Aikido Training & Etiquette
These are our basic rules of practice and conduct at Aikido:
• It is respectful to address the instructor of the class as “Sensei” while on the mat.
• If the instructor is explaining something to you during practice, do not speak. Listen carefully. Watch closely.
• If you are late for class, wait at the edge of the mat for the instructor’s permission to join the class.
• Setting up the Dojo before class, and cleaning it up afterward, is part of training.
• Make sure your Gi is clean and in good repair before class.
• Do not wear any jewellery without the instructor’s permission.
• Avoid competition during class.
• Do not practice if you have a contagious illness of any kind.
• Avoid talking during practice.
• Be aware of your surroundings. It is the responsibility of Uke and Nage to avoid accidents during practice. This especially applies when the mat is crowded.
• If you fall ill, or if any injury occurs during class, notify the instructor immediately. Do not resume practice without speaking to the instructor.
• If you must leave the mat during class, speak to the instructor first.
• Ensure your hands and feet are clean before class. Keep the mat clean by wearing zori, sandals or slippers when in the Dojo.
• Keep your finger and toe nails trimmed.
• If you must miss class for more than four weeks due to vacation or for any other reason, please notify the instructor in advance. Your membership will be extended for the period of time that you are absent.
• When observing class, please remain quiet and non-disruptive out of respect for the instructor and students.
If you have any questions about behavior or general etiquette in the Dojo, please do not hesitate to ask a senior student.
Preserving Authenticity in Aikido Training
by Y. Kawahara, Shihan, 8th Dan
The marital art is a way of facilitating spiritual growth through training in martial techniques. Bujutsu or martial discipline is a physical education as a guide to the Way of Being. However, the traditional Japanese martial training developed out of the need for self-protection and overcoming the opponent. In this respect, I have a concern about Aikido students’ attitudes toward martial training. I get the impression that some people neglect the martial aspect of the art and get carried away with the philosophical aspect. Without understanding the martial spirit inherent in martial training, some create a pseudo-martial art by simply seeking a feeling of harmony. However, you cannot dilute or disregard the strictly martial side of Aikido, including the manners by which you relate to your instructor and fellow practitioners.
Therefore, I wish to remind students of some basic manners on and off the mats, such as the following:
1. Show respect to the instructor and senior practitioners. Some people seem to believe they are entitled to practice in their own way as long as they pay their fees. They forget that they are at the dojo in order to be trained.
2. When visiting another dojo, introduce yourself and obtain permission from the instructor. Do not assume that the permission will be granted automatically. The manner of presenting yourself to another martial artist must embody your utmost sensitivity to potential life-or-death confrontation.
3. Respect those with higher ranks even off the mats. Honour their expertise and accomplishments with respect, and try to learn from them as much as you can whenever you are with them. Similarly, do not treat teachers like buddies or peers and lose manners.
4. Follow the instructor’s directions during training. Do not engage yourself in unassigned instructions, personally modified (wrong) techniques, and verbal or physical conflicts with other practitioners. Do not step on or leave the mats without the instructor’s permission during class.
I want to ask local instructors to train their student carefully in these manners, and to strive to maintain the order and unity of the dojo.
There are places where people unquestioningly practice pseudo-Aikido which is useless as a martial art. I think there are problems with the way Aikido is interpreted and practiced. If local instructors are conscientious and respectful enough toward Aikido as a strict martial art, they would be more careful about when and whether to start their own clubs or not by judging their level of expertise and readiness as a martial art teacher.
By strict martial art training, I do not mean rough practice. What is important is your attitude toward training. You need to constantly ask yourself: What is “budo”? Budo training is a serious business.
Learning a Japanese martial art is, in a way, learning the Japanese culture. Some people disregard or distort this cultural background of Aikido by claiming that this is Canada and they should practice the way they feel like. I wish to suggest that we strive to preserve that appropriate manner and seek authentic Aikido as a strong martial art in Canada.
Y. Kawahara, Shihan (8th Dan) is the technical director of Aikikai Aikido in Canada through the Canadian Aikido Federation. This article was published in the Fall issue of AIKIDO FORUM, November 1, 1985.