Beginner’s Point of View – Turning Up (Blog #2)

Think I’ve got the hang of this blog thing now so here are some hints and tips if you are thinking of turning up for the first time…

Can I just turn up? Yep – just look for “Mat Fees/Class Times” on this website for a time that suits you and pop along. No appointment or calling ahead required. I would suggest coming earlier as it gives you time to take everything in, for someone to spend some time with you plus you will have to fill a medical form. Yes, there is even paperwork in Aikido!

What should I wear? Clothing wise, ideally if you have loose joggers and a t-shirt or sweat shirt with no zips or metal buttons. Footwear, if you have some flip-flops or slip on shoes.

Basic Bowing Etiquette. First, don’t worry about making mistakes, people will help you with all this. but here’s a starter for 10.

  • As you enter or leave the dojo you should turn towards the central picture where the founder of Aikido is (O’Sensei) and bow. This area is called the Shomen.
  • Getting on the mat. Avoid stepping on the dojo mat with your shoes. Scuttle along the side, turn your back to the mat and use the mat edge to slip out of your shoes (this is where flip-flops are really handy), then step onto the mat with your bear feet.
  • Once on the mat turn around facing the Shomen again, kneel down and bow again. People will show you how or there are some good tips on YouTube ?
  • When deciding where to sit beginners usually sit the back left of the mat when facing the Shomen.

For me the first visit was definitely nerve racking. It can be quite daunting walking into a world you’re not familiar with, where you don’t know what to do and you don’t know anyone but I found everyone wanted to help me.

So there I am kneeing on the mat and the class starts. Everyone spritely jumps up in a coordinated fashion for warm ups. I attempt to follow. To say I was “dad dancing” is an understatement. You’ll see a lot of movements and put your body in positions you thought it could never go in and be out of time with everyone else but I promise you the more you do them the more you’ll go “I can do this”.

Once I was all “warmed up” the teacher (Sensei) started demonstrating a move. This is where my brain starts overheating. There combinations of foot movements, hand movements, and all the Japanese names all smoothly demonstrated in split second. For me it’s too much information. It’s too much for any beginner so don’t panic, you’re not expected to reproduce any of it. Remember this is your first visit so it will be confusing.

To make matter worse after being shown what to do, it was my turn. You’ll find someone will come to “play” with you and you’ll probably stand there like the kid with no friend at a party. Again, don’t worry… the person your training with will help you through it. Don’t try to remember it because you won’t. Instead just remember the simple things like starting feet position, or which hand to grab each time at the start and do everything slowly.

Finally, after two hours of seemly doing everything wrong I actually came off with a massive smile on my face. Everyone was chatting to me telling how well I had done and was I coming back. Here’s the thing, whether you come back or not is completely up to you. You’ll know if it right for you and there’s no hard sell, there’s no point, right?.

Next blog. Why Aikido!