View Full Version : Dealing with a foul training partner

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03-01-2005, 05:26 PM
Greetings. I am hoping to find the people of this board will barage me with good advice.

How do you deal with a training partner who has an extremely foul odor issue?

I don't want any hurt feelings, and I don't want to start problems. This person is otherwise a wonderful person and training partner.

Perhaps I am being too petty, and should just leave it alone, what do you think?

03-01-2005, 05:31 PM
Stop to bath yourself. After one month you will all right. In reality he is using very old (developped before II WW) aiki principle, to disturb and control your senses and mind before attack, so he can deal with your techniques sucessfully, with his Ki power.

03-01-2005, 06:01 PM
Personal care issues, incuding odor and hair management, jewelry removal, and disease prevention such as wart treatment, and blood/body fluid policies are a major issue with me. I am not an easily offended person, but I personally have a no-tolerance policy when my partner's irresponsibility threatens to disease or otherwise damage me or the dojo. I am appaled at the number of Aikidoka who train daily with a handful of warts or a set of licey dreads. I am also highly irritated by Aikidoka who simply cannot be bothered to remove their facial piercings and rings merely because they signed an aggreement to do so before they got on the mat. These issues not only put training partners at risk, but also risk shutting the dojo down if insurance policies are revoked. All that being said, I can put up with a stinky partner every once in a while. Chronically stinky partners open themselves to getting deoderant as christmas/birthday presents.

Adam Alexander
03-01-2005, 06:08 PM
I once knew a guy with AWFUL breath. It was like his mouth was totally rotten. If he was five feet from you, you could smell it when he spoke.

He too, was a very nice guy. Because of that, I took him off to the side and said,"You know, there's been occasions I've witnessed where a person will smell and people will make fun of them behind their back. If I was the person who had the issue, I'd like to be told rather than finding out by over-hearing people making fun of me. That's why I'm telling you this. When you talk, people can smell your breath and it's very unpleasant."

He responded extremely well.

As long as you're his senior, I'd approach him after class. And just be honest: it's unpleasant.

03-01-2005, 06:15 PM
I think this is an issue for the instructor - part of keeping the dojo a healthy/open/welcoming/nurturing environment for all members and it is also part of instilling the lessons of self-awareness and self-responsibility through the following of dojo etiquette.

In my opinion, an instructor should have enough hands-on with their members so that he/she is one of the first to know when someone is violating the dojo's protocols on personal hygiene. However, if for whatever reason that is not possible, an instructor should be very open and grateful for any other member coming to them with such issues in etiquette breech. Therefore, you should feel very comfortable in approaching your instructor with such information, and if you are an instructor, you should feel very comfortable with receiving such information. After the information gets to the instructor, it is really just a mechanical issue – a simple issue of cause and effect. The instructor approaches the member in question and says in a very matter-of-fact manner (something akin to), “Please follow dojo etiquette more closely by cultivating more self-responsibility and self-awareness to your body odor. Please consider your presence in light of the presence of every other member – this is very much at the heart of the social application of Aikido. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to talk to me now, or you can talk to me later when you would like.”

If the person shows up again in violation of the request, an instructor should just kindly ask them to leave the mat until they can figure it out and/or until they are ready to talk about some sort of extenuating circumstances they would like the instructor to consider. An instructor can also offer assistance in the form of good information. Believe it or not, some folks were so incompletely raised by their own parents that they are not sure how to stop stinking and/or what is out there to help them stop stinking. When things are handled in very cut and dry manners, feelings tend not to become so scorched – because they just do not need to be. The dojo asking something of someone – they either comply or they do not. If they do not comply, then they can go and do whatever they want some other place. This is the unsaid social contract at the heart of all the other tenets of dojo etiquette. This one should not be treated any differently.

My opinion, but also the exact way that we handle things at our dojo.


03-01-2005, 10:04 PM
In my opinion, an instructor should have enough hands-on with their members so that he/she is one of the first to know when someone is violating the dojo's protocols on personal hygiene.

Except, of course, when the instructor/owner is the chief violator. Been there, not once, but twice. One of them was, SO BAD, that you literally had to hold your breath when taking ukemi. The guy was a horrific slob, lacked any organization and had probably never cleaned a thing in his life. Anyways, one day something went wrong and I lost it. An email went out which included (after a long rant):

"by the way, did you know that you f*****g stink", followed by some stuff about bath's, detergent and gi's.

Not tactful, but it worked!

Note that he wasn't really my instructor, rather, more of a peer.

I don't want any hurt feelings, and I don't want to start problems. This person is otherwise a wonderful person and training partner.

Perhaps I am being too petty, and should just leave it alone, what do you think?

Aikido is kind of an intimate art where we voluntarily, at times, put ourselves in unpleasant places, like armpits, for instance. You don't have to be spitshined, or roll out Miss Manner's guide to dojo etiquette, but reaking of the living decomposition makes for a miserable experience.

So, you gotta make a decision. If you are too much of a wussy to tell the guy, or the instructor, then you get to suck it up, literally, or leave.

FWIW, I assure you, you aren't doing him any favors by keeping silent.

03-01-2005, 11:45 PM
is it the person himself that stinks so viley or is it his gi?

It seems like in our younger classes, alot of young teens are just never aware of their body's / habbits. And as such, we get gi's that haven't been washed for months and kids that smell like absolute shit. In these cases it's best to remind them personally.

Cleanliness in the dojo is extremely important. We take the time to sweep and wash the mats, dust the shomen, sweep the entry way, clean the windows. Treating your body the same way is part of your training, and that's what i say to the kids when i encounter a particularly stinky one.

03-02-2005, 12:07 AM
This is a good story....

"According to various accounts, Miyamoto Musashi never washed, and used to turn up to duels stinking to high heaven, so much so, his opponents used to call off the duel even before the fight started. Worked for Musashi, but (and then proceed to hold your own nose at this point)...I don't think it works well in a dojo. etc. etc. etc.".

03-02-2005, 12:51 AM
Yeah, the only problem with this story is that it fails to mention that Miyomoto Musashi was a friggen psychopath.

03-02-2005, 01:32 AM
Except, of course, when the instructor/owner is the chief violator.

Well that does bring up an interesting point - but I still think it speaks to the relationship between dojo etiquette, awareness, and a mature practice. If you got an instructor that stinks, one has to wonder how much of the Way is truly understood by him/her. That's why it's always a good test to see how clean the bathrooms are in order to get a good take on how mature the dojo is. There's a reason why cleanliness is next to godliness, or maybe we should say, there's a reason why stinking like a foul swine is not.


03-02-2005, 03:36 AM
How do you deal with a training partner who has an extremely foul odor issue?
Ambush them in the changing room with a can of deodorant body spray? :D

Steal and wash their gi, then return it neatly pressed? :)

When they open their mouth to speak, quickly squirt in some breath freshening spray? ;)

Or have a quiet, friendly word, as has been suggested.


03-02-2005, 11:30 AM
Just be honest. When he is a nice person than he will understand your complain! Good luck.

03-02-2005, 12:45 PM
Be nice about it. Its one thing if they are being too lazy to bathe or too cheap to buy deodorant. However, there are medical/biological conditions that cause chronic body odor.
In regards to the "young teens" you are right that they may not be aware that they smell bad. Maybe they are at that age where their body is changing and they need to start using deodorant.

03-03-2005, 12:06 PM
Hmm, the Christian in me says that you should ask them kindly if they are aware of their odor problem, and let them know that it may be noticable to others... Noticable odor can be the sign of a unpleasant health condition -- internal or external -- so they may need to seek medical attention, as well. :sorry:

On the other hand, it could be a sensitive social or cultural issue, too. Are we talking, rank-like-feces, rank-like-huge-sweaty-guy or rank-like-too-many-garlic-burritos? :yuck:

03-06-2005, 11:21 AM
Lots of replies to your post, many good. Let me share an experience. Before I came to Honbu dojo I trained at a town center where they had a Sunday morning class. A motley crew of students, housewives, and one older gentleman who also was doing Karate and Judo, and never washed his judogi.

I guarantee you have NEVER SMELT THE LIKE.

There was a streak of green mildew (as one finds in Tokyo after the rainy season even upon things that DON'T sweat.) down the back of his judogi from collar to belt. It was actually green, it looked like he had been lying under a car in a pool of antifreeze, but it smelled like Death. It was sweat and whatever it is that feeds on sweat in a locker and makes it smell that peculiar way.

The sensei had even made a good natured comment to him in the dressing room, I recall. He seemed embarassed but apparantly not the time to do laundry. He sure was into training, though.

On this morning we are doing Iriminage and I am partnered with him. In Iriminage you have the opportunity to get very intimate with Shite's collar and armpit. Round and round we went, again and again, me gagging but not wanting to offend.

You know how sometimes you go down without waiting to really be thrown? I couldn't wait to get to the mat. I was like a boxer every time after a partial K.O. I was getting half up, steadying myself with one hand on the mat... gasping and nodding that I would be ok.. in a second... for another ... go...

I would like to say that I found a way to tell him,, but shortly after I came to Honbu dojo where things smell much better.

But I think if It happens again I will know what to say, if I can make it through the session....

After last bows, and before the brooms come out, there is a little window of opportunity to smile and quip something like 'Bout time to wash that gi, Fred!" or "Sensei" or "Senpai"

In Japanese, "sorosoro judogi arattemitahou ga iinjanadesuka?"

Say it with a smile, unless it's a kohai:

"Chotto! Judogi aratte kure!"

03-09-2005, 01:15 AM
One person at a neighboring dojo is so smelly that after the first time I trained there and drove home (no showers in that building) the interior of our car reeked. We had to Febreeze the upholstery to get rid of the smell.

It smells like stale urine emanating from him and his gi. After meeting this person, another student advised me it's the stale smell of sake coming from his pores.

We train at different locations, some which have excellent showers and this person never takes one. His breath is bad as well...

03-09-2005, 12:50 PM
One of our senior instructors wrote a general but rather pointed newsletter article on this topic. A lot of people (mostly very clean people) took it as meaning them, and made some extra efforts.... Sometimes it works to make the correction in general even when one person is offending; other times you find out that they're *sure* you're not talking to them.

Mary Kaye