Aikido is a discipline, an educational process for training the mind, body and spirit. Physical technique is not the true object, but a tool for personal refinement and spiritual development.
One of the most important aspects of martial arts study is learning to discipline one's own behavior. A prime example of this discipline is the practice of Reigi, or Reishiki (dojo etiquette) that we observe with other students in our dojo or practice area. Many individuals confuse Reigi with worship. Aikido is not a religion. When we bow or observe special ceremonies, these are for the purpose of training our minds.
Etiquette is also confused with respect. Etiquette is a set of behaviors that may reflect respect, but respect is a feeling deep inside a person. We cannot demand respect.
Correct etiquette in Aikido is basically acting in a polite way to others. Some of the stylized manners we assume are:
When entering or leaving the dojo we face the front of the practice area and perform Ritsu Rei (standing bow). We use this bow as an opportunity to remind ourselves to be grateful for this place we train in and to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of others who have come before us.
Upon entering the dojo, if you see the instructor, greet him by bowing and offer a greeting of "Hello Sensei" or Good evening Sensei" in a clear tone. In a Zen temple a monk has a daily interview with the Roshi (headmaster). At that time he strikes a kansho (bell) to announce his presence. The Roshi hearing the tone of the kansho immediately knows the state of mental/physical integration of the monk. In the same spirit the Aikido deshi (student) announces his presence when first entering the Dojo. The instructor should instantly gauge his understanding by the sound of his voice. When Sensei replies "welcome", the simultaneously existing relationships of fellow Aikidoka and teacher/student are re-affirmed in a traditional manner.
The student and the Sensei bow to each other after Haku Shu which begins and ends each class. The class is opened and closed with this formal ceremony. It is important to be on time and participate in this ceremony, but if you are unavoidably late you should wait, formally seated at the entrance to the dojo until Sensei signals permission for you to join the class. Perform Haku Shu silently before joining the class.
Bow to your training partner when starting each training interval. Say to your partner, "Onegai Shimasu", which means "please come share your training with me". This acknowledges each persons responsibility for safe and positive training. Standing bows (Ritsu Rei) should be returned by a standing bow. Sitting bows (Za Rei) should be returned by a sitting bow. You need also to bow to your partner when finishing each training interval.
After Sensei has finished demonstrating a movement, bow and thank him or her.
Rules of Training
Address persons teaching as Sensei.
While watching the teacher teach, students should sit quietly and attentively in seiza (proper sitting) or agura (cross legged sitting position). When receiving personal instruction during class sit in seiza and watch intently. Bow formally to Sensei when he has finished. When he is instructing another you may stop your practice to watch. Sit formally and bow when instruction is finished.
When the end of a technique is signaled stop immediately, bow to your partner and line up with the other students.
There will be no ego conflicts on the mat. Aikido is not street fighting. You are on the mat to train.
There will be no competition on the mat.The purpose of Aikido is not in fighting and defeating an enemy, but in fighting and defeating your own aggressive instincts. The strength of Aikido is not in muscular force, but in flexibility, timing, control and modesty.
Everyone has different physical abilities and different reasons for study. These must be respected. True Aiki is the proper and flexible application of technique appropriate to any changing circumstance. It is your responsibility to cause no injury, to protect your training partner and yourself.
Receive Sensei's instructions and carry out his suggestion for training sincerely and to the best of your ability. There is no room for argument. The student has no opinion regarding technique. You must execute each technique as shown, not as you have done elsewhere. There are countless variations to technique. Practice the variation that has been taught now, not as you think it should be done.
All students are studying the same principles. There will be no conflicts of one group against another or of choosing sides. The dojo membership is one family and the secret of Aikido is harmony.
If you arrive at class early, please stretch out and find someone to work out with. It is unacceptable to lounge in the dojo until class starts. Please do not practice other martial arts once in the dojo. Time is short enough. Practice Aikido!
If it is necessary to leave class early please let the Sensei know beforehand, and say good-bye with a bow when leaving.
Keep talking on the mat to an absolute minimum. Aikido is experience.
No jewelry should be worn that might cause injury to your training partner or yourself.
Although there seem to be many forms of etiquette to remember, they will come naturally as you continue to train. Please do not be resentful if you are corrected on a point of Reigi for each one is important to your safety, that of your partners, and to the learning experience.