Dojo Etiquette

These points of etiquette may seem odd, old fashioned or overly rigid to new students. While they are traditional, these rules are meant to keep everyone safe and help every student to learn.  They also help instill a proper mindset, of focus and respect. Once you get used to training, you might find that the traditional format is relaxing and even reassuring!

Before Class:

  1. Be fifteen minutes early to class to help set up the mats.
  2. Bow to the Shomen (front) when entering and the leaving the mats.
    • Do not wear shoes on the mats.
    • Address the instructor as Sensei (teacher)
    • If a senior student corrects you about a matter of etiquette, do not be offended; the correction is meant well and it is the responsibility of senior students to help new students learn etiquette.
  3. Sit quietly in seiza facing the front of the dojo, in a straight line with the other students, before class starts.
    • Sitting seiza is often challenging for new students.  Try to sit seiza as much as possible, but you may also sit cross-legged, if necessary.

At the Start of Class:

  1. When the senior student (sempai) says: Shomen Ni Rei, bow to the front (shomen).
  2. When the senior student says: Sensei Ni Rei, bow to the instructor (Sensei) and say: Onegai shimasu (I make a request).
  • If you are late for class, sit seiza at the edge of the mat.  Join the class when Sensei gives you permission.
  • Once class has started, never leave the mat without Sensei’s permission.  If you are ill or injured, inform Sensei immediately.

When Sensei is Teaching:

  1. Remain quiet while Sensei is instructing.  If you do not understand something, wait until Sensei solicits student questions or comes to advise you and your partner (see below).
  • If Sensei calls upon you to assist in demonstrating a technique, bow to Sensei and then join Sensei at the front of the class.  When finished, bow, stand up, and return to your original place in the line.

When Practicing Techniques:

  1. Prior to practicing a technique with your partner, bow to each other saying: One gaishi masu.  Then, you can begin practicing the technique that Sensei has demonstrated.  Do this also when changing partners.
    • Practice is an exchange.  The purpose is to learn what Sensei is teaching.  Some cooperation between students is required.
    • During practice, minimize talking and laughing.  Have consideration for your fellow students, as they are trying to learn.
    • During practice, if Sensei comes to advise you and your partner regarding the technique, sit seiza and listen.  You may ask a question, but there is no need to comment.  When Sensei is finished, thank Sensei, bow, and continue your practice.
    • Again, do not leave the mat without asking permission.  If you need to rest, get a drink, are feeling ill or have been injured, tell your training partner and Sensei immediately.
  1. When Sensei signals (claps) return to the line and sit seiza with the other students.

At the End of Class:

  1. At the end of class sit seiza in a straight line.
  2. When sempai says: Shomen Ni Rei, all bow to the front with Sensei.
  3. When sempai says: Sensei Ni Rei, students bow to Sensei saying: Domo arigato gozi masuta (thank you very much).
  4. After Sensei leaves the mat, sempai will say: Otagai Ni Rei. Bow to everyone with whom you practiced saying: Domo arigato gozaimashita.
  5. When class is concluded, help to remove and stack mats neatly.

General Rules:

  • Never engage in rough-housing or needless contests of strength on the mats.
  • Never wear jewelry while practicing.  This can be dangerous to you and others.
  • Never chew gum or eat candy while practicing.
  • Always keep your finger and toe nails trimmed.
  • Always practice good hygiene.  Keep your body and uniform clean.
  • If you cannot train and are watching class, do not distract those on the mat.
  • Above all, respect others as you want them to respect you.


If this review of etiquette has left you with even more questions:

Why do we bow?   ~ What if I can’t throw my partner?   ~ How did aikido develop, anyway?

check out our frequently asked questions page!