Where do I enter the mat?
In our dojo, students should enter the mat from the shimoza side of the mat directly across from the kamiza. It is most appropriate to enter at the approximate location where you will be sitting at the start of class.
Where should I sit?
Students line up at the beginning and ending of each class in a straight line at the edge of the mat opposite the kamiza and in order of rank. That area is known as the shimoza. The newest students or lowest ranking students should arrange themselves close to the entry door side of the mat, the side that is the lower left hand side of the mat as they are facing the kamiza at the front of the mat area. The most senior students sit at the far right hand side of the shimiza.
How to bow?
When entering the dojo building, do a standing bow facing the kamiza before removing your shoes,
When stepping on the mat, before class, take a step or two onto the mat, sit in seiza, and do a formal seated bow. Place your left hand down in front of you on the mat; then place the right hand down aside the left hand forming a small triangle. Bow forward by bending your arms at the elbows. Sit back up until the arms are straight; lift the right hand and place it on your thigh, and then raise left hand to the thigh, then sit up straight.
Just before exiting the building, do a standing bow facing the kamiza.
What’s all this bowing about? Well, aikido is a Japanese martial art. In Japanese culture, a bow is gesture used in many situations to convey greetings, or thanks, or to show respect toward an individual. Please always use this gesture respectfully.
What if it is against my principles to bow?
Certain cultures and certain faiths prohibit bowing to another human being as that gesture holds religious significance to be used for God alone. In my dojo, students who hold such beliefs are not required to bow. I ask that they substitute the bow with a gesture of etiquette that is acceptable for them to use. The action of the gesture itself is not the important factor. The sentiment behind the gesture is what is important. That sentiment should be respectful.
How to address the instructor?
Sensei is the proper title to use when addressing an aikido instructor. The term sensei translates roughly to “teacher” or “someone with experience who has come before”.
Other titles commonly used in aikido that you may hear may include:
- O-Sensei (Great Teacher) referring to Morehei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido.
- Sempai – leaders or mentors within the dojo
- Kohai – Students mentored by Sempai
- Yudansha – the group of black belts
- Mudansha – the group of white belts
- Dan – black belt This term often is used with a prefix identifying the rank of the black belt eg Shodan = 1st degree black belt or Sandan = 3rd degree black belt.
Can I come in after class has started?
Always try to arrive on time for the start of class whenever possible. It is my attitude to welcome in students who arrive late. I understand that we are sometimes at the mercy of conditions beyond our control. I want all of my students to have as much practice time as they can. If you arrive late, get changed into your uniform then stand at the edge of the mat until the instructor leading the class invites you to attend. When invited onto the mat, use a seated bow before joining into the ongoing activity.
If I have to leave the mat during class, what should I do?
If possible, please tell the instructor before leaving the mat. As an instructor, I want to know that my students are doing well. If I notice that someone is no longer on the mat, I want to know that they are okay. I do not want to worry that they might have been injured and moved off alone.
As classes are not very long, please refrain from stepping off of the mat during class just to grab a drink unless you have a medical condition that requires immediate fluid intake.
What should I do if an injury occurs?
Aikido is a very physical activity and sometime injuries do occur. If your partner gets injured during a class, help them as best you can. Make sure that the instructor is aware of the accident. Use ice packs, bandages, from the refrigerator and first aid kits. Remember to use proper universal precautions if dealing with any blood. Latex Gloves are available in or near the first aid kit. Please also remember to wash any blood off of the mat using a hydrochloride solution.
If, heaven forbid, there is a major injury, get someone to call 911 immediately to get emergency care without delay.