Welcome to Aikido 
and the Finger Lakes Dojo!


We hope your experience here will inspire you to make the study of Aikido a long term and fruitful part of your life.  At first, however, Aikido training may seem to be very different from anything you have ever done before.  This guide will help you understand Aikido and the somewhat unique way we practice this Japanese budo (martial way).  Don't be impatient or discouraged if a movement or understanding doesn't come right away.  Practice cheerfully, give of yourself with an attitude of relaxed and hopeful determination and your progress in Aikido will reflect that attitude.  Press on in a positive way and, in time, you'll see benefits in your health, outlook, and relations with others.

The following information should help you to feel more at ease by describing certain practicalities of life in the dojo (training hall) and explaining how an Aikido dojo functions.  (Boldface type indicates especially useful Japanese words.)


"Budo begins with proper etiquette, and ends with proper etiquette."

So says an old Japanese proverb.  We come to the dojo to learn from each other and to help each other with the various exercises and techniques of Aikido.  This is only possible if we have an atmosphere of mutual respect.  The forms of dojo etiquette, part of aikido's Japanese inheritance, help evoke this feeling as a natural part of our daily workout.  Hundreds of years of experience in martial training have proven that these formalities provide a useful and safe framework in which to train and improve.  A respectful attitude should be more than a set of formalities, however, and should come from the mind and heart as well.
Courtesy in the dojo, as elsewhere, is mostly a matter of common sense.  It means thinking of your fellows before yourself.  There are, however, a few signs of good manners which are particular to the dojo.  Despite their roots in an ancient Asian culture, they are very simple and will quickly feel natural.


In the dojo of a Japanese martial art, you will see much bowing by and between aikidoka (students of Aikido).  Soon the following customs will become second nature.

  • When entering or leaving the dojo room from the main door, we use a standing bow (ritsurei) directed toward the decorated front of the dojo which we call the shomen.  This wall is usually marked by an "AIKIDO" scroll and/or a picture of the founder of Aikido, Ueshiba Morihei O'Sensei.

  • We bow again before going onto the mat and before leaving it.  Of course, shoes should be removed and are never worn on the mat -- it's best to remove them as soon as you've entered the dojo.  When entering or leaving the mat, do so from the corners at the rear of the mat area.  Most people perform a kneeling bow when first entering the mat to begin practice and upon leaving the mat at the close of practice, although a standing bow is also acceptable.

  • At the opening of the lesson, the sensei (teacher) and class members make a formal seated bow to the shomen and then bow to each other.  This small ritual expresses our respect for the art of Aikido and our sense of appreciation for the efforts made by those who worked to develop it over the last 80 years.

  • We bow to our training partners before and after each paired practice to show our appreciation for their practicing with us.  Remember that we are practicing for mutual self-improvement.  Regardless of rank, you should be able to learn something from your partner.

  • Finally, a group bow closes the formal training at the end of the session.


 means "proper sitting" and is the formal seated posture used in traditional Japanese social situations.  We kneel with our hips on our heels and our toes top-down against the mat.  The body should maintain a naturally erect spine.  Normally we sit in seiza when we are in the dojo and not actively training.  This upright posture is fundamental to Japan's traditional lifestyle and arts.  In the beginning of your training, seiza may be a bit uncomfortable.  As an alternative, you may sit cross-legged with your back straight when you can no longer bear sitting in seiza.  Never recline, sit with your legs stretched out, or lean on a wall or other object while in the dojo.

  • Aikidoka always sit in seiza during the formal opening and closing of class.

  • Aikidoka usually sit in seiza while observing the sensei demonstrating technique and when receiving personal instruction.


Ideally, you should wear a loose fitting, white, judo-style uniform consisting of quilted cotton jacket and baggy cotton pants.  Thiskeiko-gi includes a belt (usually white) that is tied with a square knot in the front.  Lighter weight karate-style uniforms are also fine but should have no buttons, fancy laces, strips, patches, etc.  Beginners often start out in 'sweats' or other loose, casual clothing, but these should have long sleeves and legs and be plain or at least minimally decorated.  More advanced trainees may also wear baggy Japanese trousers called hakama.  Please, no jewelry of any kind is allowed on the mats.  Please do not wear watches, ear rings, bracelets, necklaces, rings, piercing studs, or other articles of jewelry during training.  They may cause injury to yourself or your partner.  A wooden sword, wooden knife, and a four foot staff may also be employed in more advanced training.

Aikido Uniforms are available for about $45 payable to the instructor upon delivery.


Always wear a clean keiko-gi (i.e. 'training uniform') or loose "sweats" with long sleeves and legs.  To prevent injury, keep your nails clipped and clean.  Cleanliness shows your respect for your training partners.  The responsibility for cleaning the mat and dojo rests with all of us.  If you see that the mats or other dojo area needs to be swept or cleaned, please take the initiative and clean it.


If you were beginning instruction in another art form -- music, for instance -- you wouldn't expect to play in Bailey Hall after 12 easy lessons.  The music student would expect to spend a lot of time getting used to the instrument, learning to read music, and other basic practices.  In the same way, the new Aikido student must get used to his or her instrument: the body.  Aikido basic practices such as blending, energy awareness, falling, etc., bring the student's body into harmony -- both within themselves and with others.  Progress with both basic and more advanced techniques will follow naturally in time, just as in time the musician learns more advanced compositions.


Your instructor and senior students are happy to help you and are willing to attempt to answer your questions.  As much as possible, however, ask your question before or after class.  Practice time should be used for concentrated repetitive training in the physical movements.  The traditional method of Japanese Budo is to discipline the body as a means of effecting internal change.  Budo should be a total body-mind-spirit experience, not an intellectual exercise.


Aikido training begins with body movement training that includes extensive warm-up exercises and stretching, stances, entering, turning, evasions, and esoteric drills.  These are followed by practice of defensive martial techniques including pinning immobilizations, joint locking, locking throws, striking, arm bars, etc.  At advanced levels, traditional Japanese sword and staff weapons may be used to enhance the training and learning experience.


It is normal for you feel a little clumsy and disoriented at first.  Beginners often feel ungainly, everyone in the class has felt this way.  In all but the largest dojo, most people begin Aikido without having the opportunity to take a "beginners' class"; they have to just "jump in".  Generally, new students do very well simply by watching closely and striving to do their best.  In our dojo, we all do simple, basic practices and work with your partners to progress together.  The more advanced students will happily train at a level suitable for you.  Do not feel you're hampering their progress because you're a beginner.   The Aikido concept of "blending" requires that the aikidoka be capable of training with partners of every level.

Relax and approach  your training with an open mind and sense of enjoyment.  The techniques will come.  Don't be so concerned with obtaining a future goal that you fail to enjoy the present.  Remember, you can be sincere and serious about training and still enjoy it!