Coming back for a moment from our spaceship ride into the metaphysical, here are some very elementary guidelines for your aikido practice. The info in italics pertains to my dojo specifically. Please always default to the rules in the dojo where you train.
- Train often (at least twice week), with a light and joyful heart.
- Be on time. That means 20-30 minutes early—time to set up mats, do service, get dressed, get settled, have some free time to stretch and practice.
- Seek the guidance and support of ranking students (those with colored belts). Watch what they do; bring your questions to them before and after class.
- During class, do your best to drop into a non-verbal space and learn with your body. Limit questions to those that are burning, and call Sensei over for those. Thank Sensei for his/her help with a bow.
- If you are a beginner, seek out advanced students to practice with. If you end up working with another beginner and don’t know where to start, call Sensei over for help. Thank Sensei for his/her help with a bow.
- Move boldly in the direction of your practice partner. Do not hesitate; do not wait for them to choose you.
- If there are an odd number of students and you end up without a partner, find a pair (aim for two ranking students) and sit near them on the edge of the mat. When they rotate you in, you are uke (attacker) first.
- Be calm, quiet and respectful. Avoid being distracting or disruptive.
- Be still and attentive during instruction, sitting seiza in line.
- Never enter or leave the mat or dojo during Sensei’s demonstrations. Wait until partner practice has begun. If you are just off the mat when it’s time for the next demonstration, promptly bow back on and get in line. If you are off the floor/outside the dojo, wait there quietly until the demonstration is over.
- Follow Sensei’s instructions promptly. Acknowledge you heard and understood with a bow and “hai (yes), Sensei.”
- Bow when entering and leaving the dojo space. Bow when stepping on and off the mat. Bow when beginning and ending work with a partner. Bow after you receive instruction from Sensei. Bow to open and close your practice. Bow even/especially when nobody’s looking. When in doubt, bow. Bow deeply, reverently, honoring the lineage, the dojo, your teachers and fellow students.
- Gi (uniform) is tied left over right.
- Keep your gi (and yourself) clean, tidy, odor- and pet-hair-free.
- Keep the dojo clean and tidy as well! Pick up trash and dust bunnies, make sure flowers are fresh, mats are swept, curtains at the front of the room are drawn.
- If you are given a service task, assume that it is yours to complete each time you are in the dojo. If you haven’t been asked to do it but see that it hasn’t been done, go for it!
These are rough guidelines; believe it or not there are subtleties to each of these simple items, and etiquette varies from dojo to dojo. Nonetheless—as we’ve firmly established—it can be overwhelming enough to start a new spiritual/physical practice without trying to keep all the rules in mind. This is offered as a humble reference to help guide you through unfamiliar territory.