Blue Heron Aikido

Middlebury, Vermont

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In an Aikido dojo, the observation of basic forms of etiquette is integral to the creation of a respectful and attentive atmosphere. The training mat is the heart and soul of the dojo and there are certain procedures, attitudes and rules that pertain to it. Since rigorous physical training takes place on the mat, the
possibility for injury to oneself and others is always present. Serious injuries incurred during Aikido practice are rare because correct training rules are stressed. Safety and respect are top priorities in the dojo. If you have any questions about etiquette, please ask a senior student for clarification.

  • The most basic form of etiquette is the bow. The bow is not an expression of religious formality, but rather an act of respecting the universal creative intelligence within us all. Aikido is not a religion, but a spiritual discipline dedicated to the education and refinement of the spirit.
  • The words spoken at the beginning of practice between the students and instructor are, “Onegai shimasu.” Loosely translated it means “Please train with me”. “Domo arigato gozaimashita” (“You have my gratitude”) are words spoken at the close of class or whenever appropriate. This is a respectful way of saying thank you.
  • Since the class is opened and closed with a formal ceremony, effort should be made to be on time and participate in this event. You are encouraged to arrive early enough to allow for stretching and warming up before class, whenever possible.
  • Sitting quietly for a few moments before class is an excellent way to center yourself before training.
  • If unavoidable circumstances require you to be late, you are still encouraged to come to class. Please wait beside the mat until the instructor signals permission for you to join the class.
  • When the instructor demonstrates a technique, you should sit quietly. After a demonstration bow to the instructor, students bow to a partner and begin practice. When the end of a particular practice is signaled (often with two claps), students bow to their partners and quickly line up in seiza for further instruction. It is most appropriate to bow to a partner sitting next to you on either side during class.
  • For reasons of safety, respect, and courtesy, it is essential that the teacher’s instructions be followed exactly. Many Aikido techniques can be dangerous if not practiced properly. Emphasis should be placed on learning as much as possible through intent observation and concentrated practice.
  • Talking must be kept to a minimum so that you can experience learning through the body. Don’t correct or instruct your training partner unless you are asked to do so.
  • The instructor is addressed as Sensei when on
    the mat.
  • Respect students with more experience. Never argue or debate about technique on the mat. You are welcome to discuss any questions you may have after class with the instructor or another available black belt instructor.
  • It is Nage’s responsibility to care for the safety
    of their Uke.
  • Students need to be aware of the level of their training ability. It is the student’s responsibility to inform your training partner if your limits are being exceeded.
  • You are welcome to sit and observe class at any time. If you do so, please sit respectfully with attention to good posture.
  • Do not lean against the walls in the mat area. There should be enough space between you and the wall for someone to walk by.
  • Respect your training uniform. Gis should be kept clean. Please do not leave gis in the dojo space.
  • The use of alcohol and drugs prior to class is prohibited. Students taking prescribed medication that could possibly affect their training and the safety of others are requested to advise the instructor.
  • If blood should become present on the mat during training, the individual who is the
    source of the bleeding needs to leave the mat and care for the wound. The partner of the
    person bleeding will clean the area by spraying the area with hydrogen peroxide, letting it
    foam and then wiping it up. The spray bottle of peroxide is found in the first aid station.
  • All levels train together in most beginning and general classes. Newer students should not hesitate to ask more advanced students to train with them.
  • If you are injured, you are encouraged to train by watching class. Although there may seem to be extensive amounts of etiquette to learn, it will come to be a natural way of interacting as you continue to train. If you cannot abide by these rules, you will be unable to study Aikido in this school.

“Aikido is not a sport. It is a discipline; an educational process for training the mind, body and spirit. Physical technique is not the true objective, but a tool for refinement and personal growth.”

Mitsugi Saotome Sensei
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