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). 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 words spoken at the beginning of practice between the students and instructor are Onegai shimasu. Loosely translated, this is a request that when spoken by the student means “Please give me your instruction.” When spoken by the teacher it means “Please do what is expected of you” or “Please receive my instruction.” Students also bow and say, "Onegai shimasu," before practicing with each other.
The words spoken by the student to the instructor at the end of practice are Domo arigato gozaimashita: “You have my respect and gratitude for what you have just done.” This is the most respectful way of saying thank you. Students also bow and say, “domo arigato gozaimashita," after training with each other.
Upon entering and leaving the practice area of the dojo, we make a standing bow. We always bow in the direction of the shomen when stepping on or off the mat.
It is important to be on time for practice, but if we are unavoidably late we wait, formally seated beside the mat, until the instructor signals his or her permission for us to join the class. We then quietly perform a simple seated bow as we get on the mat.
When receiving personal instruction, we sit in seiza and watch intently. We bow formally when the instructor has finished.
We have some other simple rules that keep the dojo a clean and respectful place to train.
- Respect your training tools. Gi should be clean and mended. Wash your gi frequently! Weapons should be in good condition and in their proper place when not in use.
- Never use someone else’s practice gi or weapons without permission.
- No jewelry should be worn during practice, including rings and pierced earrings. These can pose a danger to yourself and your training partners.
- The proper way to sit on the mat is in seiza (formal sitting position). If you have a knee injury you may sit cross-legged, but never with legs outstretched, never reclining, and never leaning against walls or posts.
- Do not leave the mat during class except in the case of injury or illness.
- Never stand around idly on the mat during class. You should be practicing or, if necessary, seated in seiza awaiting your turn.
- Keep talking on the mat to an absolute minimum. Aikido is experience.
- If you understand the movement and are working with someone who does not, you may lead that person through it. Do not attempt to correct or instruct your training partner unless you are authorized to do so.
- You are welcome to sit and watch a class at any time, but please sit respectfully, never with legs propped up on the furniture or in a reclining position. Do not talk to anyone while they are on the mat and class is in progress, or while the instructor is demonstrating or during the opening and closing ceremony.
A more comprehensive list of dojo etiquette can be found in the ASU Student Handbook.