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What does an Aikido teacher expect from his students?

In order to make the togetherness on and off the mat even more harmonious, I asked myself what I and other Aikido teachers expect from their students. My thoughts on this are of a fundamental nature and not direct topical in the sense that I am quite satisfied with the behavior of my own groups. On the other hand, I would have to rethink the way I have been teaching so far, because every teacher is also responsible for the behavior of his students. But the following thoughts can make it easier for newcomers to get started and motivate one or the other ‘older rabbit’ to continue his or her commitment for the joint training.


Some people judge others by their group membership, which is easy, but often does not do justice to the individual. Therefore, we need to be aware that each of us can also be seen by others as a representative of Aikido and misbehavior can reflect on the whole group.

Mutual consideration

Consideration is absolutely necessary in all areas of life. Of course, this also applies to behavior before, during and after training. Even though one is unfortunately too often confronted with inconsiderate behavior in daily life, this should be all the more motivation to do better.

No aggression

Each of us has a different temperament and intense activity or even a certain amount of aggression may occasionally be necessary. But it should be controlled and never excessive. After all, aggressive behavior on our part very often leads to aggressive behavior on the part of the other person, which is generally not useful to solving a problem. Everyone has emotions, but one result of our training should be to control negative emotions – and especially feelings of aggression – to a large extent.


Politeness can be described as a lubricant in interpersonal relationships, whether formal or, better of course, heartfelt. In Aikido we have certain politeness rituals that also lead to consideration, humility and modesty as we know from Japanese tradition. This creates a positive impulse for our daily life.

External appearance

Every participant in the training has a certain idea of his/her appearance, but this does not always correspond to how he or she is seen by others. For example, a remark in training ‘Your Dogi smells’ is not aggression, but may be a call for help when being an Irimi-nage Uke. A Dogi can be as old as he likes – which often indicates frequent and long-termed training – but he also appreciates an occasional frog bath.

Bad news for the ladies, long finger nails are dangerous. A mouthwash helps against reek of the bottle of smokers or alcohol drinkers, but alcohol is strictly forbidden before training and can lead to a ban from the mat. By the way, excessive perfuming – which tends to be found not only with ladies – can also lead to a fuddled and possibly discomforted partner.


Any who feels or is ill belongs in bed and not on the mat. Regular exercise is a health prophylactic, but counterproductive when symptoms of illness are present. Apart from the risk of infection, the body probably has enough to do with internal repair.

Body jewelry and piercings

Rings and other metal body decoration of any kind do not belong in training because of the risk of injury. Piercings that are not easily removable should at least be taped over for the same reason – especially if they are not directly visible.

Training break

If training breaks last longer- i.e. more than 3 to 4 weeks – the trainer should be informed. Reasons are of course not necessary, but they help understanding on the part of the trainer and are perhaps the basis for help from the group. After all, we feel that we belong together as a community – not only on the mat, but also outside of training (helping each other, travelling together, social gatherings), so a corresponding email is certainly not too much to ask.


After these more general thoughts, we now come to the training.

Behaviour before training

In Japan were and still are often special places that can hardly be compared to our western gyms and studios. In the past, access was strictly regulated and often only possible on recommendation because of the secrecy of the techniques, which was essential for survival. It is also assumed that the concentrated atmosphere in the Dojo is important to learning success or even makes it possible in the first place.

In traditional Dojo, the mat area is cleaned after a training session by each new group. If not all groups follow this rule, cleaning will take place before each training session. Beginners should quickly inform themselves about cleaning agents and cleaning procedures, learning from the more advanced students (as is the case with techniques). The first to arrive at the training site prepare the cleaning, and the cleaning is then done together regardless of grade and social status.

The following tying of the Hakama should be done quickly and as silently as possible, preferable in the direction of the Shomen picture, to which one should only turn ones back for training purposes. Self-absorbed posing in front of a mirror in the Dojo should be avoided. Non-Budo communication in the Dojo can be kept to a minimum, as before and after each training session, whether in the cloakroom or in the café, there is the opportunity to converse with friends who have not been seen for a long time. A short concentration before greeting each other, also to gain distance from everyday life, supports the physical and mental learning success.

The joint bowing to the Shomen in the knee sit is well known to Aikidoka, but not always common in other Budo sports. When bowing, the students should bow ahead to the teacher with their forehead on the floor and raise after the teacher. Waiting and ‘checking’ whether the teacher also bows is considered extremely impolite in Japan. As far as the form of greeting is concerned, beginners can confidently follow the advanced students who have internalized the correct greeting in many training sessions.

Behaviour in training

Attention and mutual consideration characterize a good Dojo atmosphere. Since attention is an essential part of self-defense, staying and training in the Dojo is a good opportunity to improve awareness and rethink habits. Adjusting to and training with a wide variety of partners is a great strength of Aikido, and this should be taken into account when choosing partners in training. Each participant naturally has certain preferences, but also through challenges – training with beginners, ‘difficult’ partners, slow or less athletic partners – we get better. I like to remember the instructive lessons with a blind student at the Tendokan in Tokyo or the ‘blind sessions’ at our instructor courses.

Mutual consideration is a prerequisite for a well-functioning society. This is especially true in Aikido, where we deal with quite dangerous techniques. There is no winner or loser in Aikido, and it is always better to stop early if there is a risk of injury. Since this danger also comes from other practitioners, we must always keep an eye on our surroundings. This brings us back to attention – as opposed to routine.

Often a slow execution of a technique is safer – but by no means easier! That’s why it is said ‘the power lies in the calm’ and not ‘the faster, the better’. The fact that the training must be adapted to the actual training condition of the partner is an essential part of consideration.

Although we pay full attention to the actual partner, an Aikidoka must also always keep an eye on the immediate surroundings. So - especially when performing larger techniques – a certain strategic planning is necessary regarding the movements of one’s own partner as well as the movements of other students in the immediate vicinity. This also trains the anticipation of movements in a serious confrontation.

Behaviour after training

After the greetings, the concentrated and rapid folding of the Hakama is an activity specific to Aikido. Observers are fascinated – especially on seminars with over 100 participants – by the calm and concentration of the Aikidoka as they carefully fold the Hakama.

Before leaving the Dojo, each participant should make sure that the Dojo is left as they found it (Shomen, doors and windows, cleaning devices, leftover wardrobe keys or Hakama, weapons used etc.).

Training frequency

As with any other learning activity, certain continuity plays a greater role than any talents that may be present. A teacher is fully aware that every student has a ‘private life besides Aikido’. Family, work and other commitments take their toll on time. For most students, Aikido is an enjoyable, fulfilling hobby, but not a purpose in life as it is in case of full-time instructors. On the other hand, health and technical progress, without which continuity in Aikido training is less motivating, require a certain training frequency. Here, the experience shows a value of 50 to 100 training sessions per year. Less than 50 sessions does not guarantee progress, more than 100 is unrealistic. That is about two training sessions per week, if you include absences due to holidays, illness and other obligations that cannot be postponed.

Every teacher is excited about students who are on the mat several times a week, but the question arises whether occasional smaller breaks in training are not more conductive to progress, especially as very few students can maintain higher participation rates over a longer period of time.

Moreover, we are not talking only about technical progress on the mat, but about a general development that also includes thoughtful engagement with the Aikido principles outside the Dojo. This can include a Dojo-independent mental work on the techniques and principles or just conversation with like-minded people.

Training sessions have – depending of the individual conditioning – a greater or lesser individual benefit. If you rush from your workplace to the Dojo at the last minute with your tongue hanging out, you may not be able to fully calm down during the lesson and take less with you than would be possible.


A guideline for arriving on time is 10 minutes before the start of class either in the Dojo (if empty) or in front of the Dojo (if another group is training). A time buffer beyond this for traffic problems, finding a parking space, cleaning before training, tying Hakama etc. is recommended and usually just a matter of planning.

Occasional late arrivals due to work are, however, preferable to no-shows.

Behaviour outside the training

As already mentioned at the beginning, people like to put others into groups/drawers because they think it is easier to assess them that way. Whether we like it or not, we are seen as representatives of a Japanese martial art and especially as representatives of Aikido. This is true both positively and negatively. I don’t know how far each individual privately outs himself as an Aikidoka, but at the latest when we enter the training place or participate in common activities, we are in the drawer. Let’s make the best of it and promote this beautiful martial art through our exemplary behavior in daily life.

Addictive behaviour

The path of Aikido is long and often arduous, and only with a strong will is a long and successful training possible. An Aikidoka should therefore be free of addiction, or be able to control his or her mild addictive behavior (alcohol, tobacco, hashish) without self-deception. If there is a threat of addiction-related loss of control during training, the teacher will intervene immediately and effectively. Here, even the suspicion will lead to a discreet but clarifying conversation.

Obtain feedback

Presumably, everyone sees themselves somewhat differently from the way those around them see them. This should occasionally lead to a certain constructive self-criticism. It is certainly not wrong to ask for feedback from other students or the teacher from time to time or if something is not understood. In harmonious groups, this will nearly always lead to a positive outcome for the individual and for the group. Healthy self-confidence and occasional self-criticism should be balanced in order to avoid misjudgments.

We are all just human beings with more or less faults and certainly everybody has potential for improvement regardless of age.