Formal Aikido practice begins when we walk through the door of the training hall or “dojo”. Our dojo is located in the ground floor of the town of Middlebury’s municipal building. Upon entering the dojo, we make a standing bow towards the shomen. The shomen is a sacred place within the dojo dedicated to the spirit of Aikido and is located at the main wall at the front of the dojo, where the picture of O Sensei hangs, along with the calligraphy of aikido and fresh flowers. The bow is a gesture of respect for the art of Aikido and for ourselves, rather than a religious observance. We honor traditional Japanese etiquette by removing our shoes and placing them in the shoe rack beside the door or neatly under the table. Shoes should never be worn on the mat. This is a part of our practice and a gesture of respect for the dojo.
Thanks to generous funding from Middlebury Parks and Recreation and hundreds of hours from Aikidoka of Blue Heron we now have a beautiful space in which to train. Although the larger space in which our dojo is located is used by many people other than Aikido practitioners, we still need to respect and love this space as a dojo and treat it accordingly. There is a custodian who works in the municipal building, but it is our job to keep the dojo space clean.
What to wear for training
A keikogi or “gi” is a traditional, white training uniform. There are many different styles and cloth types. Although welcome, you are not expected to invest in a gi for the first few months of your training. When you feel clear that you plan to continue your training, then it is appropriate to consider the investment. However, when you first start training it is also not appropriate to wear the worst pair of sweats you can find and the T-shirt with the most holes. Clean sweats and a clean T-shirt are fine until you decide to continue training beyond a first session. At that point a gi would be welcome. These can be purchased very inexpensively online form outfits such as www.karatedepot.com or a general martial arts supply store and must be white. We recommend buying training uniforms on the slightly large size because they often shrink in the wash.
Preparing for Class
Prior to training please remove any jewelry that may cause harm to yourself or your partners. Keep your fingernails and toenails cut short.
Stepping On and Off the Mat
Before stepping on or off the mat please bow respectfully towards the shomen. This is a gesture of respect for the dojo and for our Aikido training.
Cleaning / Misogi
Before each class we remove the white barricades from the edge of the mat and dust the mat with the dry dust mop. After class we sweep the floor around the mat, mop the mat and return the barricades to the edge. When we mop we use the least amount of water needed. Given the dust, we need to mop the mats frequently.
After the mat has been dusted you are encouraged to stretch out, practice rolling, train with another student, or take in a moment of quiet.
“Aikido is the way of nonresistance and is therefore undefeatable from the start.”
Morihei Ueshiba O Sensei
Lining Up For Class
Class begins with the students seated in a neat
row facing the shomen, or front wall. Out of respect for Aikido, our instructor, and ourselves, we sit with an erect posture in seiza (kneeling). You may sit cross-legged if seiza is very uncomfortable or if you have injured knees. If there are more people than will fit in one line, we either make two lines or the line is extended along the sides of the mat in a “U” shape so that everyone is in the “front” row.
After some moments of sitting quietly, the instructor will move to the center of the dojo and lead us in the opening ritual. We bow two times, then clap four times, then bow one more time. The instructor will then turn toward the students at which time we offer a mutual bow. During these opening ceremonies, we endeavor to bow and clap in unison, following the lead of our instructor.
Joining a Class in Session
If class has begun before you are able to get to the dojo please enter the dojo quietly and change into your gi. When your are ready to train please wait at the edge of the mat until the instructor acknowledges you. This is a sign of respect to the person teaching as well as a safety precaution.
Offer a standing bow before stepping on the mat and then a seated bow in as we do at the beginning of class quietly (two bows in seiza followed by four claps and one more bow). If the class is warming up it is considered poor etiquette to engage in different warm ups than the rest of the class, as it would be if you had been in class from the start. If you have missed the warm ups please take a moment to stretch in the back of the dojo before joining class. It is critical that you follow this request for your safety as well as for the safety of all students training.
If you ever have to leave class early please notify the instructor and bow out at the edge of the mat on your own before leaving the mat. The process of bowing in and out of class is the same.