Category Archives: Dojo Newsletter

Application of Aikido Principles in Daily Life by Masato Tani

I had started Aikido by chance, after my children had started taking class several years ago. My prior experience with martial arts was limited, few years of Shorinji Kempo when I had lived in Osaka.

Aikido had started as exercise and stress reliever when I had recently changed career, it had been a very stressful period.  The class consisted of various levels of students, background.  I found the group to be welcoming and a good group.  I can’t recall any class not getting at least a  good light hearted laugh and good activity.

合気道

– joining , combining

-energy

-way, path, road

As I studied more, the art was organized in very methodical ways, almost like an organization chart, at least it was the way it was presented and taught.  Then you learn to give yourself so that your partner may learn and in turn you learn from them.  Slight adjustment resulted in big change and effectiveness; more you studied, more you were able to perceive the movement and intent of your practice partner.  You learn to “read” them.   This is also applied in business in some sense dealing with clients, business partners. You are reading their tone, body language, what is said, what is not said. You learn to deal with different personalities, engage them differently.  Some you learn to walk away from.

When too much energy is needed, something is off balance. Aikido teaches you to feel, to blend, execute with strong foundation.  Once the pieces are in place correctly, the technique becomes effortless and very effective. It is delightful to get those “Aha” moments for yourself and for your practicing partner.   Different partners and engagement teaches you different aspect, which forces to self-evaluate, apply technique differently, or to change your technique.  In everyday life, I approach the same way, some success, some not, but you learn to look at it calmly, objectively.

In a public setting, you do become more aware,  better situational awareness. Feeling out the others’ energy, intent.  Some problems may need to be addressed, some just find alternative without getting into confrontation.  Better to let small things go, get what you need to get done.

The process is of course time consuming and as said by others before, more you learn , more you realize how much you don’t know. 

I am grateful to have this opportunity of discovery, practice with others and to apply this in my life journey.

THOUGHTS ON POST KYU TEST TRAINING by Jason Costanzo

I had this thing… still have this thing where I feel like I’ve come to have experiences so much later in life than many others who found those things much earlier than I. And this causes me to want to reap all of the fruits of those experiences all at once or as fast as possible, in an effort to make up for lost time, or at least what I perceive as lost time.

Aikido is one of those experiences for me. And it is difficult to simultaneously try to soak in and soak up all of the knowledge you can find on something – and at the same time realize that you don’t know that much, or perhaps even what you’re doing….

So probably about two years ago I went to Sensei and asked that since I already know all of the techniques necessary to pass my next kyu test, if I could test in the next round. He said no. Well he didn’t exactly say no. With Sensei it is never a yes or a no, or even a simple straight answer really. I think I’ve come to learn that Sensei wants to give you just enough information to set you on a path that ultimately allows you to arrive at the “correct” answer. And I suppose in large part, albeit two years later, this is exactly what this essay is about. This is me saying “I get it now”.

Why do we practice? Why do we study? What is the goal, the point of it all? Those questions are much too deep and pensive in themselves for our time here, but to just fast forward a bit – we do practice, we do study, and eventually a rank test comes up to test our knowledge. With any test there is preparation. Someone who has come before us has said – at this particular time in your training you should know these particular things. So based on those lists of things that we should know at this level, we set out to prepare for our test and train on those particular aspects or areas of the test on which we need the most work – drilling it, memorizing it, making it part of our body.

I hate to use the colloquial phrase – teaching to the test – but none of us want to happen up a rank test and not be prepared for it, and as such I’m sure we’ve all ignored our usual course of study at one time or another, pulled out our little sheets with the list of what is on our next rank test and then drilled those techniques. For those in the lower kyu ranks this may happen a couple of times a year, and so thus this process can take up much of your training.

Thereafter, we take the test, pass, and move on. But what are we moving on to? What is the training that comes after our rank test, that is… if it is not to prepare for your next rank test?

It’s the space between.

I don’t mean to be trite when I say that Aikido, much like life, is not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

Are we walking billboards of our accomplishments? Do we open a conversation saying, “Hey, I’m a college grad,” “I’m on Broadway,” “I’m a Dad,” “Hey, I just made manager.” Probably not. We’re not products of our accomplishments. We are all the byproducts of the time, passion and effort it took to reach and attain those accomplishments. The viscera of life, the part that makes us who we are, it’s the space between…. the itty bitty pieces of existence, those moments, those minutiae we sometimes tend to forget…those moments as a whole are what amounts to us becoming a Mom, or a Doctor, or a Football Player, or a….

So I have this sense that I’m ready for my next kyu test ahead of schedule. Sensei explains to me that despite my having the knowledge to perform the technique to pass the test, doesn’t necessarily mean that I pass the test – in essence stating that Aikido is not simply a set of techniques listed on a sheet of paper, where once able to perform those techniques entitles you to a rank. He says, “the point of the structure is not for the sake of structure, because the structure by itself does not mean anything. The point of the entire system is to teach principle.”  When you think about this it makes total sense – even the technique that you’ve learned, perfected, know cold, doesn’t mean anything if you can’t or don’t know how or when to apply it.

Sensei goes on to explain that something else to consider is that practice is not just going to class. Our practice is also reflected in how it affects us off the mats, and that in particular sometimes simply needs time to settle into our character.

I imagined Sensei was telling me to slow down and smell the roses, slow down and enjoy the journey, slow down and explore the space between. This is not a canned process or one that exists in a vacuum, or as Sensei put it – this is not a process that can be arbitraged Wall Street style.

And so, having taken the advice that I didn’t quite fully understand at the time, allowing the journey to go on and the process to macerate, I have come to the suggestion I offer you here. Oft times we are immune to our own progressions and advancements, but I can tell you that even I realize a marked difference and improvement in my practice from two years ago. Stepping away from drilling the basics is important and necessary for a good and well rounded practice.

So much goes on in the space between in Aikido. Timing, blending and connecting with uke, posture, stance, kokyu, breathing, making sure you are perfecting each of those, and then you have all of that knowledge that you have attained that you use to help your kohais in class, help them to get better and become more fulfilled.

There are so many things in Aikido that you can miss if you’re not ready to accept them. This is surely one of them. It eluded me for two years, but through time, practice, remaining open and naturally through Sensei’s guidance, I have finally come to understand. I’ve always known that Aikido is an internal martial art, that is… it is not “simply learn these moves and you too will be able to defend yourself when attacked.” It is and offers so much more. And realizing this will help you grow and deepen the level and understanding along your journey. So, always be open to fully exploring the space between.

Seminars – by Ric Rivera

This past weekend, March 6, 7, 8, 2015, I had a great trip. It was not to any far location overseas, or my usual scuba trips– but yes my scuba diving trips are all great. The trip was far enough that it required being on some of America’s most travelled roads, yet close enough that it was travelled by auto in a 5-6 hour drive.

The trip was to see a direct student of Morihiro SaitoShihan. Saito Shihan was the most loyal, direct student of Morihei Ueshiba (O’Sensei), the founder of Aikido, the martial art that I have been studying for the past 10 years.

In the years of my studying, I have been truly blessed with opportunities to attend many seminars and receive instruction from direct students of O’Sensei, or their students. I have also been blessed to have a Sensei who encourages his students to go to seminars and other dojos, which was not allowed in some of the other styles of martial arts that I have studied.

This past weekend I had the distinct honor to participate in a Seminar hosted by Brian Hill Sensei, the Dojo-Cho of River City Aikido in Richmond, Virginia USA. The visiting Sensei was Mark Larson Sensei, direct student of Morihiro Saito Shihan. I attended the seminar with my Aikido Sensei Steve Kanney, Dojo-Cho of Aikido Westchester NY (formerly Scarsdale Aikido), my Sempai Gregory T., and my Kohais Joseph D., Jason C., Ozzie P., Marco S,, Milton F, and Cristian C.

There were two things that made this seminar very memorable. The first was that it was the first time a large group from our dojo attended a seminar– a total of 9 of us. The second was the fact that a direct student of Morihiro Saito Shihan was teaching.

I have had the opportunity to attend many seminars in my 10 years of studying Aikido. This seminar, I was amazed at a few things. Some members of our dojo that were present for this seminar have only been studying Aikido for as little as 3 months , 6 months, and one about 1 year. The others ranged from 1 year and over. When I first started Aikido, I wish I had the courage to go to a seminar when I had only 3 months of training, let alone a seminar of this quality.

I waited about 1 year and 4 months before I had the honor of going to my first seminar in Woodstock Aikido to receive teaching by the late Seiichi Sugano Shihan, who was a direct student of O’Sensei. I remember that I felt so intimidated, because the seminar was filled with so many participants wearing Hakamas, which meant they were black belts, but there I was. I handed my book in before the start of the first session, changed alongside of those black belts, feeling many things. Once on the mat after the stretching, the first technique was demonstrated by Sugano Shihan. It was about 1 turn to the left and 8 seconds when one of those black belts bowed towards me (indicating he wanted to practice with me) when I realized that I should have gone to seminars long before. So thank you to my Kohais who came to this seminar, I wish I had the courage to do that in my early practice of Aikido–you picked a great one to start with.

As for the seminar with Mark Larson Sensei, before the seminar started I had some feelings similar to my first seminar. Now, 10 years later, I was going to a seminar as a Shodan to receive instruction from a direct student of the late Saito Shihan. Yes, I was nervous up until Larson Sensei started to talk. The very first thing he said that he wanted to preserve what he was entrusted with from Saito Shihan: the sharing of Iwama Aikido. Once I heard that, all my feelings subsided. I had a great time meeting Larson Sensei and other Aikidokas from around the United States. But the most interesting thing for me was how Larson Sensei is so humble as a person and so generous as Sensei.

This is Aikido, as O’Sensei wished it to be. I have been humbled by this experience, and look forward to my continued study of Aikido. I am slowly understanding more, the many thanks to my Sensei Steve Kanney for his encouragement to always go to quality seminars. Because of him, I have been exposed to many quality Senseis, and now Larson Sensei. Thank You.

Just Some Ways That Studying Aikido Informs My Living by Dmitry Dinces

In thinking about applying principle of Aikido away from the mat, I am reminded of how some of the basic tenants of my daily practice have become a part of my world view. It is perhaps not so surprising after all, considering that Aikido is in a sense a very organic, natural application of simple physical and logical principles – blending with opponent, extending the opponent past his center, keeping yourself grounded and balanced, remaining calm and introspective, being respectful and honoring your teachers and their teachers. The list can go on and on. I will mention here connecting two basic principles that transcend their physical application but nevertheless are an integral part of Aikido worldview – centering oneself and self examination.

The concept of centering yourself physically and mentally in order to enhance one’s perception or to generate strength in movement or in mental fortitude is not unique to Aikido. Many philosophers and artist independently came to understand the value of this viewpoint — Henry Miller for example wrote a series of essays titled “Stand Still Like The Hummingbird”. The application of this tenet is reinforced day in and day out in our practice – do not focus on controlling the hand but focus on controlling the whole body; look toward other possible attackers; think of yourself as a center of calm in the whirlwind. I often think of this concept when faced with challenges that have a potential to overwhelm or to unbalance one’s life – personal relationships, challenges of parenting, work. Finding a foundation — an idea or a concept — that allows you to remain grounded in facing potentially unsettling circumstances is often absolutely necessary for a balanced life. Being presented with a daunting task of caring for aging parents, for example, can be unsettling. The difficult aspect is not providing the actual physical assistance – that is the easy part of the task. It is the demoralizing anguish of seeing once strong and independent loved ones slowly becoming physically and mentally infirm that can make one feel helpless and self-centered. There is a strong desire to avoid seeing the inevitable, to escape reality by preserving the memory of how things were. How do you find that inner anchor –what center do you hold on to remain strong for yourself and for them? See the forest for the trees then, the important and sacred instead of daily disappointments. So instead of feeling threatened or overwhelmed by the unsettling circumstances, find your strength in thinking of your obligation as a privilege, an honor to be there for your parents in the time of need, being their center as well as yours. Find your grounding in focusing outward, in being selfless and compassionate in facing the challenges with a clear mind, in understanding that your position is a blessing – both of your lives will be enriched in the process.

Studying of Aikido teaches one to continuously examine the strength of one’s practice – what makes a particular technique effective, where lies the strength or weakness of a particular defense or counter? One quickly learns that success is rooted not simply in doing something harder, or faster, but in breaking down the movement and understanding the dynamics, understanding the balance, the source of strength and also of weakness of a particular technique. This daily introspection becomes a part of one’s outlook on life and leads to finding opportunities to examine merits and weaknesses in other undertakings. I find no better place to apply these lessons that in the everyday challenges of parenting. How do you get through to your kids in the most effective way, how do you teach them life’s lessons, how do you teach them to teach themselves – to impart to them the practice of recognizing valuable lessons embedded in their own daily experiences? And so begins the application of practices the value of which I’ve recognized because of the daily lesson taught to me by my Aikido teachers. Daily life lessons after all are never seizing. Your kid and a friend get in trouble in school—you can punish them or it might be a time for a conversation about learning how to recognize when a friend’s influence can be damaging or a conversation about teaching a child to assert their sense of moral comfort in their relationships or a talk on how to recognize the signs of losing their independence in a relationship that they value. Your kid makes silly mistakes on a test – you can tell them to be more careful next time, or it might be a good learning moment to teach them the value of examining their work, of looking back and checking their own conclusions with a critical eye of an independent observer. A kid feels put upon in school or feels having their trust betrayed by a classmate – it might be an opportunity for a discussion about learning how to deal with adversity, about holding their ground or walking away. Rightly or wrongly, I found in Aikido not just a series of self defense techniques, but a rich and life affirming outlook on dealing with many complex issues. Many more lessons are waiting to be discovered by a diligent student. The learning never stops.

Aikido and Entrepreneurship by Gregory Temkin

I am an entrepreneur. As scholars define it, an entrepreneur is a person who is constantly on the look for opportunities, identifies them promptly, becomes the drive for the business idea and the team, and uses these opportunities to create a positive result. If an opportunity does not present itself, he is to lay ground for it, help the opportunity to shape up and then exploit it to the benefit of the participants.

 

It is amazingly similar to what I have been learning in Aikido: be aware at all times, recognize the intent at a very early stage, establish a connection with the opponent and then use the momentum to perform a technique resolving the situation with maximum positivity. If the opponent is not making his move, initiate the attack, gain the center and still achieve the desired result.

 

A very essential similarity in both Aikido and entrepreneurship is lack of ill intent. A business idea is best implemented when all participants win: the product meets the needs of the consumers, the investors get their return on the investment, and the work team makes profit enjoying the process and the positive energy along the way. In Aikido, you do not cultivate hate to your opponent, or fight him with an intent to kill or maim. On the contrary, you blend with the opponent, connect with him so closely that you almost become one, and then guide him with care to the best available solution.

 

While my business experience has considerably facilitated my learning and assimilating the Aikido principles, my Aikido training has greatly enhanced my entrepreneurial skills. At most times I am calm, aware of what is going on around me; I try to navigate situations to the best outcome for all those concerned and stay connected to the market’s needs and challenges.

 

As an example, I closely follow any regulatory changes that may affect exportation to Russia. Recently I became aware of new regulations that would have a very serious impact on international trade (Awareness). I tried convening an international seminar on the subject, but despite the interest, few companies turned out to be prepared to attend. The main reason for the low turnout was the travel cost of going to another city or country for a few days. I changed the strategy and proposed the format of a free webinar, which immediately got me about a hundred participating corporations (Attack initiation). I knew that the companies would expect not only a general overview of the changes, but the details and practical solutions specific to their particular business. As it is impossible to cover that many industries in a 90-minute presentation, I adapted the scenario and suggested that half of the time would be dedicated to questions that may be of interest to most participants, while more specific questions would be answered later in writing or over the phone (Blending). During the webinar I explained the intricacies of new regulations and demonstrated that my company has the knowledge and experience to handle those problems efficiently (Technique execution). Eventually, the participants learned about the pitfalls and best approach solutions, and I gained several valued customers who contracted our services (Best positive resolution). Would my strategy be that clear-cut and effective if I had not been a student of Aikido for the past 10 years? Probably not. Anyway, as I said above, my business experience and Aikido skills definitely work in synergy and enhance each other – a good example of the Heaven and Earth technique.

Earth-planted heaven

Resolving all conflicts:

Tenshinage.

 

A Dojo by Ricardo Rivera

I feel that our dojo is very unique and traditional in many ways.  We recently had a seminar on Iwama weapons with Steve Kanney Sensei, Dojo Cho of Scarsdale Aikido (Aikido White Plains). While there are many martial arts styles and dojos throughout the world, I feel that our is very unique.  As some of you may know, I have practiced many other martial arts, yet while I was a member of those particular arts and attended those places of practice, none offered such an open mind towards others like our dojo.

For one, we share our dojo with a very traditional Chinese martial art (Kung Fu) Master Kwong who Sensei Steve has shared his teachings with us who practice Aikido. This is something that I was not used to.  When I practiced certain arts the Sifu or Sensei  (in TKD the instructor is Sir or Master) would not allow you to attend any other instructors’ seminars or events unless they themselves would be going as a group.  If it was known that you did attend without his or her approval (or say blessing) this would be a cause for you to be punished (by means of extra work while at class , or you would be the sole person cleaning the dojo, or sometimes even just not being accepted anymore to practice at that dojo).

In our dojo our instructor not only oks it, but he also invites other practitioners of different martial arts to give seminars. This for me is very good. I feel that all true martial arts are good, and there are some that teach well but show different things. Tolerance is a very important quality to have in oneself. It is part of practicing any martial art. The notion that one is better than another is a bad quality to have, instead of just looking at it as being different yet still a martial art.

I know that most members haven’t seen me for some time, and that my attendance at the dojo is sporadic. This is due to work schedule and being in the military, but never because I don’t want to be there.  I have been practicing Aikido since 2005, and have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy the dojo and its members because I feel as part of a family of a unique dojo that promotes harmony. It has been shown to me every time Master Kwong does a seminar and invites us to attend or even to watch, and am reminded every time Kanney Sensei does a seminar or invites other martial arts styles to our dojo for us to practice or observe. Our daily practice grows with this type of instruction.

I also want to thank Kanney Sensei, and all that attended the seminar (thank you for supporting the dojo event) I want to Thank Sensei Suryama, Kevin and Muuhito for coming to our dojo and showing us Kendo.  I’m ready for the next surprise.  To those that were unable to attend am sure there will be other times and we look forward to seeing you there.  We as a dojo need to support it and each other, It is good Aikido practice.

Breathing by Ric Rivera

On March 3, 2013, Joe DeJesus and I attended an Iron Palm Seminar at the Westchester Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Qi-Gong Center in White Plains, NY. I have studied Jeet Kun Do, Shotokan Karate, Krav Maga,Taekwondo, and currently Iwama Aikido.

While at the seminar, I spoke to Master Kwong and his disciple John Rivera, (we are not sure yet if we are related, that will be another blog). As Joe and I spoke to Master Kwong, the conversation developed into breathing. Master Kwong explained something that I have learned from the different martial arts I have studied and every Aikido class I have taken from Sensei Steve: “Breathe.” Breathing is life! No matter what we do, we have to breathe.

When we practice, we need to practice breathing. It is an important part of training. It trains your body and mind to be calm. When we are calm, we are focused, alert, and at the ready for anything. Our vision sees more. Our hearing hears more. Our reaction deals with things more efficiently, and we are able to come out of situations without stress.

When we hold our breath, or breathe rapidly, our mind and body become unfocused and erratic. John Rivera explained to the seminar attendees how he developed his Iron Palm, and all that is involved in training. He stated that if you do not develop your breathing, your training will not flow. He is right.

In Aikido, when we do randori (translated as “ceasing the chaos”), I have noticed that because of not breathing our mind and body become chaotic. But when we control our breathing, we become more alert, our body reacts quicker, our vision can see the opening, and we become less distracted and less tired.

I walked away from the seminar with that in mind, and will train harder to develop breathing into my training. I would like to thank Master Kwong for conversing with Joe and me. I would like to thank John Rivera for his demonstration of Iron Palm, and showing me the importance of breathing.

The Making of a Daityo-ryu Seminar – An interview with Cliff Muniz

What gave you the idea to have a seminar with Roy Goldberg ?

Actually it wasn’t my idea for the seminar, it was  my Aikido instructor, Kanney Sensei who set that up. I met Goldberg Sensei at one of my physical therapy sessions for a tendonitis injury I sustained during my Aikido practice. I remember sitting down getting ready for my session and I begin to start stretching my wrists (Nikkyo) and he saw me and yelled out saying “Hey, I know that exercise, you must know the arts” and at that point we just started chatting it up.

During some of my other therapy sessions Goldberg Sensei was treating me and would start to talk about our training and that he was an instructor in Daito Ryu, which I really didn’t know much about it, other that reading some info about it online ,etc. Goldberg Sensei then showed me some of his photos and videos that he had saved in his camera, and I can say I was amazed at some of the techniques that seemed unreal.

At one my sessions with  Goldberg Sensei I invited him to our Dojo and he accepted, gave me his card and in turn  I handed it to my Aikido instructor Kanney Sensei and told him about my conversations with Goldberg Sensei and that maybe it might be good to meet him, and rest was history.

 

Did Sensei Goldberg explain what Daito-ryu is?

Goldberg Sensei began to give me some of the history of Daito-ryu , but you can talk for hours about that, and we had only a limited time to do this during my physical therapy sessions. I also visited his website and read his background and I was impressed, especially knowing that he has trained many in the law enforcement community, so that caught my eye as myself being a retired officer and that he also trained certain units of my department.

 

How was Daito-ryu different from Aikido?  

There were differences in some of the techniques that we practiced during the seminar, where many of the techniques were very close to the body and bringing the attacker straight down in front of you.

 

Were there similarities? 

I would say there were some similarities, just different in the way the technique was applied.

 

Did you enjoy the seminar?

I would have to admit, I actually enjoyed the Daito-ryu seminar. It was my first time in actually seeing/participating in this martial art and look forward to attending again in the future.

 

Was it difficult to make the transition to Daito-ryu techniques, or did your Aikido training make it easier?  

I would have to believe that my Aikido training definitely helped while participating in the Daito-ryu seminar, but of course Goldberg Sensei was also very helpful in asking the student that he was working with if they were ok in doing certain techniques so that no injuries would occur.

 

Thanks, Clifford, for your time and for your efforts in bringing this seminar to our dojo!

Training and Etiquette by Gregory Temkin

What is the right way to purport oneself in an Aikido dojo? Every one joining the Aikido community wants to learn about the etiquette. This information is scarce, while etiquette rules may vary considerably from dojo to dojo, even within Takemusu schools. Certain etiquette stipulations, observed strictly in other schools, may not be emphasized at our dojo, yet it is helpful to be aware of them.

Respect and sincerity constitute the core of requirements universal for all Aikido practitioners.

Etiquette hones the mind and helps putting it in the mode that would be optimal for learning the Art.  Hopefully fellow Aikidokas will find reading this synopsis of the Takemusu (Iwama) Aikido etiquette as useful as I did when researching it.  

 

AIKIDO TAKEMUSU DOJO ETIQUETTE – REIHO

Etiquette is not simply a dead tradition or custom: it is a living method of training in itself. Observe it mindfully.

 

  1. SENSEI – The Teacher

 

Your sensei, your teacher, is someone with whom you have entered into a relationship of mutual trust. You trust your sensei to teach you the art of Aikido to the best of his or her ability. In turn, your sensei is trusting you to practice safely and diligently, to learn wholeheartedly, and to conduct yourself in a manner that reflects favorably on Aikido.

“Sensei” literally means “one who is born before.” This does not refer to age; your sensei may in fact be younger than you. “Born before” means that your sensei entered the path of Aikido training before you, and has already passed where you are going. Your sensei is a guide. You do not owe blind allegiance to him or her, but you do owe respect, patience and commitment.  Your sensei is someone who with his or her own body, possibly at the risk of life and limb, has learned this art and committed to sharing it with others. You sensei is your connection to the lineage of teachers stretching back to O-Sensei and beyond.  Treasure that connection as the valuable thing it is.

When your sensei talks, listen intently. Watch intently. Not everything in Aikido training will be explained verbally to you; it is an unskilled teacher who feels the need to explain every detail of the instruction with words alone. Be patient, and train diligently. As your training progresses, you will gain the satisfaction of discovering for yourself aspects of our art. Once gained, that knowledge is yours. This is the transmission of knowledge isshin den shin, from mind to mind.

Instructors at the dojo and students with the rank of 4th dan and above must be addressed as Sensei. Other students senior to you are traditionally addressed as Sempei (Senior) – this is optional.

 

  1. AIKIDOKA – Students of the Way

 

Treat your sempai (senior students) with respect, and support their efforts to help your sensei. Learn from them, for they also have been where you are headed. Each of them has learned from your sensei according to individual capability, and each may have unique knowledge or variations that others have missed.

Treat your kohai (Junior students) with encouragement and support. They are under your care. They depend on you to learn, and they look up to you, often blindly. Be careful to be worthy of the respect they give you, and do everything in your power to help them in their training. Above all, do not be overbearing, and be wary of their praise: remember your place, and cultivate humility.

 

  1. THE DOJO – A Place of Training

 

The word “dojo” can be translated as “place of the Way” or “place of enlightenment. It is obvious from this that something more than a mere gymnasium or training hall is denoted by the word “dojo”.

A favorite saying of O-Sensei’s was “Masakatsu agatsu” – true victory is self-victory. The dojo is the special place where we train for this victory over self.

 

  1. REIHOBasic Takemusu Aikido Etiquette and rules.

 

  • TALKING during training does not substitute for practice. Unnecessary conversation distracts to the class no matter the intent.
  • RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO INSTRUCT OTHERS. If either yourself or your partner require assistance call the instructor , even if you have to wait a bit, this will ensure the continuity of instruction.
  • LISTEN CAREFULLY TO INSTRUCTION and earnestly practice the forms shown. An instructor not only teaches by verbal and physical demonstration but also through on-going class interaction and feedback. This is heightened by the earnest efforts of all students. 
  • OBSERVE SENIOR STUDENT BEHAVIOR as a functional guide to dojo etiquette.
  • Always stop training and LISTEN WITH UNDIVIDED ATTENTION to the instructor when personally addressed. The instructor will know that he or she has your full attention when you respond appropriately with “Hai“(yes) or “Arigato“(thank you) to the instruction given. 

 

  1. BOWING:

 

  • BOWING WHEN ENTERING OR DEPARTING the dojo is a measure of the value you place on this training.
  • BOWING “ON” AND “OFF” the mat or training area, in a respectful manner, is usual in aikido. 
  • The bow may be standing, kneeling or more traditionally, kneeling with a ritual clapping of hands. These bows are performed facing towards the shomen (designated area or “front” of the mat).
  • A training session in aikido also COMMENCES AND FINISHES WITH A BOW TOWARDS THE SHOMEN or a likeness of the Founder with ritual hand clapping , called a “Shinto bow” – two bows whilst kneeling with the hands palmed together and followed by two sharp claps and a further bow. These rituals are not for religious reasons but as a show of respect and tradition. An exchange of “onegaeshimus” at the beginning and “domo arigato gozaimashita” at the end of a training session takes place when the instructor turns to acknowledge the students. (ONEGAESHIMUS in this instance is Japanese for “please teach” and “please practice” when uttered by the students and instructor respectively. DOMO ARIGATO GOZAIMASHITA is thank you for “teaching” and “practicing” when uttered by the students and instructor respectively. When students say it, they precede it with the word “sensei”, e.g. “sensei domo arigato gozaimashita”). 
  • Don’t sit with your back close to and facing the shomen. Side-on is fine.
  • Enter and leave the matt DURING A TRAINING SESSION with the customary bows and permission of the instructor. Students late to class should “warm-up” with exercises before commencing training.

 

  1. TRAINING:
  • COMMANDS “ONE LINE” or “SUGI WA” (next) call may be used by the instructor for students to form a line along the edge of the mat, facing the Shomen, in readiness for instruction. A prompt response to these commands improves the efficiency of the class. For similar reasons a student should quickly move to the instructor when called up to be an Uke (attacker) during this instruction. 
  • A student without the guidance or permission of the instructor SHOULD NOT CONTEMPLATE ATTENDING OTHER SCHOOLS FOR “EXTRA TRAINING”. Self-regulation of your training in this way is a psychological dismissal of your instructor and time to go elsewhere.
  • FIGHTING, TRAINING DANGEROUSLY, DISRESPECT TOWARDS THE INSTRUCTOR AND OTHER STUDENTS, OR DISREGARD FOR TEACHING DIRECTIVES AND SAFETY cannot be tolerated. Offending persons who do not change their attitude when requested shall have no place at the dojo.
  • BE A SINCERE UKE. In Japanese there is an expression: shinken shobu. It literally means a fight with live steel swords. It implies a true, serious situation. Your attitude in training must be “shinken shobu”. When your partner attacks you with a wooden knife in practice, you must believe it is a real knife. When you attack your partner in practice, attack truly. In this manner, you both will receive real benefit from the training.
  1. SAFETY AND AWARENESS
    • When you train, remember always the potential for injury that lies within your movements.

    • Be conscious of your openings and gaps in your awareness, and those of your partner.

    • Walk and move with purpose, ready at any time to respond to whatever arises in your daily life and on the mats.

    • Understand deeply that in this life we may die at any moment, and train with this awareness.

    • When throwing be sure your partner doesn’t clash with someone 

    • Train slowly with focus and never beyond the level of your partner 

    • When undertaking jo (staff) or bokken (wooden sword) group training, wait away from the activity line. Keep an adequate distance between yourself and your partner in more rapid weapons partner exercises and always be aware of others who are training nearby. 

    • Treat others as you wish to be treated. Practice always with sensitivity toward your partner’s capabilities and limitations, as well as your own.

 

  1. DUES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 

  • DUES: It is wrong to think of the dojo as some sort of health club where you pay for your instruction and expect to get as much as you can. You do not pay for your instruction at a dojo: the teachings you will receive, which your sensei has learned with great effort and exertion over many years, are beyond any price. Your dojo fees simply insure that the facility itself can continue to exist viably. Pay your dues on time, without being asked. Do not put your instructor in the uncomfortable position of having to ask you for money. You do not hesitate to pay a doctor or other professional who provides services to you; treat your sensei with the same consideration. Late or negligent payment is a sign of disrespect not only to your teacher, but to the dojo and your fellow students.

  • PREPARING THE DOJO prior to class is also a measure of self-preparation for the coming session. Sweeping the hall and mat and taking other measures to prevent dust and grit getting onto the training surface is mandatory. 

  • PROPER ATTIRE is required for training, however, this may be relaxed where newcomers are involved. A judo or karate gi and a white belt is the usual attire worn at kyu level. The hakama (Traditional Japanese pant) and black belt are worn by Dan ranks. 

  • SMOKING, BEING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS OR ALCOHOL isn’t permitted at the dojo for safety and hygiene reasons. Concerns regarding blood should be taken seriously, and measures adopted to minimise any danger to H.I.V. and Hepatitis strains. An immediate response, careful clean up and disposal of any blood spilt is essential.
  • GOOD PERSONNAL HYGENE in all activities shows appropriate care towards oneself and others. Nails on your fingers and toes must be clipped.

  • JEWELRY may cause injury to yourself or others if worn during training and should be removed and secured before going onto the mat.

  • The dojo is solely for the study of aikido. It is NOT AN OPPORTUNITY for selling, networking, socializing, developing cliques, politicking or for unloading one’s personnel problems

 

  1. INSIDE THE DOJO

 

A typical dojo will have several features you should be aware of. In particular, certain areas of the dojo have meanings that you should know. The following diagram and definitions will be helpful:

1. Kamiza: Literally “god-seat”, the kamiza is the “front” of the dojo, and the direction towards which you will sit and bow at the beginning and end of class. The kamiza in an Aikido dojo will usually have a hanging calligraphic scroll and a photograph of Ueshiba O-Sensei. It may also have a small shrine or kamidana (“god-shelf”) in the Shinto tradition, floral arrangements, or other objects depending on the orientation of the dojo. The kamiza may also be called the “shomen” – the head or center.

2. Shimoza: The shimoza is the “low” wall, opposite the kamiza.

3. Joseki: The joseki is the “high” seat, the right hand side of the dojo as you face the kamiza. When students are lined up formally, they will sit in order of rank or seniority, with higher-ranked students on the Joseki side.

4. Shimoseki: The “low” seat, the shimoseki is the left hand side of the dojo as you face the kamiza. Lower ranked students and beginners will be seated on this side.

5. Tatami: Tatami technically are woven straw mats, the traditional floor covering in Japanese dojo as well as homes. Modem dojo usually use some sort of foam mats, which are easier to maintain and last longer.

 

Compiled and adapted by Gregory Temkin from:

 

Web site of Aikido Takemusu Teachers and Dojos in Melbourne, Australia;

 

AAA Student Manual; “Aikido Dojo Etiquette (Reiho) 10 Points” by Hiroshi Isoyama Shihan, 8th dan