors. Train yourself to be alert mentally and physically in all your training, especially during class.

Never force anything unnaturally or unreasonably. If this rule is followed, then no one will hurt themselves and we can all train in a pleasant and joyful atmosphere.

Point of View

Aikido is much more than just a physical form of self defense. It is a physical, mental, and spiritual path for growth and development, hence the greatest understanding and benefit for your partner is gained when each motion is done with your whole body, mind, and spirit.

Cherish your partners’ ukemi and learn to be the best uke you can possibly be. Being the nage is one half of Aikido and being uke is the other half. If one had to choose only one half of Aikido to learn the uke half would be the half to choose. It teaches more Aikido than the nage side.

We are all on the path (way or "Do") together. Cherish beginners and people with less Aikido experience than you. They are like brand new pieces of sand paper with which you can sand down your stuck places on the path. Also, you were a beginner like them once and your seniors and Sensei passed on to you what was passed on to them. Teaching is hard and very effective learning.

lf you’re having a hard time making a technique work, change what you’re doing 1st and then look at your partner’s job as uke with great respect. Usually our Aikido, not our partners’ is where we get stuck.

 Efficient Learning

There are many plateaus in Aikido progress and occasional "big shifts". Training in 2 and optimally 3 classes per week is best.

Do not let your absences keep you from coming back to train. If you have to miss classes for a week or even a year you deserve no blame or reproach and you will always be cheerfully welcomed back

lf you and your partner get confused (a normal part of progress!) keep training especially if how you are doing the technique seems "not right" until the instructor can get over to assist you in turn. Try hard and make lots of mistakes. The less you hold back by trying to "do it right" the more you learn.

Pay close attention to instruction given to your training partner. This is both respectful and a good opportunity to learn.

Practice outside class alone or with a friend, no matter how incorrect your techniques seem, is worth 10 times the repetitions of techniques you do in class. Take charge of your training!!

lf you start a technique and realize you are doing the wrong one, complete the one you started so you develop a habit of practicing with closure rather than fragmentation.

Watch the instructor’s and senior students’ hands and feet in particular. If you can only remember one aspect make it the footwork.

Always go 2nd as nage when your partner has even the slightest more experience than you. "Be uke 1st and ask questions later".

lf you can’t do a technique the way you think is correct, change what you are doing 1 St. Then, with great respect, consider your partner’s ukemi. Usually our own Aikido, not our partners’, is where we get stuck. "True victory is self victory" - - O’Sensei.

Etiquette for Practicing Aikido
By Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido

1.  In Aikido, one blow can determine life or death. when practicing, obey your instructor, and do not engage in useless contests of strength.

2.  Aikido is an art in which a person learns to deal with not only one but multiple attackers. It therefore requires that you practice at all times with careful awareness not only in front of you but in all directions.

3.  Practice at all times with the feeling of pleasurable exhilaration.

4.  The teachings of your instructor constitute only a small fraction of what you will learn. Your mastery of each movement will depend almost entirely on individual, earnest practice.

5.  Daily practice begins with light movements of the body, gradually increasing in intensity and strength. There must be no excessive strain. That is why an elderly person can continue to train pleasurably without bodily harm and will attain the goal of his or her training.

6.  The purpose of Aikido is to train both body and mind and to develop a person’s sincerity. All Aikido techniques are secret in nature and are not to be idly revealed to others in public, not shown to rowdy or unprincipled people who will misuse them.

  This page was last updated on 01/02/10 07:31:09 PM