Aikido Etiquette

This guide to the Aikido etiquette is part of our Aikido section, please visit this page for the full Aikido guide.

About the Aikido Etiquette

The Aikido etiquette is extremely important to the practice and training of this Martial Art. Like all Japanese styles, dojo etiquette has a large role to play. Beginners are not expected to learn this Aikido etiquette straight away by heart, but pick it up within a reasoble time period. For beginners, learning this is important to show your willingness to receive instructions.

Aikido Etiquette terms

Dojo: Aikido training will take place in a room called the dojo, which in Japanese means the place of the way. The dojo is seen to be a sacred place of learning; it must be kept clean, tidy and free from any distraction.

Rei: This means bowing, and is essential for any beginner to understand when learning the Aikido etiquette. It is a method which shows respect. It can be carried out in either a standing or kneeling position, with the later being the most formal.


The Aikido Etiquette

Arriving at the dojo

Aikido Etiquette

First off - be punctual! Enter the dojo and be on the tatami (the mat) as early as possible, before class is scheduled to start. In the time you are waiting, ensure the mats are safely positioned and carry out warm up exercises.

If you are late,  then simply wait at the side of the tatami until you are seen and acknowledged by your sensei. As you step onto the mat, carry out a kneeling bow to O-Sensei (the Founder of Aikido). Join in the warming-up exercises or if these are over, do your own warm-up at the edge of the mat. As always, be aware of anyone moving or being thrown near you, and move if necessary.

Occasional lateness or lateness caused by special commitments such as one's work schedule is acceptable, but lateness caused by poor planning or lack of conscientiousness is an indication of a lack of order in one's mind, and unless corrected will hinder one's learning and progress in aikido.

Rei to the dojo

Upon entering the dojo building, do a standing bow towards the Kamiza (shrine) by bending the body 30 to 45 degrees with the arms held by the side of the body. At all times, while in the dojo when not on the tatami, footwear of some kind must be worn. Put on your zori (sandals) or equivalent when getting changed, and leave them neatly at the side of the tatami during the practice. Leaving sandals in disorder indicates disorder in one's mind.

Rei to the tatami (dojo floor)

The tatami surface is the training surface in the dojo and as such it is important to bow there as well. Upon stepping onto the tatami, kneel down in the position known as seiza (sitting on the heels with the back straight) and bow putting both hands in front of the knees keeping the back straight. That bow is also required upon leaving the tatami. Furthermore, if for any important reason it is necessary to leave the tatami during the class, first ask permission from the sensei, then leave the tatami after completing a standing bow, if it is a temporary absence, or a kneeling bow if it is the end of your practice.

Rei to O-Sensei (the founder of Aikido)

The spirit of the Founder is always present in the dojo. In our aikido training, we cannot practise without thanking him for the gift of his art. We do a kneeling bow to the Kamiza at the beginning and the end of the class. If one arrives late for the class, one kneels and bows to the Kamiza upon stepping onto the mat.

Rei to the Sensei

After the rei to O-Sensei, the practitioners do a kneeling bow to the sensei. This should be repeated at the end of the class as well. At the beginning of the class it is customary to say Onegai-shimasu (Please help me in my practice) as one bows to the sensei; while at the end of the class, one says Domo arigato gozaimashita (Thank you very much).

Rei to your partner

Consider that your partner is the mirror of yourself. Ignoring your partner's individuality and self-esteem is against the spirit of aikido. Your partner is not someone you compete against, but a person to train with and improve with. Show respect to and consideration of your fellow practitioners in every aspect of the practice.

Partners should bow to each other when starting or finishing techniques and methods. Ensure you listen to your instructor carefully and respect their instructions, and follow their directions in practice. On the other hand, senior students should not take advantage of their position, and should remain humble and sincere to beginners or lower ranked students.

Rei to any weapons being used

Before and after the use of the bokken (the wooden sword), the jo (the 4-foot stick), or tanto (the wooden knife) hold the weapon at eye level with both hands toward O-Sensei and do a standing bow. Even a piece of wood can be a great help in one's aikido training. When one practises with it, it becomes a part of one's body. Thus, throwing around, stepping on or jumping over the weapon is disrespectful.

Never Teach Other Students, inless specifically asked by your Sensei.

Do Not Wear Jewelry During Practice: Jewelry may be damaged and can be dangerous if accidentally
grabbed or caught.

Footwear: Always wear some kind of footwear when not on the mats. Sandals (or thongs) are preferable.
No shoes on the mats.

Personal Hygiene: Keep yourself clean and cut your nails to avoid cutting yourself or others.

Other General Aikido Etiquette:

Be alert in the dojo at all timest. Accidents can happen through carelessness, which is another primary reason for the strict Aikido etiquette.