Little House In Ise

The Sergeant at Arms for Etiquette
October 4, 2008, 14:06
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , , ,

Most groups or organizations have rules and norms of behavior that, to an extent, define their culture. Aikikai Honbu dojo has many. Some are written others are not. Many classes seem to have a sort of Sergeant-at-Arms for Etiquette. I am not sure if it is a self-appointed role but I have seen the same people counseling visitors and other new comers about behavior in the dojo. Usually people understand that they have just committed some sort of minor faux pas but often are left wondering what exactly they did wrong — I saw a French (Belgian?) visitor being chided in broken English and he clearly had no idea what he had done wrong. Here is a list of a few unwritten rules of Honbu dojo …

1 – No how matter how much sweat is pouring down your face, if Sensei is demonstrating do NOT wipe your face. Before or after is fine just NOT during.

2 – Common to many dojo that I have been in, it is considered rude to lean against the walls. Especially when sitting, keep your back straight and away from nearby walls.

3 – Also common to other dojo where I have trained, try not to have your back to the shomen when bowing.

4 – When watching (sitting or standing) don’t cross your arms. This posture is believed to indicate a challenge or perhaps lack of respect.

5 – In most classes, when sensei does informal demonstrations nearby students are expected to kneel and watch. Doshu’s classes are different. He wanders around and picks individuals to throw but he doesn’t want others to stop training to watch. So, don’t stop for him just keep on training and watch out of the corner of your eye.

6 – At Honbu dojo there are two entrances into the third floor training space. Sensei and women enter through the main door. Men are expected to enter through the door connected to the men’s locker room.

7 – Please note, if you arrive late, you will annoy sensei. However, it does happen, so make sure you bow in properly and then join the class. I have seen people wait to be acknowledged and then allowed in to practice (as is common in other schools) but that does not seem to be required here.

8 – There are signs up saying that “due to the heat wave over the summer” water bottles will be allowed in the dojo. That said, I have yet to see a single water bottle in the dojo proper. Men go to the locker area to drink and women go to the second or fourth floor fountains (fourth is closer and its downhill on the way back:-)).

9 – During clean-up after class, leave the weapons rack to the locals — there seems to be a pecking order related to who moves it (at least in morning class).

10 – It is perfectly acceptable to skip clean-up if you are running downstairs to take part in another class — just hurry so that you don’t annoy the other teacher.

These are the things that I have seen visitors bumping into. FYi …


4 Comments so far
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11 – 2nd floor dojo the sensei enters through one door (next to shomen), students through the other.

12 – no matter what the exceptions are in your country try not to cross your legs but only sit in seiza during sensei’s demonstration.

13 – ALWAYS bow (preferably kneeling) to O-Sensei while entering or leaving the dojo, even if for a sip of water or drop of blood (band aid, i mean). learned it the hard way, aaah.

14 – brooms are not only for boys and washing rags are not only for girls, no matter what some less equal minded person tries to explain you when you seem to tget it wrong.


Comment by Kadi


Thank you for adding those. The second floor is still a bit of a mystery to me but more so, the fourth floor…



Comment by Eric Holcomb

The subtle differences in etiquette between dojos are fascinating, and a bit nerve-racking.

I found this picture on the front page of a dojo near me. (go to it’s on the home page.) Notice the cross-legged students in front of O-sensei.

Comment by robert

Howdy Robert,

Good picture and good point. That’s kinda why I posted this. Expectations vary more than mileage!


Comment by Eric Holcomb

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