Dojo Etiquette

In Aikido, worldwide, we use Japanese customs. To be welcome in dojos everywhere you travel and wish to train (and to give no offense) you need to:

  • Learn and practice basic etiquette in your home dojo, and
  • Observe the level of formality in use wherever you train, adjusting your behavior accordingly and asking for clarification of local customs, as necessary.

Bowing: We bow to show respect. It is generally equivalent to shaking-hands, except that it is also used to show respect for our predecessors and tradition. Also, in the context of the dojo, the bow is a ritual mnemonic action by which we remind ourselves to be centered, aware and present with the training experience. Standing bow is rei, bow seated in seiza is zarei. When to bow:

  • Entering and leaving the dojo (training room), bow in the doorway, into the interior.
  • Stepping onto or off of the tatami (mat surface), bow toward the tokonoma.
  • Opening of class, bow with class toward kamiza (front) wall and tokonoma.
  • Opening of class, bow mutually with your instructor, saying 'onegaishimasu', meaning 'please share with (teach) us'.
  • Also when you have received instruction, as a class or individually.
  • Beginning or concluding partnered practice. (NOT after each throw!)
  • Ending of class, with class and instructor toward kamiza (front) wall and tokonoma.
  • Ending of class, to/with instructor (reciprocal) saying: 'domo arigato gozaimashita, Sensei', 'thank you very much, teacher'.

Since some bows include the whole class, it is customary in some dojos to call the bow. The co-instructor or senior student calls these bows.

  • Toward kamiza/tokonoma with instructor in front; called as 'shomen ni rei'.
  • To instructor leading the class; called as 'sensei ni rei',
  • To your fellow students with whom you've trained; called as 'otaga ni rei'.

Ways to say "Thank you": (less formal) Domo, Arigato, Domo arigato, Arigato gozaimasu, Arigato gozaimashita, Domo arigato gozaimashita (most formal).

Forms of address: Learn and use traditional, conventional, Japanese terms of address in the dojo. Within our dojo: on the mat, address and refer to dan-level instructor as Sensei (or 'last-name Sensei'); elsewhere first names may be appropriate. Be aware that in some schools the term Sensei is reserved for senior teachers and there regular instructors are addressed by last or even first names. An alternative term of address less exalted than Sensei is Sempai. Other students may be addressed by last name followed by 'san', or first names. When visiting elsewhere, assume a more formal level of address for instructors unless and until invited to be less formal.

Joining Class Late?
It is customary to step onto the mat and wait in seiza to be recognized by the instructor and invited to join the class. Once so acknowledged, if you need to warm up to safely join the class activity, it is appropriate to do some warm-ups and ukemi before joining in.

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