Dojo Etiquette

The dojo is a vessel. It is emptied and filled each day with our collective spirit, and its character reflects that spirit. The dojo is a training ground, a temple, a sanctuary, and most of all, a safe environment in which we can explore ourselves and the areas of our lives in which we have not been safe before. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual safety are the cornerstones of a dojo. As we generate this safety through our training, the deeper art begins. This is the art of finding our way. The word dojo means "way place": a place where one studies the Way.

An explanation of dojo etiquette is included below. Please familiarize yourself with the courtesies described. Keep in mind that courtesy is a communication between human beings. Each time you bow or otherwise exchange a greeting, you have a unique opportunity to express fully from your heart the respect and caring you hold for others. This is your true nature.

  • Upon entering and leaving the dojo, make a standing bow.
  • When stepping onto or off of the mat, always make a kneeling bow in the direction of the Shomen and the picture of the founder.
  • Respect your training tools. Gi should be clean and mended. Weapons should be in good condition and in their proper place when not in use.
  • Never use someone else's practice gi or weapons without permission.
  • A few minutes before practice is to begin, you should be warmed up, seated formally in seiza, and in quiet meditation. These few minutes are to rid your mind of the day's problems and to prepare for study.
  • The class is opened and closed with a formal ceremony. It is important to be on time and to participate in this ceremony. If you are unavoidably late, you should wait beside the mat, until the instructor signals permission for you to join the class. Perform a formal seated bow as you get on the mat. It is most important that you do not disrupt the class in doing so.
  • The proper way to sit on the mat is in seiza. If you have a knee injury, you may sit cross-legged, but never sit with legs outstretched and never lean against the walls or anything else. You must be alert at all times.
  • Do not leave the mat during practice except in the case of injury or illness. If you must leave the mat for personal reasons, request permission before doing so. Although it is important to push your body to discover your limits, it is permissible to rest if necessary. Do so by moving to the edge of the mat and sitting seiza until able to rejoin the class.
  • During class, when the instructor demonstrates a technique for practice, you should sit quietly and attentively in seiza. After the demonstration, bow to the instructor and then to a partner and begin practicing the technique.
  • During class, practicing of techniques is normally done in pairs, with sempai taking four turns as nage and then four as uke. If there are an odd number of students in the class, a group of three may be formed, with practice proceeding by twos instead of by fours.
  • When the end of a technique is signalled, stop immediately. Bow to your partner and quickly line up in seiza with the other students. Never stand around idly on the mat. You should be practicing or, if necessary, seated formally, awaiting your turn.
  • If for some reason it is absolutely necessary to ask a question of the instructor, go to him or her (never call out), bow respectfully, and wait for acknowledgement. A standing bow is acceptable.
  • When receiving personal instruction during class, sit in seiza and watch intently. Bow formally to the instructor when the personal instruction is finished. When the instructor is instructing another, you may stop your practice to watch. Sit formally and bow when he or she has finished.
  • Respect those who are more experienced. Never argue about technique.
  • You are here for practice. Do not force your ideas on others.
  • If you know the movement being studied and are working with someone who does not, you may lead the person through it. But do not attempt to correct or instruct your training partner if you are not of senior yudansha level.
  • Keep talking on the mat to an absolute minimum. Aikido is experience.
  • Do not lounge around on the mat before or after class. The space is for students who wish to train. There are other areas outside the dojo for socializing.
  • The mat should be swept before class each day and after practice is over. It is everyone's responsibility to keep the dojo clean.
  • No eating, drinking, smoking, or gum chewing on or off the mat in the dojo at any time.
  • No jewellery should be worn during practice unless properly secured.
  • Never drink alcoholic beverages prior to attending practice.
  • Respond to new situations with common sense.