We are often asked how our classes work. Sometimes we have special beginner workshops, but don’t wait until then to begin! In Aikido practice, all levels practice together, and everyone adjusts their technique to the level of their partner. (This is an important aspect of training for everyone!)
A general rule of thumb is: Take care of your partner and yourself (i.e., don’t injure others by training above their level; and don’t risk injury by training above your own level, and be sure to let everyone know if you have special training needs–training tape, a bandana, armband or other marker can be tied on to help everyone remember).
The best way to check us out is to visit a class (watching or participating), but many people like to know what to expect. Following is some basic information, but just follow along.
When it is time for class to begin, everyone lines up (sitting in seiza, or kneeling) along the line on the mat. The instructor then walks onto the mat, and everyone bows toward the front, then claps twice, then bows again toward the front. (This is Japanese tradition, but some people prefer not to clap. That’s fine.) The instructor then turns toward everyone, and all bow, saying onegaishimasu (“oh-nay-guy-she-mahs” meaning please).
The instructor then leads everyone in silent stretching and warm-ups. Then everyone will line up again, and the instructor will call someone up to help demonstrate the first technique. (If you have bad knees, you may sit cross-legged rather than kneeling during this time.)
After the demonstration, find a partner to practice with (just turn toward someone and bow, saying “onegai shimasu”). You will be uke (receive the technique) four times (twice on each side), and then you will be nage (do the technique) four times, etc., until the instructor claps. Then everyone lines up, and the rest of class continues this way.
We usually change partners every technique. If you find there is an odd number of students, the partnerless person should kneel or sit cross-legged at the edge of the mat, facing any practicing pair. The practicing pair should notice the third partner and rotate him/her into their practice.
At the end of class, everyone lines up and repeats the beginning bowing sequence. Then we usually make a circle near the front to discuss any club business.
Finally, remember that everyone was a beginner once! Our club founder, George Bevins Sensei, often recommended that beginners focus first on giving good attacks and taking good ukemi (rolling, etc.), in order to be able to practice at a higher level more quickly and thus able to improve in technique more quickly.
UNIFORMS & EQUIPMENT
We recommend a judo or karate uniform (dogi or gi) be worn to classes. This is the toughest and most practical piece of clothing to wear for martial arts practice. Sweats are OK but won’t last long.
In the ASU, students are encouraged to wear a hakama as soon as possible, but it is not required. It has no connection with rank for our organization. Hakama are a kind of traditional Japanese pants which we wear over our gi.
Our training also includes the use of traditional weapons, primarily wooden sword, staff and knife (bokken, jo and tanto). The club has a supply of weapons for use during class until members can purchase their own weapons.
The club has a supply of uniforms and equipment for sale at volume discount prices. You can also find a selection of martial arts suppliers on our links page.
- It is necessary to respect the way in which the instructor of the class directs the training. Receive instruction and carry out suggestions for training sincerely and to the best of your ability. There is no room for argument on the mat.
- It is the moral responsibility of each student never to use Aikido technique to harm another person or as a way to display his or her ego. It is a tool to develop a better society through the character development of the individual.
- There will be no conflicts of ego on the mat. Aikido is not street fighting. You are on the mat to train and purify your aggressive reactions and embody the spirit of the samurai by discovering your social responsibility.
- There will be no competition on the mat. The purpose of Aikido is not to fight and defeat an enemy, but to fight and defeat your own aggressive instincts.
- The strength of Aikido is not in muscular force, but in flexibility, timing, control and modesty. Be aware of your limitations.
- Everyone has different physical abilities and reasons for study. These must be respected. True Aikido is the proper and flexible application of technique appropriate to any changing situation. It is your responsibility to cause no injury to your training partner or yourself.
- There will be no power struggles within the dojo. The dojo membership is one family and the secret of Aikido is harmony.
Proper Dojo Etiquette
Aikido is not a religion, but the education and refinement of the spirit. You will not be asked to adhere to any religious doctrine, but only to remain spiritually open. When we bow it is not a religious performance, but a sign of respect for the same spirit of universal creative intelligence within us all.
The opening and closing ceremony of each Aikido practice is a formal bow directed to the shomen, two claps, another bow to the shomen and a bow between the instructor and students. The bows directed to the shomen symbolize respect for the spirit and principles of Aikido, and gratitude to the Founder for developing this system of study. The two claps symbolize unity, “musubi.” You send out a vibration with the first clap and receive its echo with the second. The vibration you send and the echo you receive are dictated by your own spiritual beliefs and attitudes.
The words spoken at the beginning of practice between the students and instructor are, “Onegai shimasu.” Loosely translated it is a request which when spoken by the student means, “Please give me your instruction.” When spoken by the teacher it means, “Please do what is expected of you.” Or “Please receive my instruction.” The words spoken by the student to the instructor at the end of practice are, “Domo arigato gozaimashita.” “You have my respect and gratitude for what you have just done.” This is the most respectful way of saying thank you.
- Upon entering and leaving the practice area of the dojo make a standing bow.
- Always bow when stepping on or off the mat in the direction of the shomen.
- Respect your training tools. Gi should be cleaned 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 (unless offered).
- A few minutes before class time you should be warmed up and formally seated in quiet meditation to rid your mind of the day’s problems and prepare for study.
- It is important to be on time for practice and participate in the opening ceremony. If you are unavoidably late you should wait, formally seated beside the mat until the instructor signals his or her permission for you to join the class. Quietly perform a simple seated bow as you get on the mat.
- The only proper way to sit on the mat is in seiza (formal sitting position). If you have a knee injury you may sit cross-legged, but never with legs outstretched, never reclining, and never leaning against walls or posts.
- Do not leave the mat during class except in the case of injury or illness.
- During class when the instructor demonstrates a technique for practice, sit quietly and attentively in seiza. After the demonstration bow to the instructor, then to a partner and immediately begin to practice.
- When the end of a technique is signaled, stop immediately, bow to your partner and quickly line up with the other students.
- Never stand around idly on the mat. You should be practicing or, if necessary, seated in seiza awaiting your turn.
- If it is necessary to ask a question of the instructor you should go to him or her and bow respectfully (standing bow). Never call the instructor over to you.
- When receiving personal instruction, sit in seiza and watch intently. Bow formally when the instructor has finished. When another near by is being instructed you may stop your practice to watch. Sit formally and bow as before.
- Respect those more experienced. Never argue about technique.
- Respect those less experienced. Do not pressure your ideas on others.
- If you understand the movement and are working with someone who does not, you may lead that person through it. Do not attempt to correct or instruct your training partner unless you are authorized to do so.
- Keep talking on the mat to an absolute minimum. Aikido is experience.
- Fingernails and toenails must be short. Feet must be clean. Shoes or sandals are never allowed on the mat.
- No eating, drinking, smoking or gum chewing on or off the mat during practice.
- No jewelry should be worn during practice, including rings and pierced earrings.
- Never drink alcoholic beverages while still wearing practice gi.
You are welcomed to sit and watch a class at any time, but the following rules of etiquette must be followed.
- Sit respectfully, never with legs propped up on the furniture or in a reclining position.
- Do not talk to anyone while they are on the mat and class is in progress.
- Do not talk or walk around while the instructor is demonstrating or during the opening and closing ceremony.
Although there seem to be many forms of etiquette to remember, they will come naturally as you continue to learn. Please do not resent it if you are corrected on a point of etiquette for each one is important to your safety and to the learning experience.