What to Expect

Aikidoists practice in a spirit of cooperation. Aikido practice is intense and focused, but also enjoyable. We constantly learn from each other through working with senior students or through helping beginners learn how to move their bodies. We also work hard, so come prepared to sweat as well!

Your First Class

At the beginning of class, students should line up in seiza (kneeling) facing the picture of O-Sensei. It is permissable to sit with one's legs crossed if kneeling is uncomfortable. Sensei will clap twice to notify students that class is about to begin. Ideally, students should be lined up and ready to practice before Sensei claps. Practice begins when Sensei bows in to the class. The first 30 minutes of class consists of warm-ups, stretching, and basic exercises, followed by a short break. Following the break Sensei will call a student forward (usually by rank)and will demonstrate the technique that the students should practice. When Sensei feels the technique has been sufficiently demonstrated, Sensei and Uke (attacker) will bow to each other. At this point the class should bow as well. As a matter of politeness, someone should bow in to Sensei's Uke as quickly as possible for practice. Regardless of rank, whoever serves as Uke for Sensei is always the first to practice the technique.

Students will bow in to one another until each student is paired up, although occasionally students must work in groups of three. One student will be the Nage (defender) and the other the Uke (attacker). It is polite for the student of lower rank to be Uke first. Uke will attack Nage four times and then the two students will switch roles.

At the end of class, students will line up as at the beginning of class to bow out. Afterwards, students will be asked to bow to and thank their partners of the evening. Students then gather around the picture of O-Sensei for announcements and dismissal. Once class is complete, students are expected to help clean up the dojo.

Safety

If a student has difficulty with a technique, he or she should always politely solicit Sensei's attention and ask for help. Once Sensei has demonstrated the technique again, bow and thank Sensei. Don't be afraid to let Sensei know if you still don't understand -- we're not here to be perfect; we're here to learn. It is much better to wait for Sensei's help than to interrupt another student or to offer instruction to another set of students. If another student other than your partner asks for help, politely redirect them to Sensei.

Tatsumakai Aikido strives to make practice as safe as possible; however, students do occasionally become injured. Let Sensei know as soon as possible when this occurs and before leaving the mat.

Etiquette

The practice of Aikido is a close sport, and can be a dangerous one if protocol is not followed. The dojo also thrives and survives on a spirit of cooperation. Therefore it is important that every Aikidoka understand and follow the rules of dojo etiquette.

  • All students should arrive at least 15 minutes before class to assist in preparing the dojo for class. Students are expected to stay after class to put equipment away.
  • Remove your shoes before you enter the dojo and leave them neatly against the wall outside the door. Bring your personal belongings into the dojo for safekeeping. Remove all jewelry before bowing onto the mat.
  • Do not chew gum or eat in the dojo.
  • Wash your training uniform regularly.
  • Do not come to class if you are under the influence of any substance that might cause you to injure yourself or others.
  • Abusive language or cursing, inappropriate or belittling comments on or off the mat will not be tolerated. The instructors reserve the right to ask anyone to leave if their behavior is endangering others.
  • Bow as you enter the dojo and before you get on the mat. Bow to you training partners before and after practicing a technique.
  • Always ask permission from the instructor before you leave the mat during class and bow as you leave. If you are late to class, kneel at the edge of the mat and wait for the instructor to invite you onto the mat.
  • All instructors are addressed as Sensei. Bow to the instructor after he or she has come to assist you during class. When in doubt, bow as a matter of courtesy and respect. Always accept help from the instructors with gratitude and thank them for their willingness to assist you. No one, unless asked, is to give instruction except the sensei. If there is a question, politely ask the sensei to assist you.
  • Sexual harassment or dscrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or any other aspect of a student's being will not be tolerated.

Rank

Generally speaking, personal growth should be the focus of one's Aikido practice, and not the gaining of rank. However, a ranking system does exist in Aikido. The following explains KSU Aikikai's interpretation of the ranking system.

Students start out unranked. After attending 60 days of classes, a student may test for his or her first rank: 5th kyu (prounounced cue). Once a student has tested successfully, the practice count begins over. Upon 80 more days of practice, the student may test for 4th kyu, and so on. Kyu ranks continue up to 1st kyu. Kyu ranks are tested within the dojo by Sensei Dan, and at his discretion.

Dan (pronounced "dahn") rankings are the next step after kyu rankings, and count upward from one. A shodan (first dan) is what most martial arts call a "first degree black belt." Progressing in dan rankings typically takes years of practice, as well as going to multiple outside seminars. It is said that once one achieves shodan, then an Aikidoist finally becomes a serious student. Students testing for dan rank test at seminars with shidoin.

All kyu ranks at KSU Aikikai wear white belts, and all Dan ranks wear black. Hakama are typically worn starting at 2nd kyu.

While it is tempting to think that simply putting in the appropriate amount of time qualifies one to test, testing is always up to the discretion of one's Sensei. Testing is not simply about completed hours, but is also about attitude and ability.

Movement exercises during class