Dojo Etiquette

Etiquette is an important aspect of Aikido training. Dojo etiquette is not merely an attempt to copy the formal politeness of Japanese culture. In Aikido, etiquette is an outward expression of your martial arts awareness. By observing good dojo etiquette, you will be demonstrating proper understanding of your relationships with other students and the martial aspects of Aikido training.  

Before Class:

1.     Always be physically clean. Pay particular attention to your hands and feet. Avoid wearing strong cologne or perfume.

2.     Make your body safe for training. Remove any chewing gum or other loose objects from your mouth. Keep your fingernails and toenails trimmed short. Remove any jewelry; particularly earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and heavy rings.

3.     Make certain that your gi (uniform) is clean and wear it neatly. Wear the jacket with the left side outer most and tie the belt in a proper square knot (usually tied below the navel).

4.     Make certain that the dojo, particularly the mat area, is clean, tidy, and ready for practice. Sweeping, dusting, and cleaning the dojo are considered to be a part of a student's training.

5.     Before entering the mat, acknowledge your arrival with a kneeling or standing bow towards the kamiza (the part of the dojo where O'Sensei's picture is displayed).  Please note, you should also bow towards the kamiza upon arriving and departing the dojo.

6.     You may warm up before class, but also try to sit in quiet meditation for a few minutes before class.

During Class:

1.     When the instructor bows to the kamiza, do the same. When the instructor bows to the class, bow at the same time to the instructor while saying onegai shimasu (oh-nigh-guy-she-mahss) as an indication of your readiness to begin practice.

2.     After the warm-up exercises and after the demonstration of a technique, bow to your partner before beginning your practice. Again use the term onegai shimasu when you bow to your partner as your way of inviting your partner to practice.

3.     Try not to be late for class. If you are late, kneel by the side of the mat and wait until the instructor invites you to join the class. Thank the instructor with a bow and join the class. If you have missed the warm ups, take time to stretch out at the back of the mat. Then approach any group of students and ask to join them. 

4.     When the instructor determines that it is time to stop or change techniques, the instructor will clap or announce it verbally. At that time, bow to your partner and move quickly and quietly to the edge of the mat and observe the demonstration from seiza (a kneeling position where you sit on your heels).

5.     If the instructor stops your training with your partner to provide clarification concerning a technique, move to a place that is safely out of the way and observe while sitting in seiza. After the correction, bow to the instructor, then to your partner, and resume practice. Avoid sitting with your back to the kamiza.

6.     If you should need to fix your gi during class, first bow to your partner to indicate the interruption in practice. Then face away from both your partner and the kamiza while straightening your gi. When you are done face your partner and indicate your readiness with a bow.

7.     Once class has started, never leave or reenter the mat area without asking the instructor.

8.     Always report any injury to the instructor.

9.     There is no shame in having to stop to catch your breath. Sit in seiza or cross-legged at the edge of the mat. (Never lean on walls in the dojo.) Your partner can join another pair until you are ready to continue.

At the end of class, straighten your gi and line up in an orderly row as in the beginning of class. Join the instructor in the bow towards the kamiza. Then bow to the instructor as the instructor bows to you while saying thank you.  Finally bow to your practice partners

Dojo Rules

1.     Aikido students must follow the instructor's teaching carefully; you must not compete to see who is the strongest. Instead, you should maintain a modest attitude and apply yourself to perform the techniques correctly.

2.     Students must practice being alert not only to the partner with whom they are training, but to people training all around them.  Students need to be aware of the people practicing around them so as to avoid accidental collisions and possible injury.

3.     Training should always be conducted in a pleasant and joyful atmosphere.

4.     The instructor teaches one technique at a time, with versatile applications that must be discovered by each student through continuous and extensive practice with cooperating partners.

5.     Classes typically begin with breathing exercises then gentle movements and stretches.  In order to avoid injury, you want to progress gradually with your technique and, when you and your partner are ready, move into a more intensive practice.  It is of the utmost importance to never force anything unnaturally or unreasonably at any time.   

6.     All practice must be adapted to the skill level, physical condition, and age of the partners training together. Aikido classes are attended by a mix of people. Beginners and experienced practitioners, young and old, men and women, can all practice Aikido in a pleasant and safe atmosphere.

7.     The purpose of Aikido is to train mind and body to be strong yet flexible, and to produce sincere, earnest people. Do not attempt to apply any technique in a manner that would hurt or injure your partner. Demonstrate techniques purposefully, not randomly, and only to other students with whom you are training under an instructor's supervision.

8.     The aim of Aikido is to develop one's most humane attributes - it should not be used to display ego. Do not compete with or hurt your partner.

9.     Strikes and kicks should be used only in those Aikido techniques where atemi is required. They should be practiced without contact to the partner to prevent injuries.

10.  Always practice the exact technique demonstrated by the instructor. While on the mat, limit your verbal corrections to your partner. We learn best through experience, not words. Use your ukemi to help correct your partner's movement; leave the verbal explanations to the instructor.

Ranks and Testing

Our ranking system is the same one that is used in Japan. It is based on a series of white belt (kyu) rankings which lead into a series of black belt (dan) rankings. The kyu ranks begin at 6 and progress to 1. The dan ranks begin at one and move up from there. 

In Aikido, the learning is continuous. Students of all rank are challenging themselves to improve and grow. Students with a more senior rank are considered to have demonstrated a capability to learn and perform at a higher level. With higher rank (sempai) comes increased responsibilities to train more sincerely and also to nurture and mentor the more junior students (kohai).  The sempai-kohai relationship is important because in Aikido, the progress of each individual is related to the progress of all students in the dojo.

On the training mat, adult students wear a white belt until they attain the rank of Shodan (1st degree black belt). Hakamas (the dark colored, pant-like, divided skirts) are after attaining the rank of 1st Dan.