Dojo Etiquette and Guidelines
The study and practice of Aikido consists of more than just learning techniques–proper behavior and manners are also an important part of the practice. The following is an introduction to some of the traditions within the dojo and the Aikido community at large. These practices are not intended to be rigid or arbitrary. They come from a long tradition of proper dojo behavior within the Japanese martial arts, and they are an important part of the culture of Aikido.
This list is not complete. Your best guide to proper behavior is to watch the instructors and senior students. Please ask questions if you are unsure of something.
Start of Class
1. When entering or leaving the dojo, bow in the direction of the kamiza (the front shrine). This tradition shows respect for O Sensei, the founder of Aikido.
2. Take off your shoes and leave them in the entrance area. Wear zori (or sandals or socks) in the dojo whenever you are off the mat. This will help keep the mat clean. Leave zori neatly at the edge of the mat, while you are on the mat.
3. When stepping onto or off the mat, bow toward the kamiza. The most respectful bow is from seiza, the kneeling position.
4. A few minutes before class starts, line up in rank order facing the kamiza to wait for the instructor. Kneel in seiza, align yourself with the person on the right and meditate silently while you wait. Meditation calms the mind; everone in the dojo should be silent during meditation.
5. The instructor will bow in to start the class. When bowing in, first bow with the instructor toward the kamiza, then bow to the instructor after he or she has turned to face the class.
6. If you arrive late for class (any time after the class has bowed in), come onto the edge of the mat, bow toward the kamiza, and sit in seiza until you are invited to join the class by the instructor.
7. The instructor should be called Sensei (teacher) during class, not by first name.
8. Do not leave the mat during class without the instructor’s permission. (Use common sense in the case of an injury.)
9. When the instructor claps, quickly sit down. Listen attentively to the instruction. When the technique demonstration is finished, bow to the instructor, and promptly resume practicing.
10. When changing partners acknowledge both your former partner and your new partner with a bow.
11. Refrain from talking any more than necessary during practice.
12. When taking a weapon from the racks or when replacing a weapon, bow with the weapon toward the kamiza.
13. If Sensei helps you individually during practice, bow and thank Sensei before resuming practice.
14. There are a few traditions regarding rank and position on the mat. Senior students take the position on the right when lining up to bow in or out. It is impolite to walk between the instructor and the kamiza. When forming a circle at the end of class, leave a gap toward the kamiza to include O Sensei.
15. At the end of class, take a moment to straighten up your uniform, then line up and bow out as you did when class started. If the instructor leaves the mat at this point, the students should bow once more toward the kamiza.
16. After bowing out, you should thank the people you practiced with. Sometimes this is done by forming a circle, and thanking everyone at once.