Proper observance of etiquette is as much a part of your training as is learning techniques. In many cases observing proper etiquette requires one to set aside one’s pride or comfort. Nor should matters of etiquette be considered of importance only in the dojo.
Aikido is not a relationship, but the education and refinement of the spirit. 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.
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.
- When entering or leaving the dojo, it is proper to bow in the direction of O-Sensei’s picture, the kamiza, or the front of the dojo. You should also bow when entering or leaving the mat.
- No shoes on the mat or beyond the front entry of the dojo.
- Be on time for class. Students should be lined up and seated in seiza approximately 3-5 minutes before the official start of class. If you do happen to arrive late, sit quietly in seiza on the edge of the mat until the instructor grants permission to join practice.
- If you should have to leave the mat or dojo for any reason during class, approach the instructor and ask permission.
- 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. (Either sit in seiza or cross-legged.)
- Remove watches, rings and other jewelry before practice as they may catch your partner’s hair, skin, or clothing and cause injury to oneself or one’s partner.
- Do not bring food, gum, or beverages onto the mat. It is also considered disrespectful in traditional dojo to bring open food or beverages into the dojo.
- Please keep your fingernails (and especially one’s toenails) clean and cut short.
- Please keep talking during class to a minimum. What conversation there is should be restricted to one topic – Aikido. It is particularly impolite to talk while the instructor is addressing the class.
- If you are having trouble with a technique, do not shout across the room to the instructor for help. First, try to figure the technique out by watching others. Effective observation is a skill you should strive to develop as well as any other in your training. If you still have trouble, approach the instructor at a convenient moment and ask for help.
- Carry out the directives of the instructor promptly. Do not keep the rest of the class waiting for you!
- Do not engage in rough-housing or needless contests of strength during class.
- Keep your training uniform clean, in good shape, and free of offensive odors.
- Please pay your membership dues promptly. If, for any reason, you are unable to pay your dues on time, talk with the person in charge of dues collection. Sometimes special rates are available for those experiencing financial hardship.
- Change your clothes only in designated areas (not on the mat!).
- Remember that you are in class to learn, and not to gratify your ego. An attitude of receptivity and humility (though not obsequiousness) is therefore advised.
- It is usually considered polite to bow upon receiving assistance or correction from the instructor.
- During class, if the instructor is assisting a group in your vicinity, it is frequently considered appropriate to suspend your own training so that the instructor has adequate room to demonstrate.
(Taken from the Aikido Primer by Eric Sotnak)