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As a member of the dojo community we often want to make a contribution in some way. As a beginner there's often precious little we can do. We can't teach. We often don't know enough to jump in and take on dojo projects. But there are little ways we can help out. Keeping the dojo nice is one way any of us can do a little something.
Sometimes we don't notice the little details because we are looking at them all the time. And sometimes we just don't know what do. Here are some ideas. They will of course vary between dojo. Check with your dojo cho, sensei, or sempai before taking on anything too risky (like painting the walls a new color!). These things are probably pretty safe ways to pitch in:
Pick a small area that doesn't get cleaned often, and take it on. Like a cabinet, or the strips along the walls that daily vacuuming doesn't get.
If you have a green thumb, pull weeds, deadhead the old flowers, prune what needs pruning, or maybe bring a few plants to fill in gaps in the landscaping.
Wipe down the door jambs or baseboards.
Wash the windows. Or just one window. Clean the mirrors.
Seek and destroy all the cobwebs! Escort the spiders outdoors and turn them loose.
Take the rags and towels home, wash and fold them, and return them.
Take the rugs outside (far away from any open doors) and beat the dust out of them.
Clean out the refrigerator, or the microwave.
If you have dressing room curtains, vacuum the dust off them.
[I've been meaning to write up a series of "Ten Tips" posts, for all those subjects where I have a little of this and that to say. This is as good a topic as any for the first one.]
I love it when aikidoka from other dojo come play with us. It's fun to meet people from all over the world, and to learn a little about how things are done in other places. I don't travel a lot, but if I did I'd sure want to visit other dojo, meet folks there, and get my Aikido fix!
I've been to a few other dojo for seminars, talked to a lot of people from other schools, and I've been confused myself when trying to figure out how things work in new places. So here are a few pointers for figuring out "the way things are done" that might help you feel more at home when you train somewhere else:
Most dojo welcome visitors of any affiliation. Knowing the affiliation or lineage can be interesting, though. The dojo where I train for instance, Aikido of San Diego, is affiliated with Aikikai, through the California Aikido Association (CAA), under Division 3, headed by Robert Nadeau Shihan.
Notice (or ask) how are instructors and others addressed? At our dojo only Goldberg Sensei is addressed as "Sensei". At some dojo any instructor who is teaching at the moment is addressed as "Sensei."
Belt colors, if they are used, can help clue you in to the level of your training partners. We have a few belt colors (6 & 5 = white, 4 & 3 = blue, 2 & 1 = brown), and only yudansha wear hakama. In some schools, belts are white for all kyu ranks. In others, everyone wears hakama. So don't assume that people wearing white belts are newbies, or that those wearing hakama are yudansha.