Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some typical questions we have been asked.

Getting Started

How do I join the dojo?
To become a member of our dojo you are required to fill out a Registration and Waiver Form and pay your membership fees.

Can I observe a class before joining?
Yes, you can observe as many classes as you like, whether you decide to join the dojo or not.

Can I take a trial class?
Yes. We encourage prospective new members to take a trial Aikido or Iaido class, at no cost and with no obligation.

Do I need to make an appointment?
No appointment is necessary to either observe or take a trial class. However, it makes it easier for us to prepare for your trial class if you let us know in advance that you are planning on coming by calling or sending us an email.

What do I need to do to take a trial class?
You need to fill and sign a Registration and Waiver form, or if you are under 18 your parent or guardian must do so for you, change into practice clothes and you are ready to go. Please arrive at the dojo about 15 minutes before the start of class for orientation and to complete the paperwork. There is no charge for the trial class.

Which classes can I try?
We recommend trying out one of the Aikido Basics classes or any of the Iaido classes.

What should I wear to my trial class?
We normally have some visitor uniforms we can lend you for your first class, but just in case we don't have one in your size, please bring loose fitting clothing such as sweatpants and a t-shirt or sweatshirt. If you already have a martial arts uniform bring it along. Please do not wear any jewelry, perfume, cologne or shorts on the mat.

If I decide to join, when can I start?
Our classes are on-going so you can start at any time.

Can anyone join the dojo?
Yes. We have a non-discrimination policy. However, we reserve the right to terminate your membership if your behaviour is inappropriate or dangerous to yourself or others.

Do you have classes for beginners?
Yes. The Basics classes are perfect for beginners, and we offer several of them per week. During these classes, we practice and cultivate the fundamental skills required for the safe and effective practice of Aikido and Iaido. More experienced members also attend these classes to revisit the fundamentals and assist newer members. Beginners can also participate in the All Levels and Weapons classes, and as in the Basics classes a senior student is assigned to practice with them until they have developed sufficient skills to safely train on their own. You can see our class scedule in the Classes page.

Which classes will I be able to attend when I join?
You can attend any and as many classes as you like in your membership category.

Will I need a uniform? Where can I get one?
Yes, you will need a white uniform (called "gi" or "dogi") to practice, like those worn for other martial arts such as Judo or Karate. You can purchase one at the dojo or at any martial arts store. You will find our prices are better though. You will also need a pair of sandals, which you can purchase at a store.

Do I need to have any prior Aikido or Iaido experience?
No prior Aikido or Iaido experience is required.

Do you have a Facebook page?
Yes we do. Please visit and join by clicking here.

Fees and membership

How are membership and fees structured?
There are 2 membership categories in our dojo: Adult and Non-Adult. The Non-Adult category includes Students, Youth and Children. A member is considered a Student if not working and enrolled on a full time basis in an academic institution, a Youth if 19 years old and under and a Child if 12 years old and under. All other members are in the Adult category.
Fees for each membership category depend on the length of enrollment and on whether practicing just Aikido, just Iaido or both. Rates and other details can be found on the Fees page.

What does my membership entitle me to do?
Your membership entitles you to train at our dojo in as many classes as you wish in your membership category during the period covered by your membership, and to participate in other dojo related activities.

How do I pay?
At present we accept payment by cash or by cheque.

Do you offer any discounts?
Yes. There is a discount if paying for 3, 6, 9 or 12 months in advance. The more months paid in advance, the larger the discount. Further discounts apply for each additional family member and also if taking both Aikido and Iaido. For more details, please see the Fees page.

Would I be tied to a long term contract?
No. We do not offer long-term contracts. Members may cancel their membership at any time with no penalties.

Do you have a refund policy?
Yes we do. All membership fees are strictly non-refundable.

Do you have a transfer policy?
Yes we do. All membership fees are strictly non-transferable.

When are fees due?
Fees are due and payable within the first week of the month, in advance of the period they cover.

Are fees prorated if I join in middle of a month?
Yes. If you join the dojo after the first week of a month, the next fee payment covers the partial month to the end of the month after the initial coverage period. This payment is prorated as follows:
25% off the monthly fee if joining during the 2nd week of the month (after the 7th);
50% off the monthly fee if joining during the 3rd week of the month (after the 14th); and
75% off the monthly fee if joining after the 21st.
Subsequent payments cover periods starting from the beginning of the month.
For example if you joined let's say on January 10 for a period of 3 months, your initial payment would cover 3 months from January 10 to April 10. Your next payment would be for a partial month from April 11 to April 30 in the amount of the monthly fee less 25%. Subsequent payments would cover from start of May onward. The prorating is similar if initially joining for a period of 6 or 12 months, and would apply to partial month #7 or #13 respectively.

I will be away for a while. Can I put my membership on hold?
Yes. If you are away you can put your membership on hold in one month blocks as long as you let us know in advance. If you are away but don't let us know, your membership fees will continue to run as if you were practicing. If you have already paid fees covering a period that you will be away, you will receive a time credit when you return.

Are there other costs besides dojo membership fees?
Yes, there are.

Initiation When joining the dojo, new members are required to register for a period of 3 months or longer. There is a one time initiation fee that applies to all new members registering for the initial 3 month period. This fee is waived if a new member registers for 6, 9 or 12 months.
Federation If practicing Aikido, there is a nominal fee for yearly membership in the United States Aikido Federation. This fee is payable when you take your first examination for a rank promotion, and during the first quarter of every year after that.
Exams There is a charge for taking an examination for a rank promotion in Aikido or Iaido. The charge is refunded if you fail the examination.
Events From time to time there are Aikido and/or Iaido seminars or events, and there is a charge for participation, payable to the event organizer.
Equipment If practicing Aikido you will need a uniform and sandals, and if practicing Iaido you will also need an iaido obi (belt), a hakama and a iaito (practice sword).

Are there any hidden costs not listed above?
No.

What if I want to stop training?
That's OK. Not everyone continues with their training. Just like you decided when to start you will decide when to stop. If you decide to stop, we would appreciate it if you would let us know. We would also appreciate it if you could tell us why you are stopping, if there was something we did, didn’t do or could have done to enhance your time with us. Your feedback will help us understand if there is something we need to change or improve. In addition, we place a lot of value in the student-teacher relationship we entered into with you when you joined the dojo, and we would like to know if or when it is over.

Classes

When are the classes?
We have classes 7 days a week as shown on the class schedule. There are various kinds of classes, depending on skill level and content.

Which classes can I attend?
We are quite flexible, but in general, this is how it works: If registerd for Aikido, members in the Adult category can attend all Aikido classes on the schedule including the Weapons classes. If registered in the Non-Adult category, Students can attend all Aikido classes, Children can attend all the Children classes and Youth can attend the dedicated Youth classes, some of the Basics classes and in some instances some additional classes as well. In the mixed Adult and Non-Adult category, a Parent that is a member of the dojo may attend all the Children classes with their child. Members registered for Iaido may attend all the Iaido classes on the schedule.

May I take a trial class?
Yes. Prospective new members are encouraged to observe all classes and to take a free trial class before making any committment. While no appointment is necessary, if possible, we'd prefer you'd let us know in advance that you are planning to come. It is best if you arrive at the dojo about 15 minutes before the start of the class for orientation and to complete some paperwork. We usually have a few visitor uniforms we can lend you for the trial class, but just in case we do not have one in your size, please bring loose and comfortable clothing such as sweatpants and a t-shirt or sweat-shirt. For more details, please see the Getting Started page.

I practice somewhere else. May I take a class as a visitor?
Yes. Visitors are always welcome to watch and participate in our Aikido and Iaido classes during any of the scheduled practice times. If possible, please let us know in advance that you are planning to come. A nominal mat fee applies as detailed in the Fees page.

How often can I come to class?
How often you train is up to you. You can come to any, and as many, classes as you wish in your membership category. However, we have found that beginners run the risk of burning themselves out if they try to do too much too soon. Two or three times a week is a good way to start. Remember that you are learning an art... and that takes time. The best strategy is to fit your training into your life and to practice regularly. This produces the best results.

Am I too old to practice?
If you are concerned you might be too old to practice, don't worry - it's quite likely you will find someone older than you practicing already! O-Sensei, the founder of Aikido, continued teaching well into his 80's. If you have some injury or limitation you are concerned about make sure your partner knows about it. Your partner will respect your limits. Once you learn the basic forms you will be able to adapt Aikido techniques to your own movement.

Children

Is Aikido good for children?
Aikido is not just good for children - it is excellent! Since Aikido is a non-violent and non-competitive martial art, it does not promote aggressive behavior. It teaches children about respect for others, helps them to be disciplined as well as how to manage negative emotions and behaviors.

Does your school have classes for children?
Yes.

When are the classes for children?
The classes for children are on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:00 to 5:45 pm and on Sundays from 10:00 to 10:45 am. For more information, please see the class schedule.

At what age can children start at your dojo?
We normally accept children starting from the age of 5. Some children begin to transition into the youth classes between the ages of 9 to 14, but each child's maturity and physical ability is evaluated individually.

Can I join my child during practice?
Yes, and we encourage you to do so. This is an excellent opportunity for you to share an activity with your child, to practice Aikido together and to get some exercise for yourself.

What is expected of me if I join the class with my child?
We expect you to be just another member of the class, to practice with your child but not just exclusively with him/her. We don't expect you to become another instructor, but as there are a number of children in the class, and every child is different and depending on personality and age may require more or less special attention from the instructors, we would like it if from time to time you would assist with the other children if required, so the instructors can manage the class. We expect you to let your child make mistakes, have fun and learn at their own pace without pressure to perform. And we want you to celebrate and share in their progress. We also expect and want you to be patient with your child and with yourself, as, although we sometimes make it look easy, Aikido requires time and a lot of practice and patience to learn. Children learn differently from adults and we endeavour to make their learning experience, as well as yours, fun and enjoyable while at the same time keeping a measure of discipline on the mat.

Affiliation and ranking

How long has Toronto Aikikai been around?
Toronto Aikikai was established in 1974 for the purposes of studying, promoting and providing instruction in the Japanese martial art of Aikido. Starting in 2000, it began offering instruction in the Japanese martial art of Iaido.

What is the dojo's affiliation and recognition?
Toronto Aikikai is affiliated with the United States Aikido Federation, our Chief Instructor has the designation of Shihan (Master Instructor) through the USAF and is a member of its Technical Committee. Through the USAF our dojo is recognized by the Aikikai Foundation, Aikido Hombu Dojo, the World Aikido Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. All ranks attained through our dojo are recognized world-wide through these affiliations, and our members can train at any affiliated Aikido dojo. All our black belt ranks are issued through the Aikikai Foundation and bear the signature of Moriteru Ueshiba, the grandson of the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba.

Are there any competitions or tournaments in Aikido?
No. Aikido is a martial art and a way of life, not a sport which focuses on winning or losing competitions or tournaments.

How do you progress in Aikido?
With a lot of effort, and with ongoing, disciplined and correct practice.
Progress in Aikido is reflected for example in increased proficiency in the execution of techniques, and more importantly in an improved quality of life resulting from a better understanding of one’s self and one’s improved abilities.

How do you assess and indicate progress?
In the dojo environment progress is indicated by one’s rank. Progression from rank to rank is attained through periodic proficiency evaluations called tests or gradings. There are two basic ranks: undergraduate or “kyu” rank and graduate or “dan” rank. For adults there are 6 levels within kyu rank and 10 levels within dan rank, the levels progressing from 6th to 1st kyu and then from 1st dan (or Shodan, first level black belt) to 10th dan. Children begin at 9th or 10th kyu depending on age.

Do you use coloured belts to indicate rank?
In our dojo children wear coloured belts to indicate rank and for motivation purposes. Adults wear a white belt when at kyu rank and a black belt together with a hakama (wide pants) when they have attained dan rank.

Can I observe a grading?
Yes.

How long does it take to get a black belt?
About half a minute. We keep them in the back. :)

That’s not what I meant!
Sorry, it’s the standard joke.
But seriously, it is difficult to predict when someone just starting out will reach black belt level because there are many influencing factors. For example, everyone learns at their own pace, some people practice very regularly and others more sporadically, some people pick things up after having been shown just once and others need learning and relearning the same thing over and over. Also, we do not offer to make you a black belt in a given period or time - or sooner if you pay more. We have very high standards for our gradings. Notwithstanding the above, and in as far as generalizations can be believed, in general one can expect it would take between 4 to 6 years to reach Shodan, the first black belt level. But keep in mind that while the destination matters, so does the journey, and if one eye is always kept on the destination, there is only one eye left for finding the way there.

So when I reach black belt will I know everything and finally have attained mastery?
Yes.
Ha ha, so sorry - just kidding. By the time you reach black belt you will know mastery has nothing to do with the color of your belt, and that reaching Shodan does not mean you have reached the end of your jouney, quite the opposite. Reaching black belt means you can now start training and practicing seriously.

Uniform and equipment

What are those big loose pants?
The loose, flowing pants that are worn as part of the Aikido and Iaido training uniforms are called "hakama". They are a traditional piece of clothing worn by samurai. Those training in Iaido wear it from the start and those training in Aikido wear it after reaching black belt. In addition to helping stabilize one's center and hiding one's foot movements, the hakama has a symbolic meaning. Each of its seven pleats stands for one of the Seven Virtues of Budo: compassion, honor, courtesy, wisdom, sincerity, loyalty and reverence.

What equipment do I need for practice?
A practice uniform, called gi or dogi, is required for training in Aikido or in Iaido. The gi consits of a jacket, pants and a belt. You will also require a pair of sandals for when you are in the dojo but off the mat. For Iaido practice you will require in addition a special belt called an obi, a hakama and a practice sword called a iaito. For Aikido weapons training you will require a bokken or wooden sword, a jo or wooden staff and a tanto or wooden knife, as well as a cloth weapons case to keep them in. You can borrow these weapons from the dojo until you get your own. We also recommend you keep a small hand towel in your uniform during practice to wipe off any sweat, and a regular towel and accessories for showering.

Can I practice Iaido even if I don't have a sword / iaito?
Yes. We have a few spare iaito you can borrow, and if they are all taken we also have a couple of wooden iaito with scabbards as well as spare bokken (wooden swords). If you plan on continuing to train seriously, you will eventually need to get your own iaito.

Where can I get a training uniform and the other equipment?
Training uniforms can be purchased at the dojo or at any martial arts store. We also have weapons cases embroidered with the dojo logo and we sometimes have bokken, jo and tanto in stock, or we can order them for you. We can order a hakama and a iaito for you as well.

Do you have a dojo patch?
Yes we do, and they're really cool.

Etiquette

Why does everyone bow?
Everyone bows because both Aikido and Iaido are Japanese martial arts, we teach them in a traditional manner and bowing is part of the Japanese expression of proper etiquette. Bowing is a way of showing respect towards Aikido and Iaido, towards your practice partners, your teachers and yourself. There is no religious connotation involved in this bowing. As the Founder of Aikido said: "Aikido begins and ends with respect." The same applies to all martial arts.

What do people say when they bow?
When bowing at the start of a class it is proper to say "onegaeshimasu" which translates as "please teach me". The same is said when bowing to one's partner prior to practice. When bowing to one's partner at the end of a practice it is proper to say "thank you" in English or equivalently, "domo arigato gozaimashita" in Japanese. The same is said when bowing towards the instructor at the end of a class to acknowledge the lesson imparted.

What is the area in front of the room?
The area with the pictures and the scroll is called the "shomen" which translates as "the head of the room."The picture to the left is of the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba also known as O-Sensei or Great Teacher. The picture to the right is of Mitsunari Kanai Shihan, our Chief Instructor's instructor and direct disciple of O-Sensei. The large scroll with the calligraphy was brushed by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the first Doshu (Leader of the Way) and son of O-Sensei, and spells "Ai Ki Do" which translates as "The Way to Harmonizing with the Energy of the Universe." When we bow towards the shomen we show respect to our teachers, their life's work and the wonderful art and teachings they gave us.

Are you sue there's no religious connotation in all this bowing?
Yes, we are sure.

My religion does not allow me to bow to others. Is this a problem in the dojo?
No, it is not. Bowing is an expression of respect, and we understand if for religious reasons you are unable to show that respect in the form of a bow. However, we do expect you will act respectfully in the dojo even if you are unable to express it through formal bowing.

Are there other aspects of etiquette?
Yes, a few. The following links from the Members section explore some of them: About Reigi - Etiquette, About Rei - Bowing and A thought on Reigisaho.

Other questions?

If you have any other questions, please send us an e-mail at info@torontoaikikai.com or use the form below.

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