Etiquette – Reigi

“…the notions of politeness, courtesy, hierarchy, respect and gratitude are included in rei. Reigi (etiquette) is the expression of mutual respect in society. It can also be understood as the way to know one’s position with respect to the other.”

Nobuyoshi Tamura Sensei, 9th Dan

Albany Aikido is dedicated to offering a defensive art to all practitioners in a safe, respectful environment. We train to learn a martial way, to improve our spirit, and to enjoy a serious work out. That being said, Aikido is not a sport and the dojo is not a gym. Aspects of traditional Japanese demonstrations of respect are integral to training.


  • When in doubt, bow.
  • Be on time for class.
  • If you arrive late, sit quietly in seiza on the edge of the mat until the instructor grants permission to join practice.
  • If you must leave the mat or dojo for any reason during class ask permission unless an injury requires immediate attention.
  • Avoid sitting on the mat with your back to the picture of O’Sensei or the kamiza.
  • Do not lean against the walls, sit with your legs stretched out, or allow the soles of your feet to be visible from the front. Sit in seiza or agura (cross-legged) if your knees are bad.
  • Follow the directives of instructors immediately.
  • Keep your keigo gi (aka do gi) (training uniform) clean, in good shape, and free of offensive odors.
  • Keep all nails short.
  • No shoes on the mat.
  • No food or drink on the mat.
  • Remove watches and all jewelry before practice.
  • Do not change your clothes on the mat.
  • Training is about learning, not ego gratification. Sensei expects you to be an “empty cup”.
  • Do not engage in brutality or competition.
  • Preserve commonsense standards of decency and respect at all times.
  • Pay your membership dues promptly by the first of the month. If, for any reason, you are unable to pay your dues on time, talk to Sensei or the secretary.

Before Class

  • Arrive before class with enough time change.
  • At the dojo door, face the kamiza and perform a standing bow.
  • Remove your shoes on the carpeted area.
  • Step onto the mat and perform a standing bow.
  • Walk along the edge of the mat to the appropriate changing room.
  • When you are changed, step onto the mat, face the kamiza, sit in seiza and perform a seated bow. This is called “bowing on to the mat” or just “bowing on”.
  • Warm up if class has not started.
  • When the class is ready to start, the instructor will clap their hands twice.

Starting Class

  • When you hear the claps to begin class, quickly and quietly line up in a single line 1/4 of the way down the mat from the kamiza. Sit in seiza.
  • Line up in rank order with lowest rank to the left. Within ranks line up in order of time in rank.
  • Wait for the instructor to sit in seiza.
  • The instructor will perform a seated bow to the kamiza. As they do so, you do the same.
  • The instructor will turn around and perform a seated bow to the class. As they do so, you do the same while saying Onegai shimasu (“Please teach me”).
  • The instructor will usually begin class with stretching and ukemi (in this case, practicing falling), in which case you will be asked to spread out and find a space to warm up in. If the instructor decides to immediately demonstrate a technique, stay in line until the technique has been demonstrated.

During Class

  • When the instructor is demonstrating a technique, sit in seiza or agura along the outside walls alongside either the dividers or the windows.
  • Sit quietly and watch carefully while the instructor demonstrates the technique.
  • If you are chosen to take ukemi for the demonstration, move quickly to the instructor and attack as requested by the instructor. If the instructor talks for more than a few seconds, kneel or sit in seiza but be ready to attack again quickly. When the demonstration is finished, quickly perform a seated bow.
  • When a demonstration is complete, find a partner by looking them in the eye. Move quickly in front of your chosen partner and perform a seated bow saying Onegai shimasu.
  • When working out in pairs, each student performs the technique four times (alternating left and right) and then takes ukemi four times. Of you are working in a group of three, then you work out “two and two”. Two and two means that each nage (defender) performs the technique four times while each uke (attacher) only attacks twice.
  • While working on a technique, you may talk as much as you wish, but keep your volume low and do not clap your hands.
  • When working out in lines, try to keep line numbers equal (do not allow a disproportionately long or short line form). Line up in rank order, highest rank at the front of the line. Know your place in line and keep it. Move vigorously to attack and keep the line moving. If you can not perform a technique, just take ukemi.
  • If the instructor comes and helps you with the technique, follow their direction. You may ask questions. Say hai (Yes) when you understand a point. When the instructor has finished helping you, quickly perform a standing or seated bow, saying Domo arigato (Thank you). If the instructor is helping your partner, sit in seiza during the help and perform a seated bow saying Domo Arigato when the instructor is finished.
  • The instructor will clap once to signal that a new technique is to be demonstrated. Quickly perform a standing or seated bow to your partner saying Domo arigato (Thank you) and move to the outside walls.

Finishing Class

  • The instructor will clap twice when class is finished. Often this will be accompanied by the command to do a back stretch. Perform a back stretch with your partner and then quickly line up in rank order.
  • The instructor will perform a seated bow to the kamiza. As they do so, you do the same.
  • The instructor will turn around and perform a seated bow to the class. As they do so, you do the same while saying Domo arigato gozaimashita (“Thank you very much”).
  • When signaled, bow to your partners. Ensure that you perform a seated bow to everyone that you worked with, and preferably to everyone who trained during that class, saying “Thank you <first name>” to each person.

After Class

  • When you have thanked everyone, do not just immediately walk across the mat to your changing room. Go to the end of the mat, face the kamiza and perform a seated bow. This is called “bowing off the mat” or just “bowing off”.
  • Instead of immediately bowing off, you may work out with anybody after class so long as the mat is free. Bow off when you are done.
  • As much as possible, check to make sure that cleaning tasks have been done before you leave the dojo. Cleaning the dojo is as much training as learning techniques.