Ayr Aikido Club Dojo Etiquette and Training Guidelines

(Adapted from Aikido Shimbokukai Member Handbook)

The word “dojo” literally means “place of the Way”. Even if the training space is located in a sports club, school, or park, it is, by definition of the word “dojo”, different. It is a place where people gather to train the body, mind and spirit in a particular discipline. It is said that “Martial arts training begins and ends with etiquette”. This means not only that we start and finish training with a bow, but also that many other aspects of training must be tended to with attentiveness, awareness and earnestness. The dojo is a place where we train in techniques for the protection of life, and in things that deal with development of the human being, and as such should be approached with sincerity, respect and decorum. Though each dojo may have slightly different customs in regards to etiquette, basic standards are provided here.

 

Etiquette Guidelines

Proper observance of etiquette is as much a part of your training as is learning techniques.
Standards of etiquette may vary somewhat from one dojo or organisation to another, but the following guidelines are nearly universal. Please take matters of etiquette seriously.

  1. When entering or leaving the dojo, it is proper to execute a standing bow in the direction of O-Sensei's picture, the kamiza or tokonoma, or the front of the dojo.
  2. Shoes are to be taken off at the entrance to the mat area and zori (sandals or slippers) are worn in the mat area. Zori should be lined up at the edge of the mat farthest from the kamiza or tokonoma.
  3. Upon stepping onto the mat, students should bow respectfully to the kamiza or tokonoma.
  4. The instructor should be referred to as "Sensei" during class instruction, and not by first name or surname.
  5. It is appropriate to bow when asking or thanking a partner for practice and after receiving instruction from the teacher. When asking for advice or practice say “Onegaishimasu”, when thanking someone say “Arigatou gozaimashita”.
  6. No shoes are allowed on the mat, nor are food, gum, or beverages.
  7. Keep your training uniform clean and in good shape, and your fingernails and toenails clean and cut short. Remove jewellery before practice to avoid causing injury to yourself or your partner.
  8. Be on time for class. Students line up and sit in seiza a few moments before the official start of class. Use this time to reflect on what you are here to do at this time. If you do happen to arrive late, change quickly, warm up off the mat, then bow in on the mat and sit quietly in seiza on the edge of the mat until the instructor grants permission to join practice. Then, bow in to the instructor and join class.
  9. If you should have to leave the mat or dojo for any reason during class, notify the instructor. If you or someone else is hurt, tell the instructor at once.
  10. Avoid sitting on the mat with your back to the picture of O-Sensei. Do not lean against the walls or sit with your legs stretched out. Endeavor to avoid passing between people training together, or sitting between the instructor and the tokonoma.
  11. Please keep talking during class to a minimum. Try to learn with your body, rather than by discussion.
  12. Students should seek out partners and not passively wait to be chosen. Take an active part in your own training and development. Attempt to practice with everyone, and avoid no one. Practice with many people is necessary for well-rounded development.
  13. If called for ukemi by the instructor, bow from where you are, approach the instructor, and again bow from seiza, saying “onegaishimasu”.
  14. If you have a question for the instructor, never call for the instructor across the mat. Wait until the instructor is close by, bow and say, "onegaishimasu".
  15. If the instructor comes to show some point to you, sit seiza and watch. Once the instructor is done helping you, bow from seiza and say “arigatou gozaimashita”.
  16. At the end of class, students should straighten their uniforms and line up in seiza, as was done at the beginning of class. The instructor and students bow to O-Sensei’s picture and then the students and instructor bow to each other, saying “arigatou gozaimashita”. After that, the students should remain seated in seiza until the instructor leaves the mat. After the instructor leaves the mat, bow to each student with whom you have practiced and say
    “arigatou gozaimashita”.
  17. Sempai should assist kohai in learning proper etiquette as well as ukemi and technique. This is best done by action rather than only words. Kohai should earnestly work to learn the things their sempai are sharing with them.
  18. Weapons, uniforms and all equipment should be carried in a bag when outside the dojo.
  19. If weapons are placed on the floor, they should be placed with the tip away from the kamiza and the blade away from the training area. Never step over a weapon if it is on the floor. Instead, walk around it. Never use another person’s weapons without permission.
  20. Remember that you are in class to learn, and not to gratify your ego. An attitude of receptivity is therefore advised.
  21. The cleanliness of the mat and whole dojo is important. Please take great efforts to clean the mat and other areas after each class, or any time you notice something is in need of attention.
  22. Please pay your dues on time. Dues are not a fee for instruction, it is a fee for maintaining your status as a member of the dojo, and for ensuring that the dojo is able to continue existing. If there is some difficulty or question please always feel free to ask one of the instructors.
 
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Bowing

It is common for people to ask about the practice of bowing in Aikido. In particular, many people are concerned that bowing may have some religious significance. It does not. In Japanese culture, it is a way of greeting someone and of showing sincerity. Incorporating this particular aspect of Japanese culture into our Aikido practice serves several purposes:

Bowing is an expression of respect. As such, it indicates an open-minded attitude and a willingness to learn from one’s teachers and fellow students.

Bowing to a partner may serve to remind you that your partner is a person - not a practice dummy. Always train within the limits of your partner’s abilities.

While training is in session, you should behave in a certain manner. A certain level of decorum should be maintained, as is appropriate for a place where development of self and techniques of life and death are taught. You should always remember that Aikido is a martial art and, as such, deserves your full attention. Bowing is a means of acknowledging the importance of the training in which you are engaged.