Dojo Protocol

The observance of etiquette in Aikido is essential to training. It draws us towards a cultural understanding of Japan and the principles of Japanese teaching methodology. For the most part, it is a system of respect and courtesy, something not to be taken lightly in Aikido training. At first, etiquette will seem strange and somewhat complex.

It is best to develop your sense of etiquette as you train. While some of the procedures of etiquette may not make sense at first, it is important to realize they are part of a highly developed social system of values and samurai traditions. As you train, you will come to understand etiquette in a much larger sense. Many students, in fact, eventually adopt the principles and precepts of etiquette into their everyday lives. In short, our practice of correct etiquette may be thought of as courtesy or kindness, and an extension of our Aikido training not to be overlooked.

  • When entering or leaving a dojo we face the front of the practice area and bow. We use this bow as the opportunity to remind ourselves to be grateful for this place to train.
  • We take off our hats and shoes, dispose of chewing gum, and stop any other distracting practices that might interfere with our training or others’ training. Grateful for the opportunity to study Aikido, we want to focus all our attention and energy on that one task. Visitors are also expected to observe all these guidelines of conduct.
  • At the dojo, it is customary that we take off our street clothes and put on a training uniform (a dogi, if possible,). This helps us shed our outside concerns and focus our attention on our current task – Aikido training. However, we understand that our accommodations do not always allow for this. At a minimal, it is recommended that your dogi be covered up while outside the dojo.
  • Complete uniforms are preferred. Our study is a formal one, and the completeness of our dress reflects the attention we give to our study. A complete uniform also affords greater protection to our bodies. (note: Hakama is worn by sensei’s only)
  • Uniforms must be kept clean. Finger and toes nails must be kept at a safe length to avoid injury to ourselves and others. Good personal hygiene is a must as we are in constant contact with each other.
  • All jewelry and watches must be removed before practice.
  • It is highly recommended that each student keep a small towel tucked within their dogi. This is to be used for wiping up perspiration from yourself and the mat. A clean mat is a healthy mat.
  • When we greet a fellow student or an instructor, we greet them with a traditional bow. This is customary in the practice of Japanese Budo. Bowing is also a sign of trust and humility and reminds us that we are unendingly involved in a relationship with the people around us.
  • When coming onto or leaving the practice mat, we bow again to the front of the dojo. This expresses our intent to concentrate fully on our Aikido training, and acts as recognition of all the individuals, past and present, who have contributed to Aikido.
  • Equipment bags, footwear, etc, such should also be placed neatly in the designated area of the dojo.
  • When class is ready to begin, before the instructor sits, the students line up sitting in seiza in a straight line. The person to your right should be of equal or higher rank; the person to your left should be of equal or lower rank. When the students line up, the most senior student and the most junior student should be the same distance from their sides of the mat. This way, when the instructor is at the front of the class, a triangle is formed.
  • The highest ranking student will give the command, “Shomen ni rei.” This means “bow to the front” and is a sign of respect to the founder and to the traditions of Aikido (if instructor is facing the front). The same student then will say, “Sensei ni rei,” which means “bow to the teacher.” These bows to the front and to the instructor are repeated in the same order and manner to end the class. (protocol will vary from time to time)
  • When a technique is being taught, the students kneel quickly.
  • During the class, any student wishing or needing to leave the mat or practice should do so quietly. As a rule, one must first ask the permission of the instructor, however, we believe this practice to be a bit much. We do ask if a student needs to leave class early, he or she should notify sensei before class begins.
  • Students should be on the mat and ready to start class at the designated start time. If a student shows up late for class, it is customary that the student remain at the edge of the mat and wait for permission to join the class. Again, we believe this to be a bit much as we understand that there are times when getting to the dojo on time is just not possible, so we ask that you quietly bow onto the mat.
  • Always begin and end your training with your partner by bowing to each other.
  • Never shout, curse or become angry on the mat. If there is a disagreement, ask the instructor what is right.
  • When the instructor is off the mat, treat the senior student with the same respect you do the teacher.
  • When the class is ending, the students quickly line up and kneel, before the instructor sits.
  • Students remain kneeling until the instructor has left the mat.
  • Students should wait for the class to be dismissed, then find their partner and bow to him or her, thanking their partner for training with them.

Special Notes:
It is requested that any current or future student of Stafford Martial Arts Academy inform sensei of any special needs. We can’t help you if we don’t know there is a problem.