Etiquette
THROUGH TRUE SPIRIT WE STRIVE EXCELLENCE, WHICH PREVAILS OVER INJUSTICE AND INIQUITY

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Aikido - It's about mutual respect and discipline

DOJO ETIQUETTE

In general most classes in the UK are run in Leisure Centres or similar facilities.  In this type of environment participants sometimes forget the true meaning and importance of Dojo Etiquette.  The bow is the basic form of respect and gratitude.  Stand facing the kamidana and bow on entering and leaving the practice area of the dojo and when stepping on or off the mat.  A few minutes before practice begins, warm up and sit in seiza (kneeling) in quiet meditation.  This time is to rid your mind of the day's problems and to prepare for Aikido practise.  The formal bow to begin and end practice is a bow in the direction of the kamidana (deity-shelf), and then a mutual bow between instructor and students.  Effort should be made to be on time for class.  If unavoidably late, sit in Seiza at the side of the mat and wait for the instructor to acknowledge you.  If it is necessary to leave early, inform the instructor before class.  Do not enter or leave the mat area while the instructor is showing a technique.  After the instructor shows a technique, students bow, choose partners quickly, bow to each other, and begin to practice.  At the end of a practice session, stop practice immediately, bow, and quickly line up in Seiza.  Wait for further instruction.  The expression used at the beginning of class and of each individual practice is Onegaishimasu.  After each practice session, domo arigato gozaimashita is the expression used and it is used also after class.  Traditionally, the instructor's title is Sensei (Teacher) in the dojo.  The proper and preferred way to sit during practice is in Seiza.  A cross-legged sitting position is acceptable if Seiza is not possible, the instructor should be informed.  Always, a balanced, straight posture should be maintained.

After class it is traditional for the students to sweep the mat area, this should be treated as an honour and not a chore.  The western equivalent would be for the students to take up the mat area and store it correctly.  Occasionally the mat should be cleaned and sometimes repaired.  Again the students should feel that it is their duty and out of respect to do these jobs and not to try and skive out of them.

Kamidana

If you have been to a dojo that was built and prepared according to the Japanese tradition, you may have seen a shrine in the front of the dojo.  The Shinto alter is called ‘Kamidana’ in Japanese and traditionally, every household had one.  Kamidana is provided to enshrine a deity and its purpose is to be a reminder to think about higher moral thoughts and principals.  Bowing to the kamidana signifies paying respect to God, nature and every person and object around us.  It is also to show appreciation of having good health and being fortunate enough to be able to carry out work duties, study, or if it is in the dojo, the appreciation of being able to practise.  On the Kamidana in the Shinden are one or a few Ofuda enshrined.  They are sacred pieces of paper or wood received from a shine and give divine protection against calamity and misfortune.  Rice, sake, water and salt are ingredients symbolic to Shinto and are offered to the divine.  Shimenawa, or the enclosing rope on the top of the Shinden is a symbol, which designates a holy place.  On each side of the Shinden are two vases with branches from the Sakaki tree; an evergreen tree which is the sacred tree of Shinto.  Kamidana should face south or east in a light high clean place.  It can be co-located with the Shomen, the front of the dojo, but in no circumstance should the kamidana face to the north or west.  Also, it should never be placed above an entrance or exit in the intent that no humans can pass in and out beneath the Kamidana.  The term ‘kamiza’ in Japanese means the seat where people of high rank or guests sits, and is the farthest from the entrance, in front of the ‘Tokonoma’ or alcove in Japan.

Enshrined inside the Shinden.

1)    Shimenawa (enclosing rope)

2)    Kagami (mirror): an indication of pure light, which expresses the bright clarifying light of the Gods as well as the Truth and the Mind free of all defilements

3)    Sakaki (sacred wood)

4)    Ghoshikinuno (five-coloured cloth)

5)    Tomyo (sacred light)

6)    Osonaemono (offerings): Objects which are made as offerings every morning. Rice (cleaned, uncooked or steamed rice), water, salt on the first of the month, products of the mountains and sea on the fifteenth, and sake at festival times and on the first of a crop of rice are offered.

Do not lean on walls or posts, never sit with legs outstretched.  Students should not sit with their backs to the Kamidana or pass between the instructor and the Kamidana or sit on the Kamidana.  Dogi’s should be clean and in good repair.  Body, hands and feet should be washed and clean; fingernails and toenails must be trimmed short.  All jewellery, watches and rings should be removed before class.  Do not use alcohol or drugs before class.  Without full alertness practice can be dangerous for yourself and others.  Blood is a potential source of infection.  If you are bleeding, immediately leave the mat and attend to the injury.  It is important to cover the wound thoroughly and to clean any blood from the mat.  Do not let your blood come into contact with other students.  Once class has started, students should not leave the mat without consultation with the instructor.  Please do not eat, during class, any drinks should be consumed away from the mat area and at the discretion of the instructor.  When watching a class off the mat, watch quietly from the back of the dojo.

PERSONAL ETIQUETTE

A good Aikido student will always conduct him, or herself, in a dignified, respectful and courteous manner. Treat your Teacher, Coach, Instructor, Senior grades, Junior grades and fellow students with respect at all times. Be aware of the needs of others as well as your own needs. Develop a caring attitude towards others. At all times in the Dojo, you should train with your body and mind giving 100% effort and concentration.

You should always keep your body clean and well groomed, finger, nails and toenails should be kept short. No jewellery or metal items of any kind should be worn during training.

No food or drink should be taken into the dojo at any time. Liquid refreshment should be restricted only to water and this should only be allowed at the teachers discretion and only under special conditions or circumstances.

All graded students should wear a clean Gi when training. In this way, all students are equal, it is not possible to judge the station in life, profession, or ability by uniform. The only means to evaluate the person as an Aikido student is to watch his or her techniques and evaluate them against other of equal experience, grade or standing. This is as it should be.

The Aikido student's Gi (Uniform) should be white. The Gi should always be kept clean, neat and in good repair. It should be worn closed left over right for both sexes. Usually men and boys wear nothing under their Gi top. Ladies and girls should wear a plain white t-shirt under their top.

Rei (Bow)
In the Dojo there is a formalised etiquette. Covering how to greet people, how to enter and leave the Dojo, how to tidy your Gi and how to tie your belt. These formalities are observed by all Aikido students, regardless of grade.

Etiquette is not a question of rank
Courtesy is based on respect; for oneself, for others and for the Dojo (Training Hall). The basic expression of respect and courtesy, which comes from Japanese culture, is the bow or Rei but can also mean courtesy. These are two positions from which to bow - standing and kneeling.

The Standing Bow or Rei
Is performed with the feet close together and the hands, palm open and held close to the side (against the side seam of the trousers). In Japan ladies and girls place their hands flat against their thighs. The bow or Rei is performed from the hips. Not just a nod of the head, dip of the shoulders or bending at the waist.  The head and eyes must remain aligned and you should not be tempted look up or forward.

The Kneeling Bow or Rei
This is performed in what is known as "Seiza" or Kneeling posture, you should use your left knee first, followed by the right knee. This originates from the days when the Samurai wore their Katana or long sword (usually on their left side). When sitting the feet should be crossed at the toes, with the knees about six to eight inches apart (two fists width). The hands should rest, palms open and down on the thighs.

When bowing from this position the head should never touch the ground. You should look about 6 to 8 feet in front of you and bow from the hips. Your hands should be placed palm down. First left then the right. The hands should form a triangle using the thumbs and fore fingers.  Once again this comes from the days of the Samurai. By placing the left hand down first it showed that you meant no harm, because you could not draw your sword from this position. The bow is complete when you return to the upright position.

When entering or leaving the Dojo, you should stop just inside the doorway, face the shrine or Joseki (the place where the Teacher and or V.I.P.'s. sit) and perform a standing Rei. Should a student arrive when a class is in progress he or she should enter the Dojo make a standing Rei, then kneel down in "Seiza" and wait to be invited to join the class, either by the Teacher or by his senior assistant. Once invited stand up make a standing bow to the shrine or Joseki and join the class.

Before a lesson begins the class will line up, in grade order with the senior grade nearest the Kamiza or Joseki. The senior student will say "Seiza" followed by "Kamiza" or "Shomen-ni-Rei" followed by "Sensei-ni-Rei". When the lesson ends the class will line up as at the beginning. The senior grade will call "Seiza" then "Mokuso", which means silent meditation. You should sit with your eyes half closed thinking about what you have been taught during the lesson. Breathing in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth.

This period of meditation will stop when the senior grade calls "Yame" (this means end). The next command will be "Sensei-ni-Rei". The class bow to the teacher and he or she returns the bow. The next command is "Kamiza-ni-Rei". The class turn to the Kamiza or Joseki and bow again.

The class remain seated until the Teacher and senior grades stand up. Here again when you leave the Dojo you should face the shrine or Joseki and bow.
This bowing, is not a sign of subservience but a sign of respect shown to the whole aspect of, the Dojo, your Teacher, your fellow students, training with you and for the privilege of being allowed to study the activity.

 

 

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