Entering and leaving the mat – Please bow to the shomen (tokenoma) when entering and leaving the mat. This is a sign of respect for Mohihei Ueshiba, often referred to as O-Sensei, the founder of Aikido.
Starting and ending practice – Bow to the shomen (tokenoma) at the beginning and end of practice. Follow the example of other members. Other Aikido studios may bow in a different way, hint when in doubt, bow.
Thanking your partners at the end of practice – At the end of practice there are two ways to thank your partners. When practice has ended you should thank all your partners for that practice by bowing to them and saying thank you. Some classes end by having the instructor ask everyone to form a circle near the front of the class. Then all the members thank each other simultaneously by bowing together.
Leaving the mat during practice – If you need to leave the mat during practice please ask for the instructor’s approval first. Return as quickly as possible. If you are unable to continue with practice or you do not wish to continue you should sit in line on the mat. Hint: Regarding leaving the mat during the practice – don’t.
Arriving late for practice – If you arrive late for practice, change into your practice clothes (dogi) and sit in seiza at the edge of the mat and wait for the instructor’s acknowledgment. Bow in, warm up, and join the practice.
Injuries – You must make safety your first priority. Never force anything unnaturally or unreasonably . Often it is possible to continue practicing but you must make others aware of any special considerations. For instance one might indicate a sensitive wrist by taping that wrist and notifying any partners. If the teacher demonstrates a technique that you are uncomfortable wit h it’s ok to sit that technique out.
Sitting on the mat during practice – There are two ways to sit when you are on the practice mat. The typical way is the Japanese seiza position (watch others). If sitting in the seiza position becomes uncomfortable it is OK to sit with legs crossed in front.
Talking before & during class – Talking is generally discouraged during class although this varies from teacher to teacher . Please be aware that verbalization can be distracting.
Quiet Classes – Occasionally a practice will be in silence at the instructor’s request.
Partner Rules – Safety is the first rule. After the instructor demonstrates a technique you will be asked to take partners. At this time please bow to someone you want to practice with. When it is time to sit down for the next demonstration, bow to your partner to thank t hem. If you and your partner are both new, or you have any doubts about who is more experienced, go slow! Each person needs to attempt to practice at their partners’ level. A more advanced partner needs to be aware of their partners’ limitations and practice at that level if necessary . Each member is encouraged to practice consistent with their health, age, and fitness levels. It is always ok to say NO. Sit, watch and be aware when not practicing.
Who is nage (doing the technique) and who is uke (attacker) – Typically “Uke” initiates an attack or hold and “Nage” receives and neutralizes this energy. The less experienced member “attacks” four times and then roles are reversed. Odd person out – If there are an odd number of members practicing, three people will work together . One pair will start practicing, while the third sits in line. Once the last uke finishes, the third member will rotate in and become uke. If there is a third member waiting to practice, please let them in after four turns each. To practice or not to – Members never have to practice any technique that they are uncomfortable with or cannot do because of injury. If the entire practice is doing front rolls and a member is getting dizzy, that member can sit down when they want to without permission if they are unable to get the teachers permission of if they are unable to continue at that moment. The member should then inform the teacher at the earliest possible time.
Proper dress for practice – Most members wear practice uniforms called Gi or Dogi. New members are not required to wear a gi until their first test. Until a member purchases a gi they should wear long loose fitting pants and a tee shirt. Shorts are not recommended and no jeans. A clean practice uniform shows respect to partners. If you sweat heavil y carry a small towel. Clean hands and feet are a must. No exceptions!
Hakama – The hakama is a traditional part of Aikido uniforms. They were worn by samurai in old Japan and are still worn by several martial arts including Aikido, Aikijutsu, Iaido, and Kenjutsu schools. At our dojo members of 3’rd kyu and above wear the hakama. When hakamas are worn varies from dojo to dojo.
Leaving your practice uniform at the studio – Practice uniforms may be left at the Loveland studio after practice. The gi can be left in the dressing rooms but should be taken home if you will not be practicing for awhile or when they need to be washed.
Ranks, belt system – This school uses a four color belt system that is common at many Aikido schools. White belts are worn by students of 6’th kyu and 5’th kyu ranks. The blue belt is worn at 4’th kyu and 3’rd kyu. The hakama is worn at 3’rd kyu level and above. The brown belt is worn by 2’nd kyu and 1’st kyu members. The black belt is worn after achieving 1’st degree black belt. There are no other marks on our uniforms to distinguish rank or difference between brown belt levels and black belt levels.
Test procedures and protocols – All tests are held in Loveland approximately every three months and are on Saturday mornings from 10a.m. to noon. By your first test, you should have your name on your gi. Ideally you should have your name on the gi as soon as you purchase one. This helps the teachers get to know you. A list of students who are eligible to test will be posted about one month before the test. A member who is testing needs to ask a more advanced member to work with them to help prepare them for their test. This sponsor is responsible for deciding whether the member is ready for the test. If your name does not appear on the list and you think you are ready, talk to your instructor . On test day the first 30 to 45 minutes of class will be a regular class for everyone to warm-up. Then there is a short break followed by the test. The first people to test are 6’th kyu members with the member who has the lowest amount of hours going first. The members will all be lined up with the testing committee along the wall near the exit. The committee will be made up of teachers and will call the member to test and their partner . The members will then both move to the front of the practice mat in front of O- sensei’s picture. They will then bow to O-Sensei, then to the teachers and then to each other. At this point the members will wait for the teachers’ instructions. The teachers will then ask nage to demonstrate a technique usually demonstrating the technique four times with two entering and two turning. Finishes are always required. The test will then proceed with the ranks from 6’th kyu upwards. At the end of the test one of the teachers will lead a short practice while the testing committee discusses the results. The class will then be lined up and the testing committee will present the new ranks to the testing members, then practice will end as usual.
How to address the teacher – Members of different martial arts call their teachers by different names depending on the country of origin. In the Japanese martial arts the teacher is generally referred to as sensei, which means teacher in Japanese. In Japan or in the Japanese tradition you never call your teacher sensei unless you respect them, and once you do call them sensei, you always refer to them as sensei. This is similar to Americans calling a physician doctor instead of calling them Kent. At our studio many of the teachers will go by their first name. This differs from studio to studio, and when you travel to another studio you will call the teacher sensei. If you have practiced another martial art where the teacher is referred to by a different name, it would be inappropriate to use that name here at our school. When you are new ask the other members how to address the teacher or use ‘sensei’. If the teacher wants you to use a different name they would tell you at this time.
Suggestion box – There is a suggestion box next to the bulletin board that has the attendance sheets. Please feel free to drop a note, suggestion, or complaint.
Attendance and Tuition – There is an attendance sheet on the bulletin board near the dressing rooms. You use one slash for each practice attended that day. An X means you attended two classes. Your name must be on the sheet to receive credit towards advancement and only the instructors can add your name to the list. Tuition is due at the beginning of the month either when you arrive at the first practice of the month or by mailing a check to the Loveland address. Your name can not be added to the attendance list until you have paid. If you practice without paying you will not receive credit towards advancement. You cannot check off classes you attended before paying your dues, even after paying your dues.
Competitions – There are no competitions in Aikido. Aikido is purely self defensive and the only attacks that are practiced are for the purpose of simulating a real attack for your partner to practice with. We do not teach kicking, punching, or blocking as a defensive measure. Looking around the practice area – On the walls near the dressing rooms there is a rack holding some of our practice weapons. A Jo is a four foot staff and the other piece of wood is called a bokken, or wooden samurai sword. These are only to be used once you know how to use them or you are asked to take one off the rack by the instructor . The picture at the front of the practice mat is the picture of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. You will find a limited biography of him on page seven of this booklet or you can read several of the books in the bibliography at the end of this booklet for more detailed information.
Using the practice weapons – Generally the practice weapons are only used on Monday’ s during the first class. Occasionally the teacher will ask you to take one off of the rack during another class. The weapons are removed by picking them up with two hands, one on each side and turning to the front of the practice area. Then you bow toward s the front. The same procedure is used in reverse when the weapon is being returned to the rack . The weapons should never be taken down to play with or used during a class when you have not been requested to use them. Some dojo hold classes which are devoted almost exclusively to training with to JO (staff), TANTO (knife), and BOKKEN (sword); the three principal weapons used in aikido. However, since the goal of aikido is not primarily to learn how to use weapons, trainees are advised to attend a minimum of two non-weapon s classes per week if they plan to attend weapons classes. There are several reasons for weapons training in aikido. First, many aikido movements are derived from classical weapons arts. There is thus a historical rationale for learning weapons movements. Second, weapons training is helpful for learning proper MAAI, or distancing. Third, many advanced aikido techniques involve defenses against weapons. In order to ensure that such techniques can be practiced safely, it is important for students to know how to attack properly with weapons, and to defend against such attacks. Fourth, there are often important principles of aikido movement and technique that may be more easily demonstrated by the use of weapons than without. Fifth, training in weapons kata is a way of facilitating understanding of general principles of aikido movement. Sixth, weapons training can add an element of intensity to aikido practice, especially in practicing defenses against weapons attacks. Seventh, training with weapons provide s aikidoka with an opportunity to develop a kind of responsiveness and sensitivity to the movements and actions of others within a format that is usually highly structured. In addition, it is often easier to discard competitive mindsets when engaged in weapons training, making it easier to focus on cognitive development. Finally, weapon’s training is an excellent way to learn principles governing lines of attack and defense. All aikido techniques begin with the defender moving of f the line of attack and then creating a new line (often a non-straight line) for application of an aikido technique.
Leaving you practice weapons at the studio – You leave your practice weapons at the Loveland dojo. If there is not room on the rack keep them in your case in the dressing room back in the corner.
Phone & Email List – A phone and email list will be given to any member upon completion of their 6’th kyu test. Their name would also be added at this time if they wish. There will always be a phone and email list posted in the school near the attendance sheet for people wishing to find rides to other classes. Your name is only added if you ask. You can add your email to our main dojo email list at the online signup page.
Video / Book – sign out procedure – There are several books and videos along with miscellaneous catalogs which are available for sign out. All of the books and videos where donated by members of the studio. If you have an Aikido book or related book that you would like to donate, please write your name and date of the gift. There is a listing of what is available in the library. Phil Horvath is maintaining the library. The procedure for checking out material is as follows: 1. Let the Phil Horvath know what you wish to sign out. 2. Put your name, full address, and home phone on the sign out list. 3. Return the item in two weeks. 4. Abuse of the system will result in loss of borrowing privilege. Valuables, jewelry, and watches – Aikido of Northern Colorado, Inc. cannot be responsible for any valuables left in the dressing rooms or in the entrance area during practice. Please leave as many of your valuables at home as you can. Members should take off all jewelry during practice so that they will not injure themselves or their partners. Even if you are comfortable wearing a ring in class you must remove it so that you will not injure a partner .