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Words used in the Dojo

The training hall is known as the Dojo. On entering you are expected to make a standing bow.

At the centre of one side of the mat there will be placed a picture of the Founder which is known as the Kamiza (Kami - Ancestors/Deities).

The instructor is known as Sensei (teacher) and sits in front of the picture. Those practising, the Aikidoka, sit in a row in grade order with the lowest grade on the left, facing Sensei. The senior Aikidoka is known as Sempai and acts as Sensei's assistant, organising the line-up at the beginning and end of the class. Dan grades sit on the right hand side of the mat.

Aikidoka wear Keikogi, or more simply Gi (pronounced 'gee' with a hard G; training suit). The Gi can be either a judo suit or a karate suit. Judo suits are made of thicker cloth and are more traditional, but karate suits are fastened with tapes and stay closed better. White T-shirts can be worn underneath. Beginners do not have to get suits straight away. However, as you progress you may feel you would like to buy one, and can do so through the club. They are stronger than T-shirts and give something to get hold of when defending against sleeve or collar-grasping attacks.

The Gi is tied with a belt or Obi. Some organisations have different coloured belts to distinguish grades; we do not. Everyone below Dan grade (all Kyu grades) wear white belts. Dan grades wear black belts. The obi should be tied so that the two ends come out horizontally from either side of the knot.


You will also see wide black Samuri trousers called Hakama worn over the Gi. These are worn by Dan grades, and first Kyu grades by invitation, signifying instructors and those who assist the instructors. Women of lower grades (in the Lancashire Aikikai) can wear royal blue Hakama but we have to make them ourselves as only black ones can be bought.

As you remove your shoes and step onto the mat you take another standing bow. When the class is about to start Sempai will give the command Seiza, which means you should line up and sit in seiza, that is kneeling with your hands on your knees, facing the Kamiza. Sensei then comes onto the mat and takes the bow, or Rei. The class says On-e-gai Shi-masu, Let us practise.

Warming-up exercises may be followed by Tai Sabaki, body or basic movement. This may include:

Tenkan - Turning movement
Irimi-ashi - Entry movement
Irimi-tenkan - Combination of above
Tsuki-ashi - Sliding movement

Then technique is demonstrated by Sensei and practised by all Aikidoka, usually in pairs - you should aim to practise with all the others on the mat during the course of the lesson.

The person executing a technique is known as Tori and the person receiving the technique, or being thrown, is known as Uke. The ability to receive the technique is called Ukemi, a term also used for breakfalls, either forward or rear.

A blow or feint used as part of a technique is known as an Atemi.

The instruction to start practising may be given in English or by the command Ha-ji-me, begin; the finish may be signalled with a hand-clap or by Ya-me, stop.

The session ends with further bows in the line-up, and may include club announcements. The class says Do-mo ari-ga-to go-zai-ma-shita, Sensei - meaning Thank you very much (very polite and formal).

(Domo and arigato both mean 'thank you'. Domo is often used when bowing to thank the person you have just practised with.)

Standing bows again when leaving the mat and the dojo.

Weapon work to underpin our aikido: Jo, long staff; Bokken, wooden practice sword; Katana, sword or Tanto wooden knife is taught in classes. The wooden weapons can be bought through the club

Translation of words are also in Aikikai's own Handbook that is given to new members and also available on their website.

Go to the others pages that appeared in our Beginner's booklet originally