Dojo Etiquette

One of the most important aspects of the study of Budo is learning to discipline one’s own behavior — self control. A prime example of this discipline is the etiquette practiced in Aikido training. Through etiquette, the student shows respect to the instructor, to fellow students, to the Aikido tradition, and to the physical objects and environment — the dojo or other practice area, the mats, uniform, buki, etc. — which allow one to train. Through etiquette, one studies another aspect of harmony. The practice of etiquette should not depend upon the correct behavior of fellow students: one need not receive respect in order to demonstrate respect for others. This is particularly important where the potential exists for conflict between students, or between student and instructor. In Aikido, we do not just study being in harmony with one’s environment; we also study creating harmony out of conflict. We cannot be responsible for the disrespectful behavior of others; but we are always responsible for our own behavior.Sometimes Aikido etiquette is confused with religious worship. Aikido is not a religious practice. Aikido comes from Japan, where bowing is a sign of politeness. In Aikido training we bow, or observe special ceremonies, as a part of our mental discipline.The basis of correct etiquette in Aikido is simple: treating others with politeness, kindness, and consideration. However, there are a number of rules we follow which symbolize the special environment of Aikido training, and help us to conceive of the dojo as a place apart from our everyday lives. Some of these rules are:

1. When entering or leaving a dojo, students face the front of the practice area and bow to show appreciation for having a place to train.

2. When entering the dojo, both students and visitors should remove hats and shoes, put out cigarettes, dispose of chewing gum, turn off radios, and stop any other distractions which might interfere with training.

3. When entering the dojo, students greet an instructor by bowing and saying ‘Osu!” Fellow students are also greeted with a traditional bow. This is customary in Budo as a sign of respect and reminder of our constant involvement in relationships with others.

4. Again, shoes should never be worn in the dojo area (an exception is made when students are doing heavy cleaning or maintenance work). Shoes should be placed neatly in the racks provided for them.

5. Within the dojo, the head instructor has the authority to forbid any kind of behavior he or she finds inappropriate.

Mat

1. Students should enter and leave the mat from one point only. In most dojos this is the lower right hand comer of the mat: watch your senior students, or ask them where the appropriate place is.

2. When coming onto the mat for the first time at the beginning of class, students bow standing to the front of the dojo, step onto the mat, and then bow from kneeling position. When leaving the mat for the last time, this procedure should be performed in reverse. Entering and leaving the mat at other times requires only a standing bow. Bowing to the front recognizes all individuals, past and present, who have contributed to Aikido.

3. After class has begun, those who wish to leave the mat or do something other than what the class is practicing should first ask the instructor’s permission. If the instructor is unavailable, ask the head senior student.

4. On the mat, the student should never shout, curse, or show other signs of anger. If a disagreement arises over the technique, the instructor should be asked to settle the dispute.

5. On the mat, the student should practice only Aikido. If he or she studies another martial art, – it should be left outside the dojo, unless the instructor explicitly asks to see it.

6. Students should never play around, wrestle, etc. on the mats, even before or after class. Aikido is fun, but it is at the same time a serious activity and requires a focused mind. Playing on the mats invites carelessness and thus injury.

Uniform

1. At the dojo, a training uniform — a dogi — rather than street clothes is worn. This helps focus attention on training.

2. Complete uniforms are preferred. Aikido study is formal; a complete uniform reflects the attention given to this study as well as offering greater protection for the body.

3. The dogi should be washed regularly. An unwashed dogi is unpleasant for one’s partners; it also reflects an unfocused mind.

4. All jewelry and accessories should be removed for training. This includes all earrings, necklaces, bracelets, watches, and even combs or hair clips if they have the potential to injure someone. Jewelry is removed for two reasons: first, it can be dangerous, both for the person wearing it and for his or her partner, and second, it is part of the external world which we leave behind for training.

5. Long hair should be secured in a braid or ponytail, for both men and women. In general, one should be dressed in such a way as to avoid the necessity of constantly adjusting one’s uniform or hair. One’s hands should be open, empty, and ready for training.

Class

1. When class is ready to begin, before the visitor’s behavior reflects on his or her home teacher sits, students line up in (kneeling dojo. position) in a straight line in order of rank. The highest ranking person sits all the way to the right; the lowest-ranking student sits all the way to the left. The line should be centered and straight.

2. A student who enters the mat at the last minute should go to the end of the line, rather than making others move aside for him or her.

3. Students should stay quiet and motionless once they have lined up.

4. Once the instructor has entered the mat and knelt down at the front, the highest-ranking student will call “Shomen ni rei!” This means “Bow to the front!’; the bowing signifies respect to the founder and other Aikido teachers who have gone before us. Next, the senior student will say “Sensei ni rei!” (“Bow to the teacher!’).

5. During class, students should engage in an absolute minimum of talking. When we talk, we cannot train, and we also prevent our partners from training. Sometimes students wish to correct their partners’ technique. It is the instructor’s responsibility to correct; the student is responsible only for his or her own training.

6. To ask the instructor a question, bow and say “Osu!” When corrected by the instructor, bow and say “Osu” or “Thank you.”

7. Training is always begun and ended with partners bowing to each other.

8. If uniforms become disarranged during practice, partners bow, then kneel down to fix their uniforms. Then they stand, bow, and resume practice.

9. When the instructor is off the mat, the senior student is treated with the same respect as the teacher.

10. After class is dismissed, students bow to their partners, thanking them for training.

11. When visiting another dojo to train, check the visitation policies, and remember that a visitor’s behaviour reflects on his or her home dojo

12. All cuts and sores should be bandaged before entering class.

13. If injured and bleeding during class, please leave the mat. You may reenter with the instructor’s approval after bleeding has stopped and the injury is bandaged. Please clean your own blood from the mat as soon as possible.

Other important aspects of etiquette deal with more commonplace concerns, such as paying dues on time. Students would not forget about responsibilities to Aikido, and to an instructor. The practice of correct etiquette is a fundamental part of Aikido training that should not be ignored.

Class Descriptions