Getting Started

Observing a class

While in most cases you can join the dojo immediately, we recommend that you first observe a class. Of course, you will notice we have the technical expertise, and while this is extremely important, don't focus just on that. Also see if you like the environment we foster before, during and after practice. See if you would find it conducive to your learning and training. See if the formality, rigor and strictness of martial arts training are promoted and properly integrated and balanced with an atmosphere where you would find it interesting and fun to learn new skills. Ask yourself if you would enjoy spending time and studying at our dojo. Talk with the students and the instructors, request an information brochure, ask questions.

Trying out a free class

Ok, you like what you see, but before committing yourself you would like to try it out. We encourage prospective new members to take a trial Aikido or Iaido class at no cost and with no obligation. To do so, you simply 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. Plan on arriving at the dojo about 15 minutes before the start of class for orientation and to complete the above paperwork. We usually have a few visitor uniforms we can lend you for the trial class, but just in case we happen not to have one in your size, please bring loose and comfortable clothing such as sweatpants and a t-shirt. Of course, if you already have a martial arts uniform please bring it along. Do not wear any jewelry, perfume, cologne or shorts on the mat.

Your first Aikido class

Before class : Please arrive early so you can meet the instructor, take care of the paperwork and get changed. If there is extra time before the class starts, you can get on the mat to warm up or stretch.

During class : The choice and order of activities carried out during the class are up to the instructor, but generally all classes start with a "starting bow" and finish with an "ending bow".

Starting bow : When class is about to begin, students line up and sit in what is called seiza (sitting on your heels) facing the kamiza or shomen (the head of the dojo), where the pictures and the Aikido scroll hang. The instructor leads the class in bowing towards the kamiza and then the instructor and the class bow to each other, saying "onegaeshimasu", which is a Japanese term that can be translated as "please do me a favour and teach me". Please note that bowing is an important part of martial arts etiquette, and there is no religious connotation whatsoever in this or any other bowing carried out in the dojo.

Warm up : Following the starting bow the instructor or a designate usually leads the class in some warm-up exercises to limber up and tone the body to prepare it for practice. The warm up typically ends with the practice of forward and backwards rolls and falls. As a beginner you are not expected to know how to do these, and may sit and just observe. You will be given specific instructions during class on how to roll and fall safely.

Techniques : Most of the remainder of the class is dedicated to practicing one or more particular Aikido techniques. Typically, the instructor demonstrates a technique or a movement, and then the students pair off to practice what was demonstrated. One of the senior students will be assigned to practice with you for the remainder of the class and provide you with guidance. Partners study and practice the technique demonstrated taking turns in the roles of attacker (uke) and defender (nage), both roles being equally important. When the instructor claps, this signals the end of that partner practice. Training partners thank and bow to each other and then line up and sit in seiza or cross-legged for the next demonstration. This pattern is repeated until the class ends.

Ending bow : When the class ends, the instructor leads the class in bowing towards the shomen and then the instructor and the class bow to each other. It is proper to say "arigato gazaimashita sensei" which translates to "thank you very much, sensei" when bowing to the instructor at the end of class, to show your appreciation for the lesson imparted. Finally, each participant in the class bows to and thanks every other participant for their contribution to the class.

Joining the dojo

OK, you observed a class or took the free trial class and got a taste of things. You realize that learning Aikido and/or Iaido is challenging and exhilarating, and you just can't wait to get started. So what do you do next?
The next step is to join the dojo. You've already completed the paperwork when you signed the Registration and Waiver form, so all you need to do is pay your membership fees, get a training uniform, a pair of sandals and add your name to the attendance list. You will then have become a member of our dojo and are ready to start practicing. If you have enrolled in Aikido, we encourage you to start with classes designated for Beginners, which are offered on an ongoing basis. You can join all classes in your membership category at any time. Iaido classes are also ongoing, and you can start them at any time as well.

A few final words

Aikido and Iaido are perhaps like nothing you've ever done before, and watching and doing are worlds apart. While experienced practitioners may make it look easy, learning and performing these arts is nothing of the sort. It takes years of dedicated effort, study and practice to make them seem effortless. So, if you find you are having trouble doing what is shown, remember to be patient with yourself and give yourself time to learn. Remember that everyone is a beginner at one time or another. Also keep in mind that while the mastery of Aikido and/or Iaido is challenging, at the same time practice and the learning process are truly rewarding and a lot of fun. We hope you will join us and enjoy practicing with us.

Questions

These are some typical questions we have been asked:
   How do I join the dojo?
   Can I observe a class before joining?
   Can I take a trial class?
   Do I need to make an appointment?
   What do I need to do to take a trial class?
   Which classes can I try?
   What should I wear to my trial class?
   If I decide to join, when can I start?
   Can anyone join the dojo?
   Do you have classes for beginners?
   Which classes will I be able to attend when I join?
   Will I need a uniform? Where can I get one?
   Do I need to have any prior Aikido or Iaido experience?
   Do you have a Facebook page?
If you have additional questions we encourage you to ask any of the instructors or students at the dojo.
You can also visit our FAQ page or contact us.


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© Toronto Aikikai - 58 Ritchie Avenue, Toronto, ON, M6R 2J9, (416) 531-8273, info@torontoaikikai.com