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Dress & Cleanliness | Bowing | During Class | Your Attitude | The Sensei
Children & Pets | Explanation Of Dojo Etiquette

Proper Dojo Etiquette


dojo

The word dojo literally means 'Place of the Way'. The dojo is a place of learning. It is a place of respect, to keep clean and to care for. The dojo is a place to be made special for practising a special art. 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.

The following are a few simple rules which enable us to train together in the spirit of Aikido.

Dress and cleanliness

  • The dojo 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.
  • Always see that toilets, showers, and dressing areas are kept clean.
  • Treat your training tools with respect. Your gi should always be clean and mended. Your bokken, jo and tanto should be in good condition and in their appropriate place when not in use.
  • Your body, and in particular your feet, must be very clean before you step onto the mat. Keep fingernails and toenails trimmed.
  • T-shirts and singlets are not to be worn by male students during training. Only female students are allowed to wear a white T-shirt or singlet under their gi.
  • No rings, watches or jewellery of any kind should be worn during practice.
  • Do not wear heavily scented perfume or cologne in the dojo, although a deodorant might be appreciated by fellow students.

Bowing

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 the right training. image
  • Bow when entering and leaving the dojo.
  • Bow when stepping on and off the training mat.
  • At the beginning of each training session, the class lines up and bows first to the Kamiza (higher seat) and then to the instructor, saying onegai-shimasu, which translates as 'thank you for what we were about to do' or 'I place myself under your teaching'.
  • At the end of each training session, bow again to kamiza, then to the instructor, saying domo-arigato-gozaimashita which translates as 'thank-you for what you did'.
  • Bow when requesting personal instruction from an instructor.
  • When receiving personal instruction, remain quiet until the instructor has finished, then bow.
  • After the instructor demonstrates a technique, bow, choose a partner quickly, bow and begin to practise.
  • When the end of a particular practice is signaled, stop immediately, bow to your partner(s) and line up in seiza (formal kneeling position) for further instruction.

During Class

  • If you are late for class, wait at the side of the mat until the instructor signals that you may join the class. Then bow and enter the mat.
  • All students should be sitting in seiza with quiet attentiveness when the instructor steps onto the mat to begin class.
  • The formal sitting position on the mat is seiza. If you have an injury, check with the instructor, and if the instructor suggests, you may sit cross-legged, but do not sit with legs outstretched, lean against posts or walls, or lie down during class.
  • Do not leave the mat during class without first obtaining the permission of the instructor.
  • Never interrupt the class to question unnecessarily. Learn as much as possible through intent observation and concentrated practice. If you must ask a question, wait for an appropriate moment.
  • Do not call out or interrupt the instructor while he or she is teaching.
  • There should never be conversation of any kind while the instructor is demonstrating. When training with your partner, speak only when necessary.
  • For reasons of safety, respect and courtesy, it is essential that the instructions of the teacher be followed exactly. Many techniques are dangerous if not practiced properly.
  • Never argue about the technique. If there is a problem that cannot be resolved, ask the instructor for help.
  • Never interrupt another student's training to ask for assistance. Wait until the instructor is available to help.
  • It is inappropriate for a student (including a black belt) to offer instruction during class unless he or she has been specifically requested to assist by the instructor.
  • Never be idle during practice. You should be training or, if necessary, seated formally awaiting your turn.

class


Your Attitude

  • Always enter the dojo with an empty min and with positive Ki. If you think you know already, it is difficult for you to learn.
  • Never come to train when you have ingested any type of drug or alcohol.
  • Any negative feelings you might be harbouring must be left outside the dojo. There is no place for them inside.
  • Always arrive at the dojo with plenty of time to sign in, change into your gi, and enter the mat area at least five minutes before class is to begin.

The Sensei

  • The instructor is referred to as Sensei during class.
  • Treat every instructor with respect at all times.
  • Never compare one instructor with another. Every Sensei has something unique to offer - your job is to discover it.
  • An Aikido Sensei should never have to fold his or her own hakama after class.

Children and pets

Traditionally, the Aikido dojo is a place to train in an atmosphere of calm and serenity. Aikido training requires total concentration. Adult students expect and enjoy the 'get away from it all' feeling during practice. As children and pets are disruptive during adult classes, it would be appreciated if alternative arrangements could be made for the care of the children and pets at those time you wish to attend classes.

More explained on dojo etiquette.

  • Upon entering and leaving the practice area of the dojo, make a standing bow.
  • Always bow when stepping on or off the mat in the direction of the shomen and the picture of the Founder.
  • Respect your training tools. Your gi should be clean and mended. Weapons should be in good condition and in their proper place when not in use.
  • Never use someone else's practice gi or weapons
  • Always arrive at class early enough to assist with any dojo duties, such as sweeping the mat etc... A few minutes before time for practice to begin, you should be warmed up, seated formally in order of rank and in quiet meditation. These few minutes are to rid your mind of the day's problems and prepare for study
  • The class is opened and closed with a formal ceremony. It is important to be on time and participate in this ceremony. If you are unavoidably late, you should wait, formally seated beside the mat until Sensei signals permission for you to join the class. Perform a formal seated bow as you get on the mat. It is most important that you do not disrupt the class in doing so.
  • The proper way to sit on the mat is in seiza (formal seating position). If you have a knee injury, you may sit cross-legged but never sit, with legs outstretched and never lean against walls or post. You must be alert at all times.
  • Do not leave the mat during practice unless you have asked & received permission from your Sensei
  • During class, when Sensei demonstrates a technique for practice. You should sit quietly and attentively in seiza. After the demonstration, bow to Sensei and then to a partner and begin practice.
  • When the end of a technique is signalled stop immediately. Bow to your partner and quickly line up with the other students.
  • Never stand around idly on the mat. You should be practicing or, if necessary, seated formally, awaiting your turn.
  • If for some reason it is absolutely necessary to ask a question of Sensei, go over to him (never call him over) bow respectfully, and wait for his acknowledgement (a standing bow is appropriate).
  • When receiving personal instruction during class, sit in seiza and watch intently. Bow formally to Sensei when he has finished. When he is instructing another, you may stop your practice to watch. Sit formally and bow to him when he has finished.
  • Respect those who are more experienced. Never argue about techniques.
  • You are here for practice. Do not force your ideas on others.
  • If you know the movement being studied, and are working with someone who does not, you may lead the person through it. But do not attempt to correct or instruct your training partner if you are not of senior yudansha level.
  • Keep talking on the mat to an absolute minimum. Aikido is experience.
  • Do not lounge around on the mat before or after class. The space is for students who wish to train. There are other areas in the dojo for socializing.
  • The mat should be swept before class each day and after practice is over. It is everyone's responsibility to keep the dojo clean.
  • No eating, drinking, smoking or gum chewing on or off the mat during practice or on the mat at any time.
  • No jewellery should be worn during practice.
  • Never drink alcoholic beverages while wearing practice gi.
  • Your partner is not an opponent. Techniques are learned through him/her and with him/her. It should be a pleasure to be thrown as well as to throw. Each movement in Aikido teaches the principles and spirit of Aikido and should be practiced sincerely.
  • When changing partners during class, you should acknowledge both the partner you are leaving as well as your new partner with a bow.
  • Care should be taken to be aware of the ability of your partner so that no injuries occur.
  • At the end of class, the instructor and students bow to O-Sensei's picture, then the students bow to the instructor and to each other. Students should wait until the instructor has left the mat before getting up from seiza.
DON'T:
  • lie on the mat,
  • lean against the walls,
  • sit with your legs stretched out,
  • wear rings or watches,
  • chew gum,
  • have long finger or toenails,
  • wear dirty or torn uniforms,
  • leave the mat for water, etc.
  • Keep in mind that DOJO refers not only to the mat, but to the entire area inside the building. Maintaining quiet and practicing courtesy in the dojo pertains to all areas in the building.
  • When observing class, spectators should remain quiet out of respect for the instructor and practicing students.

class


You are welcome to sit and observe a class at any time, but the following rules of etiquette must be observed.
  • Sit respectfully, never with legs propped up on the furniture or in a reclining position.
  • No eating, drinking or smoking while class is in progress.
  • Do not talk to anyone while that person is on the mat.
  • Do not talk or walk around while the instructor is demonstrating or lecturing.
  • At the opening and closing of the class, sit formally at the side of the mat in seiza and perform the ceremony with the class. Remain seated until Sensei has signalled everyone to begin practice at the beginning of class, or has left the mat at the end.
If you are unsure of what to do in a particular situation, ask a senior student, or simply follow your senior's lead. Although there seems to be many forms of etiquette to remember, they will come naturally as you continue to train. Please do not be resentful if you are corrected on a point of etiquette. For each one is important to your safety, and to the learning experience.

Aikido is not a religion, but the education and refinement of the spirit. You will not be asked to adhere to any religious doctrine, only to remain spiritually open. When we bow, it is not a religious performance, but a sign of respect for the same spirit of Universal Creative Intelligence that is within us all.

The opening and closing ceremony of each Aikido practice is a formal bow directed to the shomen, followed by clapping the hands twice, followed by another bow to the shomen and then a bow between the instructor and students. The bows directed to the shomen symbolise respect to the spirit and the principles of Aikido and gratitude to the Founder for developing this system of practice and study.

The two claps symbolize unity, masubi. The first sends out vibrations to the spiritual world. The second receives the echo of that vibration and connects your spirit with the spirit of the Founder, and with the Universal Consciousness. The vibration that you send and the echo you receive is dictated by your own spiritual beliefs and attitude.

There is no right or wrong way in Aikido. If a movement obeys the physical laws of the universe it is correct. By following these laws, you are following the Path (the Will) of God. Therefore Aikido is not technique training. It is wisdom training.

There is no individual kata in Aikido, for Aiki is the harmony of relationships. On the Aikido mat you will find people of different social backgrounds and status, different cultures and languages, different political and religious philosophies. They are coming together, not to compete, not to press their own ideas on someone else, but to learn to listen to each other, to communicate through Aikido "kinship". On the mat we cannot hide our true selves, we show our weaknesses as well as our strengths. We sweat together, face stresses together, help each other, and we learn to trust.

Everyone is studying the same universal principles, and the essence that is the same in each individual becomes brilliantly clear as the mask of insecurity and ego is shed. We are all individuals, but we are all a part of each other. If you were all alone in the universe with no one to talk to, no one with which to share the beauty of the stars, to laugh with or to touch, what would be the purpose of life? It is other than life, it is love that gives your life meaning. This is harmony. We must discover the joy of each other, the joy of challenge, the joy of growth.


class


In Aikido training you do not win. In trying to win you lose. If you see training as competition you lose, your training partner loses, everyone loses. If you see life as competition, you cannot win, for eventually you must die. But if You see life as a process of universal creativity, you will never die, for you are a part of the process. If you see the growth of your body and your mind as a prelude to spiritual growth, your strength will last forever.

A mind of challenge is not a mind of competition. The greatest challenge is to challenge yourself. You must not spend your life searching for security. If you cover yourself with layer after layer of heavy armour, you will be unable to move, unable to fight and protect yourself and others. You will never feel the warm touch of the sun nor the sharp sting of a hard rain. Joy will be lost.

If you spend your life in the safety of a cave at the foot of the mountains, you will see only darkness. Your experience will be narrow, and you will never feel the sweet pain of growth. You must leave that protection and security and challenge yourself on the mountains above you. You must climb higher and higher. Your vision, ability and experience expanding with each peak. And as you stand open and unprotected from the wind, with the sun and the snow touching your heart, you will experience the grand panorama of the universe all around you. You will reach out and touch the galaxies, and perhaps you will touch the face of God.

Bushido is challenge and sacrifice. It is the power and strength of an independent spirit- A dependant spirit is weak and cannot sacrifice it's own selfish ego and greed. To be truly independent and taste the challenge of freedom, the spirit must be empty. In the final analysis, you and you alone are responsible for your own growth. You make your own reality.

You feel pain, you are afraid, but you are intensely alive. Climbing a mountain of frozen rock, cold, hungry, exhausted, you are alone with the sound of the wind. Give up and you die. Maybe one foot, maybe one inch in one day, but try. Life is the same, cold, hungry and lonely. You must depend only on yourself. This is Bushido. This is my Aikido world, the search for the top of the mountains.
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