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New Students  |  Senior Students |  Before Class  |  During Class |  Do Not's
The Sensei  |  Visitors and Parents  |  Last Thoughts

Student's Overview


New Students

image As a new student coming to a dojo for the first time can be quite daunting. Some people can take years to build up the courage to take those first steps before entering a dojo, then when they do arrive not knowing anyone can be a bit un-nerving.

Weather this is the first time you are undertaking martial arts training or if you have previously trained in another style, always come to class with an open mind and be willing to learn.

Aikido is unlike any other martial art in as much that in order to achieve progress and growth you must undergo change. Understanding change and learning to go with it rather than resist it to the fundamental key to learning this art.

Aikido teaches students to blend and harmonise with energy rather than collide and conflict with it. In order to be able to achieve this we need to observe who we are, what we do and how we do it. This understanding takes years in itself, but it is the journey and not the destination which is important.

Once you attend your first class the hardest part is over. Talking with the sensei (instructor) or any of the senior students you quickly feel more relaxed as you are made welcome to either watch or participate in the training.

But you have not just walked into the dojo at a whim, before you got to this stage you have researched what style of art, what you what to achieve from your training, times and prices etc. as training has to be able to fit in to your lifestyle.

As a new student become familiar with some of the dojo etiquette, this will not only get you familiar with what is expected of you as a student, but also helps in your preparation for training. Generally new students wait to be asked to assist, not sure what needs to be required to set up for the upcoming class. Here one of two things can happen; you as the new student can take the initiative and ask what you can do to assist or senior students can introduce themselves and invite you to offer assistance in one area or another.

Either way become part of the process, this quickly integrates you into the class and shows your level of commitment to training to both the sensei and the other students. Part of the etiquette is learning to become aware of what is expected of you both on and off the mat, prior to as well as after class. Don't just show up, sit around and wait for class to start. The dojo is yours too. Treat it with respect at all times including those who attend there.

The observation of basic forms of etiquette is integral to the creation of a respectful and attentive atmosphere which is conducive to learning. Below are a few key points of etiquette new students (as well as seniors students) should become familiar with prior to attending classes.

For a full list of dojo etiquette click here

Senior Students

image Seniors should take the initiative to make friends with new students and make them feel at home. Show them how to put on their gi and tie their belt, and how to bow onto the mat. Be ready to assist them during warm-ups.

Seniors, who are given the privilege and responsibility of guiding beginners through their first days in the dojo, should give new students a positive experience. Show kindness and patience. Through you, new students get their first impressions of aikido, the quality of the dojo, and your true character. If you show you care and show them what they can do (rather than what they can't), you go a long way to opening a whole new world to them.

Seniors should help other students with sincerity. They should show and feel true concern in guiding them. When helping others on the mat, we must all overcome the tendency to be too verbal. Mat time is practice time. Talking too much is a mistake. Keep your words brief and to the point. Although in the western world we are used to learning through verbal instruction, learning in aikido comes from experiencing it.

Seniors should allow students to complete their technique: they become frustrated and resentful if you constantly stop their attempts. They are learning what makes a technique effective and if you stop them from experiencing and expressing it for themselves you make true learning nearly impossible.

So, when you are helping someone, keep the talking to a minimum, be patient, and show kindness. Let them practice and learn. Let them experience the difficulty, the joy, and the value that comes from their own discovery. Your partner will appreciate it and think better of you for it. If your words are condescending and your attitude is bad, or you stop their attempts at technique, don't expect to make a friend. Treat them as you would like to be treated and you will not only get their attention but their respect and friendship as well.

Senior students should always set a good example in demeanor, etiquette, practice, cleaning and care of the dojo, personal appearance, and ability to smile.

For a more detail outline for seniors click here
and for information for Role of Instructors click here

In the dojo before class.

  1. Always arrive at class early enough to assist with any dojo duties, such as sweeping the mat etc... A few minutes before class begins, 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 training.
  2. Greet the sensei and other students on your arrival.
  3. Ensure your class fees are paid prior to every class and have the correct money if possible. The sensei should never have to ask for your fees. If you cannot pay for that class, discuss this with the sensei so an arrangement can be made to suit you. Never forget or assume you can pay next class. You ensure have enough money when you go shopping, so ensure you have enough for class.
  4. Your gi (uniform) should be cleaned and pressed ready for each class. If you have not yet purchased your gi, wear track pants and a white t-shirt.
  5. Upon stepping on and off the mat or entering and leaving the dojo, make a standing bow in the direction of the shomen (head of the dojo towards the picture of the Founder).
  6. If you are unavoidably late for class 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.

During Class

  1. Do not leave the mat during practice unless you have asked and received permission from your sensei.
  2. Never stand around idly on the mat. You should be practicing or, if necessary, seated formally, awaiting your turn.
  3. If for some reason it is absolutely necessary to ask a question of Sensei, go over to him/her (never call out to them) bow respectfully, and wait for his acknowledgement (a standing bow is appropriate).
  4. 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.
  5. Respect those who are more experienced and never argue about techniques.
  6. 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.
  7. Keep talking on the mat to an absolute minimum. Aikido is experience.
  8. 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.
  9. The mat should be swept before class each day and after practice is over. It is everyone's responsibility to keep the dojo clean.
  10. No eating, drinking, smoking or gum chewing on or off the mat during practice or on the mat at any time.
  11. No jewellery should be worn during practice.
  12. Never drink alcoholic beverages while wearing practice gi.
  13. Your partner is not an opponent. Techniques are learned through and with them. 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.
  14. When changing partners during class, you should acknowledge both the partner you are leaving as well as your new partner with a bow.
  15. Care should be taken to be aware of the ability of your partner so that no injuries occur.
  16. 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.

DO NOT:

  1. lie on the mat,
  2. lean against the walls,
  3. sit with your legs stretched out,
  4. wear rings or watches,
  5. chew gum,
  6. have long finger or toenails,
  7. wear dirty or torn uniforms,
  8. be dis-respectful in the dojo
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.

The Sensei

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

Visitors and parents watching children's classes

You are welcome to sit and observe a class at any time, but the following rules of etiquette must be observed. This rule applies especially to parents of children who come along to class and watch their children. For the duration of class the children are under the direct supervision of the instructor(s), please do not come on the mat or call out to your child.
  1. Sit respectfully, never with legs propped up on the furniture or in a reclining position.
  2. No eating, drinking or smoking while class is in progress.
  3. Do not talk to anyone while that person is on the mat.
  4. Do not talk or walk around while the instructor is demonstrating or lecturing.
  5. Each child is unique and are all at various stages of their growth and development in the art, do not compare your child with other children. Each child has their own challenges to over come. Aikido creates an environment that support and encourages each child at their own level
  6. When the child is ready to grade the sensei will inform both the parents and the child that a grading will be coming up and what is required form the child and the parent (if anything)
If you are a parent attending your child's class, please refrain from talking. If you wish to chat with some of the other parents please take the discussion outside of the dojo and respect other parents who wish to watch the class.


Last thoughts...

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.

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 the Universe. 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.

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.

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