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Patrick Hutchinson 03-14-2008 10:25 AM

Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
I'll be visiting Japan in April, and hope to get in a few classes at the Hombu dojo in Tokyo, as well as various others around the country. In the cases of the smaller dojos I've contacted them directly to introduce myself. What is the correct etiquette for the Hombu? The website gives some general guidelines about signing in and payment etc, but should one make oneself known to the sensei once on the mat, or just dive in?
As a relative newcomer (5th kyu), would Doshu's classes be way out of my league? Any other tips?

Be gentle, this is my first post.
All the best.

odudog 03-14-2008 12:09 PM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
The class the Doshu teaches is in the main hall on the 3rd floor and contains the mens dressing room. This hall is for 3rd kyu and up only. The second largest hall is on the 2nd floor and that is for the beginners and contains the ladies dressing room. You will be in this room most likely but do try to see if you can get permission to train in the main hall since you are visiting.

I was a 5th kyu 6 years ago when I visited Honbu. Luckily I was able to get permission to practice in the main hall from Doshu. He just happend to be in the office when my translator was asking about how to do things there.

Make sure you bring your membership book or card {VERY IMPORTANT} to show that you belong to an organization that is affiliated with Honbu. If not, then you will have to pay a boat load of money in order to practice. You don't need to introduce yourself to the Senseis, just dive in. Oh, make sure that you enter the training hall in through the correct door {VERY IMPORTANT}. Each training hall has two doors, one for the Sensei only and the other for us. I almost made this mistake! You should have seen the look on the fellow students face and heard the horror in his voice when he stopped me from making this major blunder. Men aren't allowed to wear t-shirts under their gi from what I was told by some European blackbelts. They practice at a very good pace so you will sweat a ton.

HarlieG 03-14-2008 01:24 PM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
Hi Patrick,

There are probably a ton of people on this list that train at Hombu much more than I did....but a couple of other tips....

1. They do not speak a lot of english at hombu dojo. So, be prepared, if you go, like myself, without a translator....you'll need to check in to your right, as you walk in the door. They will show you, via calculator, how much to pay. Leave your membership card/book, and claim it on the way out.

2. They train with the same partner for the whole class (I know that some schools do that here in the US, as well....but none that I've been part of). I met a really nice girl (who spoke english) in the dressing room, and she made an arrangement for my training 'date'. (She was already previously engaged....but we later made a plan to meet and train later in the week).

3. As Mike said, be prepared to sweat - especially if you are there in August, as I was. Tokyo is extremely humid (and I'm from Florida, originally!). The 3rd floor dojo has low windows, but there is not much air movement. Make sure you are well hydrated!

4. Mike mentioned picking the correct door....also, I noticed that they bow both at the shomen and to the other students when entering the hall. Since we typically only bow at the shomen, I had to remind myself to do both bows.

5. Have fun! My experience is that Doshu is jovial during his 6:30am class. He walks around, talks and laughs with people.....and there are some very high level shihans on the mat! I also enjoyed Osawa's classes.....I was proud of myself that I found my way there...through two train changes, and only got lost once (a little old man with a little dog walked me to the dojo....I'm sure I looked like a lost american with aikido written on my forehead!). Anyway....it is fun!

DG

ramenboy 03-14-2008 02:32 PM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
hey patrick,

see above. all great pieces of advice!

will you be visiting friends while you're there? they'd be able to maybe help translate for you too.

one thing though, even in the smaller outlying dojos, it would probably be nice if you brought a letter of introduction from your instructor... i know the folks here will correct me if i'm too tight-butt about it :P

and even though the dojos you visit are all affiliated (i'm assuming of course) the etiquette will vary. like what side the senior members line up, how they bow, etc. i remember things varied a bit from hombu to yamagata to fukuoka. not alot, but enough... i remember dressing and walking up the stairs to the mat in Suganuma Sensei's dojo, and walking through the doorway, and everyone, no matter what they were doing, turned and bowed. caught me by surprise! i looked over my shoulder to see if someone important was behind me.

it turns out, my quicker-dressing dojo mates who were travelling with me went through the same thing, but there was no way to 'warn'the rest of us, so just watched as everybody walked through the door.

have fun. some of us here are jealous :P

lrtomoleoni 03-14-2008 03:02 PM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
There is no rule that one can only train in the Regular Classes (3rd floor dojo) from 3rd kyu. If you can handle the ukemi, then you can train in the Regular Class. If not, then the Beginner's Class is more apporpriate.

Often you stay with the same partner for the whole hour. A few of the instructors have you change partners once or even twice during the hour class. (for Doshu's class you keep the same partner for the hour)

None of the instructors have the students line up in order of rank. Everyone just lines up in rows, but no specific rank order.

Do not bring your dojo slippers, if your dojo uses them, to Hombu Dojo. Only Doshu and special guests wear slippers inside of Hombu Dojo.

You do not need a letter of introduction, though the office folks will not turn it away if you have one. Some sort of proof that you belong to an Aikikai-affiliated organization or dojo is necessary, or you will, as mentioned, have to pay the Aikikai membership fee.

Have good training!

Lisa

David Partington 03-14-2008 04:22 PM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
Hi Patrick,

If not already affiliated to Hombu, it will cost approximately 8400 yen (42 GBP or 84 US dollars) for the entry fee. There is usually a small box of application forms (in English) on the front desk counter.

As for ettiquette, whilst Sensei is demonstrating a technique or personally correcting you, you MUST sit in seiza - even those poor people kneeling on the hard wooden floor at the back of the mat! Someone will remind you if you forget!

Spring is the best time to visit Japan IMHO unless the humidity arrives early! :crazy:

Nick P. 03-14-2008 05:58 PM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
Quote:

Jerome Cervantes wrote: (Post 201743)
, and everyone, no matter what they were doing, turned and bowed. caught me by surprise! i looked over my shoulder to see if someone important was behind me.

have fun. some of us here are jealous :P

1. That is a funny story.
2. Yes, yes I am a little jealous.

rob_liberti 03-14-2008 07:31 PM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
My first time at Suganuma sensei's dojo, same thing happened to me. Being young and silly I decided to give them another standing bow as if I were holding two buckets of water. (which I saw on kungfu theater) :) I got personal attention from rokyudans for the entire class. I suppose they wanted to make sure I behaved... I thought it was great. I recommend it to everyone.

Rob

Kevin A. 03-15-2008 12:01 AM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
Hi Patrick.

Well, let's see if I can answer your questions, with the little experience I have. Learning what is proper etiquette in Japan is a non-ending journey. My first 2 years in Japan I tried to learn it all, and in the end I just said, "screw it" and realized that more people liked me when I just acted like a "barbaric":D American. LOL! So, many people have been in your shoes before and will be after. If you are just going for a few practices you can just pay a mat fee. I do not think you need to show papers or anything like that, but do bring your affiliation card with you if you have one. If not I doubt it will matter, I doubt they will turn you away, as long as you are not that of a black-belt rank the politics are not that big of a deal. But you are a foreigner, so you can get away with a lot of "etiquette" mistakes. The funny thing is if you do something wrong the only people that will say anything will be other foreigners. So just ignore them. LOL! ;) I am sure the Japanese people there will be patient with you and want to practice their English on you. But yes as Donna said, they do not speak much English at the front desk, and if they do they are too shy to use it. But just think of it as all part of your "Japanese Experience." As for classes, you can attend any of them. Do not be afraid. True there is proper etiquette to attend a class, but again you are not a native Japanese person so do not worry about it. Nobody will tell you off. After all Hombu Dojo is a place to promote Aikido to the world so they welcome all. Going to smaller dojos are a little different, but again you are a tourist so just let them know ahead of time you are coming, but if you do not, no worries, I am sure they will still love to have you. Smaller dojos are great, to me that is where you will get your best Aikido experience. Small Japanese dojos really have a family like quality to them. When you are at Hombu if you meet a red head English guy name Brain, say, "Hi" for me.:) Anyway, I am not an expert on this matter by any means, but I know what you are going through I was in your shoes once. Have fun.

Walter Martindale 03-15-2008 04:13 PM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
Quote:

Kevin Alciati wrote: (Post 201766)
Hi Patrick.

(snip)
The funny thing is if you do something wrong the only people that will say anything will be other foreigners. So just ignore them. LOL! ;) I am sure the Japanese people there will be patient with you and want to practice their English on you.

We have some different experiences - While Doshu was instructing, I made the mistake of taking out my little towel and mopping my brow. After the instruction was over and before we started again one of the very senior Japanese in the room came over and "suggested" in a quiet but very direct voice, in English, that I not do that while Doshu teaching.
If you're going to mop your brow, do so after the instruction and before re-starting practice - it's a short window.
But yes, have fun training
W

Kevin A. 03-15-2008 06:34 PM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
That is interesting Walter. Maybe because it was Doshu's class they are more strict. I can see that.

Kevin A. 03-16-2008 12:57 AM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
You know I actually took the time and re-read everyone's responses. Before I just scanned through them quickly. Sorry for the laziness. :o Anyway, everyone here experienced the same thing as me. Really good advice has been given. :) The "door thing" is important. Yup, the first time I went to Hombu I went through the wrong door too. I did not know at the time there was a door to enter the dojo in the men's dressing room. :o But, all part of the experience. As for ignoring foreigners. That was just a joke, :D actually one of the best things about Hombu is that you meet people from all over the world. And sorry for the typo, my friend's name is Brian, not "Brain." Although he is a smart guy. ;) Anyway Patrick, if you happen come to Wakayama Prefecture and are looking for a dojo here to train at, send me a mail.:)

Charles Hill 03-16-2008 02:30 AM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
Quote:

Kevin Alciati wrote: (Post 201766)
Nobody will tell you off.

I have been in a certain shihan's class where he most definitely told off visitors who showed a lack of etiquette. One guy sat in the back and was taking notes and not training. This shihan yelled at one of the uchideshi to "get him the hell out of here."

My advice is to really take a good look at Lisa's post and maybe to ask her directly any other questions you might have. There are not many non-Japanese who know about Honbu better than her

Charles Hill

odudog 03-16-2008 01:14 PM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
Quote:

Lisa Tomoleoni wrote: (Post 201745)
There is no rule that one can only train in the Regular Classes (3rd floor dojo) from 3rd kyu. If you can handle the ukemi, then you can train in the Regular Class. If not, then the Beginner's Class is more apporpriate....Lisa

Interesting, this is what I was informed of with Doshu standing immediately in the background. Doshu interjected himself into the conversation and started asking a bunch of questions of me. He finally determined that it was OK for me to attend classes in the main hall and made the point of standing next to me and commenting about me during practice.

Kevin A. 03-16-2008 05:19 PM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
[quote=Charles Hill;201802]I have been in a certain shihan's class where he most definitely told off visitors who showed a lack of etiquette. One guy sat in the back and was taking notes and not training. This shihan yelled at one of the uchideshi to "get him the hell out of here."

:eek: Wow! Some guy just sat in the back and took notes while class was going on? Was the guy in a dogi or just a visitor watching? That is pretty strange. I guess if you do something that silly you will get told off. Looking back I did some pretty "silly" things during my short stay there but at the time I was doing them it did not seem odd but I never got yelled at. Maybe a blank stare or two. I even saw a new guy show up once that seemed lost and was late for class and did some strange things such as waving his hands to the Shihan teaching the class to get his attention while class was going on. But again after a few minutes the new guy started to adjust and figured out what was going on. He never got yelled at, one of the sempai just came up to him and told him it was OK to join in the class. I went back to Hombu two years later after that and that same guy waving his arms to get the Shihan's attention was still there. So, I guess he faired well. At first being there is a bit overwhelming. That I will admit. A lot of history is there, after all. I will be heading back there in May for the first time in 5 years. I will remember all these stories. One thing I will remember not to do is take notes in the back during class. ;) That is just too funny.

Kevin

Patrick Hutchinson 03-17-2008 07:59 AM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
Dear All,
many thanks for the advice. Apart from the Hombu I'll be visiting Yoko Okamoto Sensei's dojo in Kyoto and Peter Goldsbury Sensei's dojo in Hiroshima.
I'm playing a gig (I play the uilleann pipes) at Molly Malone's in Hiroshima on Sat. April 12th!
Anybody know of a friendly dojo in Osaka?
Just hope I don't break any indispensable fingers!

batemanb 03-18-2008 01:46 AM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
Quote:

Patrick Hutchinson wrote: (Post 201870)
Dear All,
many thanks for the advice. Apart from the Hombu I'll be visiting Yoko Okamoto Sensei's dojo in Kyoto and Peter Goldsbury Sensei's dojo in Hiroshima.
I'm playing a gig (I play the uilleann pipes) at Molly Malone's in Hiroshima on Sat. April 12th!
Anybody know of a friendly dojo in Osaka?
Just hope I don't break any indispensable fingers!

I know a great dojo in Kobe, which is not too far from Osaka.

http://www.geocities.jp/estella_dean...kan/index.html

If you go visit, tell Nakao sensei that I said hello.

DonMagee 03-18-2008 05:53 AM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
[quote=Kevin Alciati;201836]
Quote:

Charles Hill wrote: (Post 201802)
I have been in a certain shihan's class where he most definitely told off visitors who showed a lack of etiquette. One guy sat in the back and was taking notes and not training. This shihan yelled at one of the uchideshi to "get him the hell out of here."

:eek: Wow! Some guy just sat in the back and took notes while class was going on? Was the guy in a dogi or just a visitor watching? That is pretty strange. I guess if you do something that silly you will get told off. Looking back I did some pretty "silly" things during my short stay there but at the time I was doing them it did not seem odd but I never got yelled at. Maybe a blank stare or two. I even saw a new guy show up once that seemed lost and was late for class and did some strange things such as waving his hands to the Shihan teaching the class to get his attention while class was going on. But again after a few minutes the new guy started to adjust and figured out what was going on. He never got yelled at, one of the sempai just came up to him and told him it was OK to join in the class. I went back to Hombu two years later after that and that same guy waving his arms to get the Shihan's attention was still there. So, I guess he faired well. At first being there is a bit overwhelming. That I will admit. A lot of history is there, after all. I will be heading back there in May for the first time in 5 years. I will remember all these stories. One thing I will remember not to do is take notes in the back during class. ;) That is just too funny.

Kevin

What is silly about taking notes exactly? I know a lot of guys who this works well for.

ramenboy 03-18-2008 12:44 PM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
[quote=Don Magee;201944]
Quote:

Kevin Alciati wrote: (Post 201836)

What is silly about taking notes exactly? I know a lot of guys who this works well for.

its one thing to take notes on a class. but to sit in the class taking notes and not practicing, that's another.

i take notes too. but AFTER class is finished, and i'm sitting home reviewing things in my head.

Patrick Hutchinson 03-21-2008 07:36 AM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
Mine is a Birankai dojo, and I'm wondering whether there are others out there who can tell me whether Birankai's affiliation with Aikikai extends to registration fees (as opposed to training fees that is)? The Hombu dojo website mentions an Aikikai registration number, which in my case I do not have.
Thanks again to all for the encouragement.

ramenboy 03-21-2008 09:34 AM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
hey patrick,

chiba sensei has a very strong relationship with hombu dojo. but i don't know if that means there's any exemption in training fee/registration fee. just make sure you've got alot of yen when you get to the dojo.

you can bring your birankai passport with you, i'll be corrected and tarred and feathered if i'm wrong, i believe aikikai registration number is received at the dan level.

i hope you enjoy your classes at hombu. great teachers. fun time. try to make at least one class with miyamoto sensei, since he's a regular fixture at birankai summercamp.

also, check with your sensei. chances are, he's already visited hombu, or knows others who have. they'll steer you in the right direction.

Kevin A. 03-27-2008 05:07 AM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
Let us know how it goes Patrick, would love to hear about your experience.

Kevin A. 03-27-2008 05:10 AM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
I would love to hear about the different experiences you had at each dojo you visit.

Jorge Garcia 03-27-2008 05:50 AM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
Quote:

Jerome Cervantes wrote: (Post 202261)
i'll be corrected and tarred and feathered if i'm wrong, i believe aikikai registration number is received at the dan level.

You receive the Aikikai registration number when you register with the Aikikai. It has no reference to rank. I know two people who have the number and are not ranked. The students at one of my dojos all get their Aikikai number at the time they test for 5th kyu just because that is the convenient time.

Jorge Garcia

Jorge Garcia 03-27-2008 08:44 AM

Re: Advice on Hombu dojo etiquette
 
From the Aikikai website:
For those who are living abroad and wish to train at Hombu Dojo:
Anyone who is a member of the Aikikai Foundation can train at Hombu Dojo. Information below are frequently requested regarding this.

In order to train at Hombu Dojo you must become a member of the Aikikai Foundation. At dojo located abroad, this is usually done upon joining the dojo, or else upon registration of shodan grading. Upon completing registration with the Aikikai, you will receive a membership card and a membership number. These do not expire and are good for life. Also, upon registering shodan you will also receive an International Yudansha Book. When wanting to train at Hombu Dojo, please bring something with your registration number with you. For those who are not yet Aikikai members, please complete the registration at the front desk upon arrival at Hombu Dojo.

If you wish to train as a Visitor, you can participate in any Regular or Beginner class. Other types of classes are not available to you. It is possible to join as many classes of those two types in a day as you wish. The fee for training is as listed on relevant page of this website. Visitor fee, 1,575JPY/day is applied for those who train a few days. Please pay the monthly fee for more trainning. The monthly fee begins the day you pay it and ends at the completion of the calendar month, not 30 days from when you pay. Please be aware of this fact. You can begin training immediately after paying the fee if you wish.

Please take you uniform home with you each day. Uniforms can be purchased at the front desk, though any white martial arts uniform is generally acceptable. Hakama are worn by men from shodan and women from 3rd kyu. This is the custom at Hombu Dojo. However, if you wish, you can wear a hakama from the time you register.

All necessary requirements for entering Japan (Visa, lodging) are the sole responsibility of the individual. Hombu Dojo does not provide lodging, laundry facilities or any other accommodations.

It is possible to watch Regular or Beginner's classes at any time. Please arrive before the beginning of class and sign in at the front desk. As you enter the dojo, perform a bow from seiza just inside the doorway. If you are not training, please sit in the back of the dojo to watch and do not interfere with the participants. Please refrain from taking photos or videos.

-----------------------------------------------------------------
AIKIKAI FOUNDATION Aikido World Headquarters
17-18 Wakamatsu Cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0056 Japan
Phone: (+81) 3-3203-9236, Fax: (+81) 3-3204-8145
Email: aikido@aikikai.or.jp

Jorge Garcia


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