Respect in the Dojo
As in all the martial arts, respect is the first requirement, for all others and yourself. This respect is vital in that it enables us to practice potentially dangerous and painful techniques with other people in a co-operative, non-destructive manner. The following is practical advice that will allow you to practice in any dojo (practice hall) showing proper respect, even in a very formal, traditional club:
1. Make sure your Gi (training suit) is clean, personal hygiene is exemplary, nails are cut short, loose hair tied back, any jewellery removed – for both your own and partners’ safety.
2. Wear something on your feet (zori are traditional Japanese open sandals) to cross from the changing room to the dojo and on entering, perform a standing bow in the direction of the Kamiza (shrine, usually a picture of the Founder.)
3. Walk to the mat, remove your zori and perform a kneeling bow (rei) again to the Kamiza. If you are late and the class has started, wait for the teacher to beckon you on to the mat.
4. Class starts with all the students in line seated in seiza (formal clubs line up in rank order.) The Sensei (teacher) turns and makes his bow to the Kamiza, the students do likewise. He will then turn back to the class and bow once again, everybody saying “o-nagai-shimas” meaning “please help me.”
5. While the teacher is instructing, all students remain seated in seiza which is the correct way to remain at rest on the mat at all times. If this becomes painful, cross legged is acceptable except in formal clubs. Do NOT sit casually or lean against a wall. When standing from seiza, right knee lifts first.
6. To begin training, pick a partner and make a bow. It is polite to repeat “o-nagai-shimas.” Lower grades make request to higher grades, whose obligation it is to help.
7. Do not leave the mat during training. If you are ill or injured, ask permission of the teacher first.
8. If you are waiting for more than a few moments, you should sit in seiza. If the teacher demonstrates specifically to you, again wait in seiza and perform a bow when the teacher is finished. This also applies if the teacher is working nearby, you may stop practising, sit down and watch if you wish.
9. NEVER try to force or overcome your partner, your duty is to protect them. Do not argue about technique, you are there to practice and help your partner, not impose ideas on anybody else.
10. Respect the higher grades. You can recognise them as they wear hakama (traditional divided skirts) from 3rd kyu, or black belt with hakama from Shodan.
11. When the teacher stops the class (often by calling “yamae” and/or clapping) stop immediately, bow to your partner and line up in seiza to await instruction.
12. The class ends in the same formal manner as it began, except that the phrase “domo ari-gato gozai mashta” is used, meaning “thank you very much.” Wait until the teacher dismisses you. It is then polite to make a kneeling bow to your last partner and leave the mat, bowing to the Kamisa at the edge of the mat and performing a standing bow on leaving the dojo. Replace your shoes to walk from the dojo.
13. No eating, drinking, smoking or lazing around in the dojo.
14. Aikido should be enjoyable to practice, not a chore. It is not a religion, rather a cultivation of the body and spirit, open to all.