Dojo Etiquette

Rules of behavior

In an Aikido dojo, the observation of basic forms of etiquette is integral to the creation of a respectful and attentive atmosphere which is conductive to learning. Although Japanese forms are unfamiliar to most Westerners, over a period of time they not only become comfortable expressions of curtesy, but also, as we come to understand the levels of meaning behind the forms, they enrich and further our practice. Most basic to these forms is the bow, a gesture of respect and gratitude. If students follow the dojo etiquette they will realize that behind it lies a far deeper meaning than first seems apparent. The humanity and respect needed to practice Aikido encourages a growing sensitivity to our environment and interaction with others.

Aikido is a living, growing Budo designed for the modern world. The physical aspects of Aikido, as awesome and beautiful as they can be, are only the outward manifestation of what is most importantly a real and direct way to improve the quality of our lives.

In the dojo, please observe the following guidelines:

  • Arrive at least fifteen minutes early for class, change smartly and help prepare the dojo (the way place), to help put down the mat, clean them, and do any other jobs required.
  • Students not training on the mat (but watching the class instead) should be quiet. If asked questions by interested visitors answer them quietly, accurately and with respect, but not at length.
  • A standing bow is done when entering and leaving the dojo.
  • The formal bow at the beginning and end of practice consist of 2 seated bows, 2 claps, followed by 1 bow, towards the Shomen (front wall of the dojo where O-Sensei’s picture is). The form and complexity of this ceremony marking the beginning and end of each practice varies somewhat from place to place, so in the case of a visiting instructor, his or her example should be followed.
  • Real effort should be made to be on time for class, but if unavoidably late, wait for the instructor’s direction.
  • Onegai shimasu (“please,” “I ask a favor,” or “I request”) and arigato gozaimashita (“thank you”) are the expressions used at the beginning and the end of practice, and so between partners at the beginning and the end of class, respectively.
  • The chief instructor is addressed as Sensei in the dojo and any other time and place. Yudansha should be called by their given name followed by Sempai. All kohai (junior students) should be addressed by their given names followed by San.
  • Gi (training uniform) should be kept cleaned and washed regularly.
  • Fingernails and toenails should be kept short for the protection of training partners.
  • The proper way to sit during class is in seiza – the formal Japanese sitting posture. A cross-legged sitting position is acceptable if seiza is impossible.
  • Students should not sit with their back to Sensei or toward the Shomen (wall with the picture of O-Sensei).
  • If it is necessary to pass by people when they are lined up in seiza facing the Shomen, walk behind them.
  • After the instructor demonstrate the first technique, students bow, chose a partner quickly, and begin practice. When the end of a particular practice is signaled (often with a clap or the word “tsugi,” meaning next) students should stop practice immediately, bow (standing) to their partners, and sit quickly in seiza.
  • For safety reasons, respect and courtesy, it is essential that the teacher’s instructions be followed exactly. Many Aikido techniques can be dangerous if not practiced properly. Emphasis should be placed on learning as much as possible through intent observation and concentrated practice.
  • Do not use alcohol or drugs before class.
  • The mat should be swept before and after each class. The dojo should be kept spotless.

Borrowed with permission and respect from Aikido By the Bay, who in turn borrowed this from Michael Field Sensei