New York Aikikai Etiquette
At New York Aikikai there are many rules of etiquette. They vary in importance and level of ‘enforcement.’
1. The first and most obvious rule in any martial arts dojo is bowing. To simplify things you should bow upon entering and leaving the dojo, getting on and off the training area, and any time other people are bowing.
Some dojos require a certain type of bow, how deep you bow, how long you stay down, where you look, et cetera. New York Aikikai doesn’t really give specifics on such things. Most people don’t really care, but because Aikido is peaceful, we don’t usually maintain eye contact with someone when we bow (except during randori).
There are some people whose religious stipulations forbid bowing. They need only give a simple explanation to the teacher of the class and there is no issue.
2. Another rule is to enter and leave the mat through the doorway near the kamiza. This promotes order, so the teacher can clearly see if someone is leaving the mat. Also the side entrance leads to a clean carpeted area where we are free to walk around barefoot or with indoor slippers. The viewing area at the back has a wood floor where people with outdoor shoes walk around. Beginners sometimes leave the mat the wrong way. It isn’t a big deal when this happens, but someone must explain the rules to them so they don’t keep doing it.
The exception is if someone is injured and has to leave the mat the other way, the windows need to be opened, or the phone answered.
3. Another rule commonly broken by beginners is leaving the mat for a drink of water, often without asking the sensei. First of all, we are expected to stay on the mat without water unless we are feeling sick. Secondly, if you do need the water you must ask the teacher permission to get it.
4. If you are late to class, you must wait at the edge of the mat for the teacher to acknowledge you before jumping in and training.
5. ALWAYS, ALWAYS greet the instructor of the class when you see them. Not acknowledging their presence is a guaranteed way of offending a shihan, especially Yamada Sensei. It doesn’t matter if you are shy, distracted, or intimidated by him. If he has his eyes closed and head down or is doing breathing exercises, greet him anyway. Don’t think he won’t notice. He may not say something the first time, but he’ll remember. This is doubly important for more senior students to remember. Remember though, it is forgivable for a beginner to make such mistakes as they don’t understand the etiquette.
6. When someone corrects you, especially the teacher of the class, you should listen to what they say and try your best to do it. It doesn’t matter if you think what they said is stupid or completely useless. The fact that they are teaching means that you need to listen.
7. If you are visiting and staying at New York Aikikai, you should offer to help the regular deshi with chores. They are usually very tired and hungry. If you are a kyu rank and visiting, you should ask to fold Yamada sensei’s hakama. He is flattered when several people ambush him all wanting to fold it. This is not a requirement of course, but it certainly is polite and makes everyone like you.
8. Do not trash anyone on the mat. Going fast is okay. Beating up someone who is a beginner is not okay. There are always a few people who are like that and they earn themselves a bad reputation. If you trash the wrong person, then every black belt on the mat will take turns doing the same thing to you. If there is a mutual agreement to beat the snot out of each other, fine, just please don’t get blood on the mat.
If someone is being too rough with you, tell them. If they don’t ease up, you are free to refuse to train with them (politely, of course).
9. Visitors staying at the dojo should give Sensei a gift before they leave. They should also visit him at intervals afterward to show their respect.