Dojo Etiquette / Policy & Procedures

Shindai Dojo

 Policy, Procedure, and Dojo Etiquette

The underlying principles of sincerity, respect, and humility are universal and immutable. Ideally, all students should read and understand the dojo procedural policies and operational etiquette before training. Students should learn and practice the rules that constitute proper dojo behavior, Occasionally we should all review policy and procedure essential to maintaining a safe and positive training environment.

Remember, we practice a Japanese Martial Art, having cultural and historical imperatives, principle philosophies, and fundamental organizational rules. This Martial structure demands attention and study. The Art facet of  “Martial Art” demands additional awareness and responsible creative effort.

The Shindai “dojo” training facility is in itself much more than just a “training hall”. Know its design and history. It is designed intentionally as a multifunctional, professional, structured environment where the spirit is forged through physical conditioning, self-discipline, and introspection. It is also a Budokan due to the various traditional arts learned here. Our dojo has a unique culture and it takes time to learn the proper underlying procedures and protocol. You should ask your seniors if you have any questions. The Senior Instructor has the final perspective. 

Proper observance of the dojo protocols, group harmony, and etiquette are as much a part of your training as learning the techniques.

In general

Be on time for class. The schedule is posted. The instructor begins the class , not the scheduled time.  Be early. If you happen to arrive late, it should have a good reason, but the important part is that you are there. 


Entering the Dojo: 

  • Bow when you come in the front door.  This is a sign of respect and a pause that acknowledges that you are entering a “spiritual” place of learning. It is a declaration that allows you to “reset” yourself.  
  • Remove your shoes,  placing them on the shoe rack.
  • Get into your Dogi.

Entering the training area: 

  • Pause in the doorway to Bow into the training area, in the direction of the Kamiza.  
  • Recognize the Sensei with a bow if they are there. Again, this is a sign of preparation, intention, and a declaration of  respect. 
  • Once you enter the training area you are there only for one reason. Make your way to your spot on the floor quickly. 

If you arrive after class has started: 

  • It is OK, it is most important that you are there. Get dressed out ASAP, warm up and be ready to join class as expediently as possible, Do not waste time, socializing needlessly or otherwise diminishing your time on the floor. Get dressed, then get onto the floor.
  • Be sure to warm up off the mat, then wait to be acknowledged by either sitting in seiza or by standing quietly at the edge of the mat.  Once you step onto the mat you are actively in class. If class is in session, the floor is never available for independently stretching or warming up.   
  • Wait for the instructor to acknowledge you, directing  you onto the mat.  
  • If the instructor of the class is occupied,  a senior Yudansha may invite you onto the mat to join class.

Participating in class:

  • 100% attention and effort is required.
  • Pay attention. Investigate every lesson through action.
  • There is only one teacher on the mat.
  • Self-defense is a state of awareness.

Ending class: 

  • After the instructor has bowed out the class, perhaps requesting  a circle with the Kamiza, it is imperative to again “move with a purpose”.  
  • Line up as closely to rank as is possible.

Leaving the mat:

  • When you are finished training or class is done you should  “bow off” of the mat.
  • If you are in Shimoza in seiza, bow to the Kamiza, stand up and bow again to the Kamiza as you step off the mat.
  • If you must walk across the floor you should never leave the mat with your back to Kamiza. Most appropriately departing the training floor is always done facing the kamiza and stepping off backwards, traditionally with the right foot first, followed by the left. 

Training area, post class.

  • Once class has ended the students should perform misogi, sweeping and wiping down the mats.  Cleaning the mat is the responsibility of the class. It is respect for and a show of appreciation to the environment of our training. It also shows respect for the incoming classes, giving everyone a moment to reflect while still in contact with the echoes of the ending class. 
  • If the floor is free, it is open for additional practice. Apply the same considerations in entering and leaving a training area that does not have a designated instructor. Pay respect to training partners. Do not change the spirit or nature of the training area with unnecessary chatter or irrelevant social interaction.
  • If there are other classes taking place, or preparing to take the training floor, leave the training area as soon as possible.  Do not linger to fold hakama. Never ever fold hakama or linger on a floor with practitioners from another class starting their training time. Ever.
  • Keep any personal non-training related activity out of the training area. Move to the office, then close the door to the training area.

Proper Gestures

  • It is always appropriate to offer to fold the instructor’s hakama. At Shindai this is usually something we do for the senior Yudansha 5th and 6th Dans. It makes them available for post class information. When we have a visiting instructor this is something that needs to be done for them by Shindai students regardless of rank. 
  • If you do not know how to fold a hakama properly, find someone who does for instruction. 


Socialization is a great tradition at Shindai. It is recommended and a sustaining part of the quality of relationships in the dojo. 

Never drink beer or any alcoholic beverage in your Gi. Change out first.

If there are classes in session, close the office door and keep your voices down.

Never eat or drink on the training floor, and avoid sitting on the floor with your back toward the kamiza unless the panels are closed. 


Remove all Jewelry: watches, rings, and contactable piercings before practice. 

Do not wear too much perfume or cologne.

Bathe with regularity and keep yourself clean. Keep your fingers and toenails cut short. 

Wash your hands after class.

Keep your uniform clean, in good shape, free of stains, rips, and offensive odors. A neat and clean uniform shows respect for the Art, your practice mates, as well as the instructor.


General points

  • Change is inevitable. How you deal with it is principle Randori.
  • Do not bring personal food, snacks or beverages with you into the training area, unless there is a sanctioned dojo event. Personal water bottles are, however, acceptable.
  • Phones and/or other electronic devices should be kept out of the training area with ringers off unless you are required by professional responsibilities to be on call.
  • Respect the nature of the class. Generally, socializing during class is inappropriate.
  • Carry out the directives of the instructor promptly. Do not keep the rest of the class waiting and never keep the instructor waiting. When released to train with your partner do so as quickly as possible.
  • Remember you are here to learn. An attitude of receptivity and humility is advised.
  • Students should respectfully correct others not abiding by the dojo rules, but this needs to be done in a courteous and non-demeaning manner after class.
  • Be an example of thoughtfulness, high moral standards, and respect at all times.
  • Senior students are to make sure that Dojo protocols, processes and procedures are taken care of in the absence of the Sensei.
  • Your outward demeanor is a reflection of your state of mind and inner being. If your demeanor is sloppy, inattentive, or overly casual then you are not in the right frame of mind to benefit from practice.


​Basics consideration

Honorifics: (Sensei-Sempai-Seniors-Kohai)  Inside the dojo the teacher and chief instructor are always referred to as Sensei. Even if they use their first names, it is a breach of etiquette to refer to them as such inside the dojo without the use of the honorific. Outside Shindai at other dojos, at events or seminars, your teachers and the dojo chief instructor are always addressed, referred to, or introduced with the honorific or Sensei. Outside of the dojo in activities unrelated to training, the honorific is unnecessary. Use it anyway and wait to be invited to use familiarity. 

  • In the rare case that the Sensei arrives late or leaves early, the class should be brought to attention and bow as a group.
  • Students should respond to a senior person in recognition or thanks for individual instruction with a short bow when on the training floor. (Arigato Gozaimasu)
  • Students should bow to each other prior to mutual practice (Onegaishimasu), and upon completion of that exercise in recognition and with thanks.(Arigato Gozaimasu)
  • Absolutely no disrespect to instructors or fellow students in the dojo will be tolerated at any time.
  • Students should follow the instructions of their Sempai (a senior student) unless it directly contradicts a lesson being taught in class by the class instructor.  If it creates conflict … walk away. Contradictions should be addressed by the instructor.
  • Respect your fellow students’ experience in other Arts. Never expound upon your personal experience in another discipline during class.
  • Students should never leave class early without notifying the Sensei.
  • There should be no personal discussion in class unless you have been recognized or cleared to do so by the Sensei. 
  • Juniors should never walk in front of seated seniors without bowing in apology and showing respect.
  • Do not use inappropriate profanity, offensive, abusive or racial language. 
  • Keep personal politics out of the dojo.
  • Use a quiet non-boisterous voice in the dojo.
  • Do not talk to someone who is not in class or who is just watching unless instructed to do so by the teacher.
  • Do not stand idle in class. This is your time to train by close observation.
  • It is expected that you treat the dojo as a treasured possession. You are a member of a family at Shindai. If you see something broken and you can fix it …fix it.  If it needs to be cleaned… clean it. Lead by example in caring for your environment, others and yourself.
  • All Shindai students contribute financially, as our dojo is operated on a volunteer, Non-Profit basis. You do not pay for classes. Dues are set for everyone to be considerate and equitable, only established for what is required to maintain the integrity of our facility. Teachers accept their positions without any remuneration.
  • Juniors and seniors regardless of rank or title must work together in the spirit of equality and “jita kyoei” (mutual welfare) when approaching the needs of the dojo. Before or after every class, you should look at the dojo to note anything that is required, common areas should be cleaned to reflect the Dojo’s status. These activities are age old matters of respecting the dojo space and leaving the dojo as clean, if not cleaner, than when you entered. 
  • Don’t wait for someone to ask you to help—it is part of your training to contribute to the space that is the dojo and the common areas. Look around: Is the trash full? Does the bathroom need cleaning? Find something that needs to be done and do it! A few minutes devoted to dojo will go a long way in your future practice and positively contribute to the way others perceive the dojo.
  • Never leave clothing or valuables of any type in the dojo. 

Safety – Self defense

  • Always let the Sensei know if you are suffering from any physical disability, injury, or illness, or if you require special assistance before or after class.
  • Immediately report any injuries or issues to the Sensei.
  • If you are working with someone who is not considerate of an informed condition, disability, or injury, then detach yourself respectfully and walk away.
  • You are respectfully not required to work with anyone that creates conflict, but know the difference between conflict and challenge.
  • Your health, your family, and your job come first. Personal responsibilities come first. Come to class after you have fulfilled these important obligations..
  • Do not come to class when suffering from a contagious illness or a suspected contagious illness. 
  • 100% effort is always appropriate, but do not overdo it. Taking a break if necessary is good self defense, but always let the Sensei know your reasoning and intentions.
  • Know your rank and position in the dojo. Always train with someone of more experience when possible. 
  • Practice rank etiquette at all times. Never test or challenge the system unless you are prepared for the ramifications.
  • The Sensei has the floor.
  • Protect and strengthen yourself so that you can protect others.
  • Do not lean against the walls or sit with your legs stretched out. Sit either in Seiza, cross-legged or take a knee during classes.
  • When the instructor says “stop or Yame” do exactly that immediately, STOP! Don’t move, don’t make any adjustments, simply stop all movement and stand in place until instructed otherwise.
  • NEVER walk directly behind someone training with a weapon. Always be aware of where you are and where everyone else is while training with, or without, weapons. Develop this awareness and maintain proper distance.
  • Always know where Sensei is.

Bokken etiquette

Basic: The bokken is symbolic of a live weapon. Part of the training is using it that way. We are a weapons-based Martial Art.

When handing a bokken to another person, hold the bottom of the handle with your little finger at the butt. The blade’s cutting edge should face you. That is a statement of trust instead of a potential offensive position.

When accepting a Bokken, grasp the handle firmly a with your left ( or non-dominant) hand.

Keep your weapons in good repair, properly marked as yours, kept in a place you are confident of.


  • You should have your own set of weapons. Bokken, Jo at a minimum. Eventually adding Shinai, tanto, wakizashi for two sword practice.
  • Never use anyone else’s weapons without permission. The dojo has general use weapons, learn to identify them or ask. If you don’t have one when needed, then stand quietly until one is offered.
  • Your uniform can be worn to the dojo or put on after arrival to the dojo. It should be removed properly, folding the hakama, before departing the dojo. 
  • You do not need Hakama until you are Yudansha, but you can wear one at any time.
  • Wear your obi and hakama properly. Hakama should never be overly long or short. They should just touch the tops of your feet. 
  • Take your gear with you. Shindai has changing rooms, not storage areas. Only Instructors are allowed to keep their Dogi at the dojo. 
  • Your uniform should always be mended and kept clean.
  • Dojo equipment is only for use during class.


  • If you will need extra stretching or warm-ups, do it before class begins.
  • Sempai may assist lower ranked grades in their training, but only upon the request of Sensei. Sempai should direct instruction to a partner by including the teacher. Kohai may request clarification or assistance in class from a sempai they are training with, respectfully, if the instructor is not available.
  • The Sensei teaches class. Do not offer advice to your fellow students unless asked or if it is a safety issue.
  • Whenever Sensei is explaining or demonstrating, all students should give them their full attention.
  • Never contradict or attempt to correct Sensei or Sempai during class. Questions are welcome, but challenges are offensive. Discuss such opinions with Sensei after class.
  • Do not interrupt when the instructor is actively teaching their class. If you have a question, wait until the instructor is done speaking to respectfully request clarification.
  • Students should always question what they do not understand, but the answers are not debatable during training.
  • Students must not practice any technique during class that is not being formally taught to them by the Sensei teaching the class.
  • Respect other styles, practice your own. Knowing “a little of this” and “a little of that” usually ends up being “a lot of nothing”. We do not recommend cross training until a solid foundation is established in one discipline.
  • Students should not instruct others outside the dojo until they become an certified Yudansha, and only then with an awareness of personal liability.


As you advance, ego is a constant enemy. Remain humble. One way to get your “ass handed to you” is to act like one.

“Hai Sensei”.  Always accept corrections positively and train with an open mind. Always be courteous in demeanor, and helpful to juniors, respectful of seniors.

Always maintain a beginner’s attitude. You can’t learn if you think you already know it.

Pay close attention to what your instructor has to say at all times, even if you think you have heard it before.

Learn to practice outside of the dojo class setting.

Never proceed from anger.

Never criticize another dojo until you run your own.

Attaining Rank

Promotions are not a given. There are minimum time periods between grades. However, training for the minimum time period does not entitle the student to test or rank. Many factors are involved in promotions such as attendance, technique, teaching ability, helpfulness, attitude, courtesy, effort, contributions to the Art, organization (ASU) requirements, Hombu restrictions, etc.

Never request to be tested or promoted. Your Sensei will let you know.

Passing a rank test is not a formality and students should be prepared for a required retest, following additional focused training. Refusing to test needs a reason. It is generally a responsibility, not a matter of choice. 

Accept a promotion with a sense of increased responsibility to your dojo and the Art.


Know and practice the formalities.

One of the things we have at Shindai is a very diverse teaching cadre.  Many dojos, Aikido or otherwise, have only a few primary instructors setting a cadence for the dojo.  On a weekly basis at Shindai,  we currently have approximately 13 hours of instruction taught over 11 classes by 9 instructors.  As Fasen Sensei is prone to say, we all use the same principal colors, but we perceive them in slightly different ways. From these colors we create a personal pallet, applied with slightly different brush strokes, in order to create our individual narratives.  The principles of any art form however are the same. Individual differences are expression of personal creativity.  That is what makes our training so rich and diverse, yet all the martial art of Aikido. “There is no one way, or one right way.” 

Consistent discipline is a building block of ability, clarity, respect and spirit that will allow formality and friendships to share the same space. It allows us to find our WAY along a shared path.

Formal does not mean tyrannical or oppressive restrictions. The formality of martial etiquette rather provides a structure and etiquette from which we can function safely and confidently.   

We tend to forget the small things because we are comfortable in our home dojo, yet diligent awareness of martial etiquette allows us to train beyond our walls, so the training can sustain us.  Adhering to the small things can many times point to whether you are an Aikidoka, or someone who is just an Aikido student. Martially alive…or dead.

Recommended Reading:

IN THE DOJO by Dave Lowry, as  a general primer to Budo principles as they relate to dojo issues

The Harmony of Nature, by M. Saotome Sensei