Lots of people are curious about training in martial arts. It is often an exciting new experience with strange Japanese etiquette and language involved. To help potential new students gain an understanding of what training is like at Sendokan Martial Arts, we have created this guide to give you insights to your first experiences at Sendokan Martial Arts
If you are coming into the dojo for the 1st time you have probably spoken with one of the sensei and have arranged to either come and watch and or try a class. Hopefully, you will arrive 15 to 20 min early so you can speak to one of the instructors and get a quick orientation.
When you open the door and step inside the dojo you will see cubby holes for shoes or boots on your left. You may also notice a slightly raised wooden platform on the floor in front of the shoe rack DON’T step on this raised wooden platform with you boots or shoes. Take one shoe off and step on the platform with that foot in your socks (some people bring sandals to wear inside the dojo) then do the same with your other foot / shoe. Pick both shoes up and place them in a cubby hole. Now you can continue to walk along the raised platform and into the dojo office / waiting area.
The door on the left is the sensei’s office, on the right you will see the dojo administration desk and a lounge area with chairs and coffee tables. Straight ahead through a doorway are the changerooms, men’s on the left and women’s on the right and our training area.
As you are looking around or speaking to a sensei or our administrator you may hear a strange sound emanating from the front door the changerooms and the training area. This is your first introduction to some Japanese etiquette that you will eventually get used to and it will become second nature. The Sound is “ÖSU!!” this is a term used in some karate styles and in Yoshinkan style Aikido. It is used as a hello, and goodbye, as a greeting and it is used as an acknowledgement of a correction to a technique, movement or instruction during class. OSU! Is always said strongly and loudly. “OSU!” officially translates to “endeavour to preserver.” This is the mind set and one of the character traits we teach at Sendokan Martial Arts
If you are trying a class you should wear loose fitting athletic clothing, If you have a uniform from another martial art you can wear that. You will have to complete a waiver prior to training.
As you walk toward the training area you will pass the changerooms down a short hallway. Once you are in the training area you should face on an angle to the Shomen (the front of the dojo) in the middle of the left-hand side wall. Bow to the Shomen and then step on the mat (bare feet only).
Most students try to do some personal stretching before class, and everyone should get a broom and sweep the mats together before class starts.
A few minutes before class starts a sensei or senior students will yell “Siritsu!” (line up) all the students will line up in rank order, the most senior student at the far end and the most junior closest to the edge of the mat. Students should be spread out equally along the length of the dojo. The senior will then call our “seiza” (kneeling position) all the students will kneel in the traditional Japanese fashion. Student should use this time to clear and calm their minds, rid themselves of the days troubles and issues and get ready to focus only on their training. The sensei will then enter the mat, bowing as he / she gets on, then taking a kneeling position will bow again. Sensei will then walk to the middle of the dojo in front of the Shinza(shrine) and will kneel again. The senior student will call out either Shomen ni Rei or Shinza ni Rei (bow to the front or bow to the shire) Sensei will then turn to face the line of students, the senior students call out “Sensei ni Rei” The sensei and the students bow to each other.
The sensei will stand up and call out “kiritsu” (stand up) everyone will quickly get their feet, a senior student or sensei will lead a warmup. Everyone will spread out across the dojo in 2 or 3 lines. There is a count in the warmup, try to listen and follow along as best you can. The counting and this warmup are to help energize students and to loosen up joints that might be locked up during training. The leader of the warm up will count ïchi, ni”(one two) and the students count san, shi (three, four) and then leader says go, roku (5, 6) students say which, hachi (7, 8) the counting should be done energetically!
After the warmup, the sensei will ask students to do back breakfalls and / or roles etc… (new students will do modified break falls or will be taken aside to have small group instruction. This is usually followed by some cardio training, and / or core strengthening exercises.
The sensei will then have the students stand in rows and call out migi hamni Kamae (right side basic stance), and then Kamae narae (stop doing the basic stance and then “Hidari Hamni Kamae(left side basic stance. After this, students will practice one or two (or all) of our Kihon Dosa (foundational movements). Students will be encouraged to go wide and low (stances) corrections and improvements happen continually.
The next stage in the class students will begin to do techniques, in pairs. New students will be paired with a more experienced senior student and may end up working at a slower pace and or on basic steps that are required before attempting techniques. These techniques are called Kihon Waza (fundamental techniques). The sensei will demonstrate the technique as a whole or just a part, then students practice what sensei showed them. The sensei will move around helping and making corrections with each pair, and occasionally yell “ÿamae” (stop), students will gather around as the sensei will show an important part of the technique that most students are missing or need to improve on.
Nearing the end of the class, the sensei may modify the technique into a more self-defense-oriented form, or into a smoother more advanced form, this may also be done in groups of 4 or more taking turns.
Eventually the sensei will call out “Yamae”one more time. Everyone stops, and faces their partner in Kamae. Sensei will say Kamae norae, everyone stands at attention facing their partner, Nao shite (correct your uniform) then another new Japanese term “Siego dei Kamae no owarimas” (last Kamae of the class) both left and right sides are done. Then Kamae narae, and seiza, everyone kneels where they are still facing their partner. Sensei will call mei moku (close eyes) this si a time for students to reflect on their training and what they did in class. The sensei will usually make a short summary of the class and perhaps make dome further points on the techniques or philosophy or training. Mei moku yamae, (open eyes) is called and then Otagani rei, (bow to your partner with a loud OSU) and then “Seritsu” is called and everyone lines up at the back of the class again, in rank order like the beginning of class. Sensei will walk up to the front, at the shomen, the senior students call out seiza, and everyone goes into kneeling position, We again, on command from the senior, bow to the front and then bow to sensei when he/she has turned to face the class. The sensei will then walk to the edge of the mat, bow from standing, then from kneeling and then step off the mat. The senior students will say Keiko owarimasu (practice is finished) and then will call out “big circle “everyone comes together in a big circle and on the seniors command everyone bows to each other. Some students may end up bowing to others individually, especially seniors or sensei who trained with them that class.
The class is now over. You may feel confused, and a bit overwhelmed, I can’t count the number of students who have said I will never learn the Japanese, I can’t do this or that, I don’t understand anything!! But inevitably within a few weeks those same students are counting in Japanese and understanding all the commands and are getting the hang of many of the movements and techniques they have been practicing.
Through this whole time in our dojo you will probably have met a number of people. We encourage making new connections with fellow students. Everyone at Sendokan Martial Arts is very friendly and welcoming. You can ask any student or instructor anything you like, everyone will be eager to help. Soon you will have junior students looking to you for answers, you will become a “sempai” (senior student), and your journey into Yoshinkan Aikido will be well on its way!!
A white belt is a much higher rank than sitting on a couch. At Sendokan Martial Arts, you will find a great training experience, knowledgeable and highly skilled instruction a very friendly community. We believe we have created the perfect place for anyone to start their martial art journey. Give us a call, come out and give it a try! We are sure you will love it.