Obligation Born of Gratitude.

“Good etiquette is good martial arts.” Akira Tohei Sensei

Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei

Photograph: Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (nage), Matt May (uke)

Guidelines For Dojo Etiquette

Being aware of your surroundings and how your actions affect others is fundamental to the practice of any martial art. Aikido is properly practiced with a heightened sense of awareness and respect for the Art itself, the instructors and fellow students. Having respect for others creates a safe learning environment in which students can explore the ideas and techniques of Aikido in great depth.

Aikido is a martial Art that is essentially Japanese in character, and as such carries with it traditions that reflect that culture. Practicing traditional Aikido involves a great deal of ceremonial bowing, but the bowing has no religious significance. Neither does it involve pledging allegiance or submission to any one or anything. It is simply a way of showing respect and gratitude to the memory of O-Sensei who created the Art, the Instructors who have worked to carry forward the Art, and our fellow students with whom we practice the Art.

The following are some guidelines for proper etiquette in the dojo.

Entering and Leaving the Dojo, Bowing
When entering or leaving the dojo please bow in the direction of the Kamiza or shrine, acknowledging the importance of the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Uyeshiba and other significant teachers of the Art. Be at the dojo early enough to comfortably change into your practice uniform, or “gi”, without rushing. Try to be on the mat at least ten minutes before class begins. When entering or leaving the mat area always perform a seated bow from “seiza”, the formal Japanese seated position. Class begins and ends with a “bowing ceremony” which expresses gratitude to the Founder, the Instructor and your fellow students.. It is important that you are a part of that ceremony. If you are unavoidably late for class sit quietly at the edge of the mat until you are invited to join the class by the instructor.

Personal Cleanliness, Safety
Make sure that your practice uniform , or “gi” is freshly laundered, your hands and feet are clean, and your nails trimmed. Please remove all jewelry before practice. Jewelry that cannot be removed should be taped securely to the body. For their own safety, as well as the safety of others, anyone suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs will not be allowed to practice. There is no drinking, eating or chewing of gum allowed on the mat.

Receiving Instruction
When an instructor is demonstrating a technique to the class students should sit quietly in “seiza”, the formal Japanese seated posture. If it is not possible for someone to sit in “seiza” they may sit cross-legged in “hanza”, but should never lounge on the mat, or lean against the wall. In either posture “seiza” or “hanza”, students should sit straight and be attentive to what is being shown. When the instructor has finished his or her demonstration students should bow in acknowledgment.

If a student has a question for the instructor, they should go to the instructor, bow and ask him or her the question. Students should never motion or call for the instructor to come to them. When the instructor has finished answering the question the student should bow again and thank the instructor.

Practice, Sempai-Kohai, the Dojo System
Always bow to your partner before and after practice, and again after class is over. After a technique has been demonstrated by the instructor junior students or “kohai” should seek out senior students, or “sempai” with whom to learn and practice.

Sempai have a responsibility to help their kohai understand the ideas and techniques of Aikido. Kohai should show the appropriate respect and gratitude for the willingness of “sempai”, to share their knowledge and experience. This is what is called, “The Dojo System”. Sempai may help lead their kohai through techniques and discuss ideas but should not take on the roll of the instructor. Long dissertations should be avoided. Further discussion can occur after class. Stay focused on practice and keep conversation to a reasonable minimum.

Always practice within the limits of your partners’ abilities. Be particularly aware of any injuries they may have, and be sure to take them into consideration during your practice. Never force a technique on anyone. Be aware of those around you as you throw or pin your partner. You are to a large degree responsible for the safety of your partner- even more so if you are of higher rank or more experienced.

Aikido Is A Gift For All People
Discrimination, exploitation or harassment based on race, age, gender, sexual preference, handicap, religion, or national origin is prohibited. Members should always act in a way that brings honor to the martial art of Aikido.

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