The Aikido Dojo is the place where we cleanse and enrich our mind/body. Such a place offers effective use only when it is filled with feelings of respect, gratitude, right attitude, and positive mutual support; we strive for plus Ki in the dojo. When you come into the dojo, you will notice that everyone works very hard and sincerely to maintain these feelings. Any feelings to the contrary should be left outside the dojo. Following traditional forms of etiquette in the dōjō is an essential aspect of our training and should be practiced with sincerity.
You will find, if you remain with Aikido for long, that “Dojo Etiquette” is not a set list of rules, but rather a living attitude. Just as discipline is a tool to use only until we learn to love the thing that is good for us, so the following lists are a basis upon which to build our awareness of right thinking and right acting in relation to others.
Bowing is an appropriate way of showing gratitude and humility, while at the same time placing one’s mind in a state of non-dissension, which is necessary for right training. Bowing also helps us to connect with the ki of our training partner, which makes our throws more effective.
When to bow
- Upon entering and exiting the dojo.
- When stepping on or off the mat bow to the shomen to show your respect for the training space.
- Before class we bow to the shomen to show our respect for the dojo, and to the instructor to show our respect for their teaching.
- After each training session, we bow again to the shomen, and to the instructor, saying “Thank you, Sensei.”
- Bow whenever requesting or receiving help from an instructor or another student.
- Bow whenever greeting the sensei.
- When in doubt, a bow is never out of place.
On the mat
- The sensei is treated with respect at all times.
- Yudansha (students with black belts) are referred to as “sensei” at all times, on and off the mat.
- Never interrupt the class to question unnecessarily. If you must ask a question, wait until an appropriate moment.
- Do not call out to or interrupt the sensei while he/she is teaching.
- Do not leave the mat during class without first obtaining the permission of the sensei, unless there is an emergency.
- There should never be conversation of any kind while the sensei is demonstrating. When training with your partner, speak only as absolutely necessary.
- Never argue about a technique. If there is a problem that cannot be resolved, ask the sensei.
- When the sensei is teaching a point, do not attempt to move ahead to another point, thinking you know what is next.
- Make it a point to fold the sensei’s hakama immediately at the close of class. The same applies to all yudansha (black belts). No yūdansha should ever have to fold his or her own hakama after class. Any of the senior students will gladly teach you how to do so.
- The formal sitting position on the mat is seiza. During long explanations, or if you have an injury, you may sit agura (cross-legged). Do not sit with arms or legs outstretched or lean against post or walls. Do not lie down during class. These behaviors show disrespect for the sensei and the other students. These rules are also for safety; dangling limbs can be fallen upon or trip other students.
- Never be idle during practice. You should be training or, if necessary, seated formally awaiting your turn.
- During class, while standing or sitting, never fold your arms across your chest. This denotes arrogance and a closed mind.
- Never use the shōmen weapons for your own training.
Preparing for training
- Always make yourself aware of any particular needs of the sensei prior to class beginning. A bench, a glass of water, written notes, weapons, or anything else the sensei may require; these must be attended to properly, and placed appropriately.
- Before class, all students must attend to the readiness of the training space. The mats must be swept, and (if applicable) the shōmen assembled from the closet.
- After class, the mats must be cleaned. This means picking up walkway mats, sweeping, and sanitizing the floor mats. All students are expected to help.
- All students should always arrive at the dojo with plenty of time to change and help with cleaning, and report to the mat at least 15 minutes before class is to begin.
- If you are late for class, bow on to the mat and wait at the side of the mat until the person leading class signals that you may join the class. Bow and join whatever activity is in progress.
- No gum chewing or eating is allowed on the mat during training.
- Make sure your mind is positive as you enter the dojo. Any negative feelings should be left outside the dojo. There is no place for them inside.
- Always enter the dojo with an empty mind. If you think you know already, it will be difficult for you to learn.
- No rings, watches, or jewelry of any kind should be worn during practice.
- If you are ill or over-tired, do not come to the dojo; stay home and take care of yourself.
- Your body and, in particular, your feet, must be clean before you step onto the mat. All nails (both hands and feet) must be kept trimmed to avoid injury.
In and around the dojo
- If you go to train in another dojo, or another school of Aikido, do not attempt to impose your style of training upon them. Instead, try to grasp exactly what the sensei is teaching.
- Never put down another form of martial art, or any other form of self development discipline.
- A place of martial arts training should be kept spotless. If you see something that indicates otherwise, for example rubbish or dirt on the floor, don’t wait for someone else to correct it. This is part of your training.
- Treat your training tools with respect. Your gi should always be clean and mended. Your weapons should be in good condition, and stored properly when not in use.
- A pair of slippers is part of your training outfit. Shoes are clumsy and inappropriate when stepping on and off the mat, and barefoot is out of the question. Slippers must always be left neatly facing away from the mat. If someone’s slippers are not in order, correct it immediately.