Proper etiquette is as much a part of your training as learning the techniques. Awareness is the most important thing. Be conscious, not only in your training on the mat, but also in the way you walk into the dojo, the way in which you align your shoes, and the way in which you speak: all these are training in Budo as well.
The etiquette at the dojo may seem confusing at times, but if you carefully observe and follow the examples of the chief instructor and the senior students, you will soon pick it up.
For a chart of common Japanese terms encountered in the dojo, please click here.
Bowing is a practice of humility. It is a matter of respect for the founder of aikido, your teacher, the dojo and your fellow students, and to countless others who studied and suffered before you to help develop the techniques we now practice. The spirit of your bow gives it meaning.
As you enter and leave through the front door, make a standing bow (bow your head toward the kamiza). Remove your shoes and place them neatly on the rack. Then, do a seated bow at the edge of the mat. This seated bow should be done when entering the dojo for the first time and when leaving (before putting on your shoes).
Once you cross the mat (near the dressing rooms) you should do a standing bow to the kamiza every time you step on or off the mat. When you have dressed in your gi and are coming onto the mat to train for the first time, do two seated bows – one toward the kamiza, one toward the center of the dojo.
Students should be lined up in seiza and ready to practice several minutes before class begins. Before practice, the instructor and students will bow together to the kamiza and each other, saying "o-negai-shimas(u)" (please) and also after practice, saying "domo arigato gozaimashita" (thank you).
During demonstrations and when receiving instruction from the teacher, sit in seiza and bow after instruction is received.
Do not sit with your back against the wall (feet out) or with your back to the kamiza. Do not lean against the wall.
Keep talking to a minimum. Learning the art is done primarily through observation. Ask questions after class.
Please be on time. This is a matter of respect for your teacher and your fellow students. The door is open 30 minutes before class starts. You should arrive at least 10 minutes before class begins. If you know ahead of time that you are going to be late you should call the dojo to let Sensei know.
If lateness cannot be avoided then you must ask permission to be allowed on the mat. This means that if class has begun when you arrive, you should enter, do your seated bow, and sit in seiza at the edge of the mat and wait until you have made eye contact with the instructor. He or she will signal that you can come onto the mat. Get dressed quickly and, when ready, kneel at the side of the mat (near dressing rooms) and again make eye contact with the instructor and wait for him/her to signal you on to the mat. Do your two seated bows and then go immediately to join in (usually at the back so you do not get in anyone else's way).
Keep your body and gi clean. Trim your nails, and remove any jewelry before practice. Refrain from wearing strong perfume or cologne during class.
Please do not leave your gi in the dressing room unless you are coming back within 24 hours to train. Towels may be left to dry and then should be folded and put under the benches. Hakama should be folded and stored neatly.
It is the student's responsibility to keep in contact with Sensei (not vice versa!). This means letting him know when you will be out of town or if you have been injured or are sick and will not be in class as usual.
Bring a courageous and bold spirit to the dojo. The nature of this training is difficult, and one must persist.