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Dojo Etiquette and Training Guidelines

The word “dojo” literally means “place of the Way”. Even if the training space is located in a sports club, school, or park, it is, by definition of the word “dojo”, different. It is a place where people gather to train the body, mind and spirit in a particular discipline. It is said that “Martial arts training begins and ends with etiquette”. This means not only that we start and finish training with a bow, but also many other aspects of training that must be tended to with attentiveness, awareness and earnestness. The dojo is a place where we train in techniques for the protection of life, and in things that deal with development of the human being, and as such should be approached with sincerity, respect and decorum. Though each dojo may have slightly different customs in regards to etiquette, basic standards are provided here.

Etiquette Guidelines

Proper observance of etiquette is as much a part of your training as is learning techniques. Standards of etiquette may vary somewhat from one dojo or organization to another, but the following guidelines are nearly universal. Please take matters of etiquette seriously.

  1. When entering or leaving the dojo, it is proper to execute a standing bow in the direction of O-Sensei”s picture, the kamiza or tokonoma, or the front of the
  1. Shoes are to be taken off at the entrance to the mat area and zori (sandals or slippers) are worn in the mat area. Zori should be lined up at the edge of the mat farthest from the kamiza or tokonoma.
  1. Upon stepping onto the mat, students should bow respectfully to the kamiza or tokonoma, from a seated position (seiza) if the body is If one’s physical condition prohibits seiza, then a standing bow is appropriate.
  1. The instructor should be referred to as “Sensei” during class instruction, and not by first name or surname.
  1. It is appropriate to bow are when asking or thanking a partner for practice and after receiving instruction from the teacher. When asking for advice or practice say “Onegaishimasu”, when thanking someone say “Arigatou gozaimashita”.
  1. No shoes are allowed on the mat, nor are food, gum, or
  1. Keep your training uniform clean and in good shape, and your fingernails and toenails clean and cut short. Remove all jewelry before practice to avoid causing injury to yourself or your
  1. Be on time for class. Students line up and sit in seiza a few moments before the official start of class. Use this time to reflect on what you are here to do at this time. If you do happen to arrive late, change quickly, warm up off the mat, then bow in on the mat and sit quietly in seiza on the edge of the mat until the instructor grants permission to join practice. Then, bow in to the instructor and join
  1. If you should have to leave the mat or dojo for any reason during class, notify the instructor. If you or someone else is hurt, tell the instructor at
  1. Avoid sitting on the mat with your back to the picture of O-Sensei. Do not lean against the walls or sit with your legs stretched out. Endeavor to avoid passing between people training together, or sitting between the instructor and the
  1. Please keep talking during class to a minimum. Try to learn with your body, rather than by
  1. Students should seek out partners and not passively wait to be chosen. Take an active part in your own training and development. Attempt to practice with everyone, and avoid no one. Practice with many people is necessary for well-rounded
  1. If called for ukemi by the instructor, bow from where you are, approach the instructor, and again bow from seiza, saying “onegaishimasu”.
  1. If you have a question for the instructor, never call for the instructor across the mat. Wait until the instructor is close by, bow and say, “onegaishimasu.”
  1. If the instructor comes to show some point to you, sit seiza and watch. Once the instructor is done helping you, bow from seiza and say “arigatou gozaimashita”.
  1. At the end of class, students should straighten their uniforms and line up in seiza, as was done at the beginning of class. The instructor and students bow to O-Sensei”s picture and then the students and instructor bow to each other, saying “arigatou gozaimashita”. After that, the students should remain seated in seiza until the instructor leaves the mat. After the instructor leaves the mat, bow to each student with whom you have practiced and say “arigatou gozaimashita”.
  1. Sempai should assist kohai in learning proper etiquette as well as ukemi and technique. This is best done by action rather than only words. Kohai should earnestly work to learn the things their sempai are sharing with
  1. Weapons, uniforms and all equipment should be carried in a bag when outside the
  1. If weapons are placed on the floor, they should be placed with the tip away from the kamiza and the blade away from the training area. Never step over a weapon if it is on the floor. Instead, walk around it. Never use another person’s weapons without
  1. Remember that you are in class to learn, and not to gratify your ego. An attitude of receptivity is therefore
  1. The cleanliness of the mat and whole dojo is important. Please take great efforts to clean the mat and other areas after each class, or any time you notice something is in need of attention.
  1. Please pay your dues on time. Dues are not a fee for instruction, it is a fee for maintaining your status as a member of the dojo, and for ensuring that the dojo is able to continue existing. If there is some difficulty or question please feel free to ask one of the instructors.


It is common for people to ask about the practice of bowing in Aikido. In particular, many people are concerned that bowing may have some religious significance. It does not. In Japanese culture, it is a way of greeting someone and of showing sincerity. Incorporating this particular aspect of Japanese culture into our Aikido practice serves several purposes:

  • Bowing is an expression of respect. As such, it indicates an open-minded attitude and a willingness to learn from one’s teachers and fellow
  • Bowing to a partner may serve to remind you that your partner is a person – not a practice dummy. Always train within the limits of your partner’s

While training is in session, you should behave in a certain manner. A certain level of decorum should be maintained, as is appropriate for a place where development of self and techniques of life and death are taught. You should always remember that Aikido is a martial art and as such, deserves your full attention. Bowing is a means of acknowledging the importance of the training you are engaged in.

Hombu Dojo Practice Guidelines

Posted at Hombu Dojo are the following:

  • One blow in Aikido is capable of killing an opponent. In practice, obey your instructor, and do not make practice a time for needless testing of
  • Aikido is an art in which one learns to face many opponents simultaneously. Therefore, it requires that you polish and perfect your execution of each movement so that you can take on not only the one directly before you but also those coming from all directions around
  • Practice at all times with a feeling of pleasurable
  • The teachings of your instructor constitute only a small fraction of what you will learn. Your mastery of each movement will depend almost entirely on individual, earnest
  • The daily practice begins with light movements of the body, gradually increasing in intensity and strength, but there must be no overexertion. This is why even an elderly person can continue to practice with pleasure and without bodily harm, and why he/she can attain the goal of his/her training.
  • The purpose of Aikido is to train both body and mind and to make a person sincere. All Aikido arts are secret in nature and are not to be revealed publicly nor taught to hoodlums who will use them for evil purposes.