Q: I'd like to start Aikido. What do I do?
A: Feel free to go to any Shoheijuku dojo and watch a class and have a trial lesson. The only requirements are loose, comfortable, sport-suitable clothing. Please arrive at least 10 minutes before the class and introduce yourself to the teacher. You are welcome to begin training at any regular class at any dojo. The regular members will help you get started.
Q: I'd like my child to start Aikido. What do I do?
For children, feel free to go to one of the childrens' classes and watch a lesson. You can also watch a lesson on the videos page. Many childrens' classes are held at local junior high school dojos in addition to the classes at the main dojos, so you may find one that is reasonably near to you. For more information please contact the Shoeheijuku Hombu Dojo (in Japanese if by phone) for more information.
Visitors are welcome at Shoheijuku dojos at any time. No special arrangements need to be made, but please organize your own travel, accommodation, and insurance. There is a daily training fee allowing you train at any dojos any number of times for one day which can be paid at any dojo. Casual visitors as well as people coming for a period of intense training are most welcome.
Please check the Calendar in advance to see if there are any public holidays or events. You may wish to train with Suganuma Sensei only for him to be visiting another dojo.
There are no restrictions on which classes you may attend, except the womens' class. Except for the beginners' class, practice is for all levels, from beginner to advanced.
Our training style is relaxed, friendly and considerate of others and safety with a focus on gentle, precise technique. Advanced members are always happy to train with you at your level. We have had visitors who have from only a few months training up to those who have over 50+ years of practice visit.
If you would like to see what our training looks like, a video of an entire class can be watched on the videos page.
If you are practicing Aikido for the first time in Japan, you may find that the Japanese mats are much harder than what you are used to and you may wish to use knee pads.
We do about 10-15 minutes of warm-up stretches at the start of class. Please feel free to skip any parts of warm-up that you are unable to do.
It is OK to do suwariwaza (seated) techniques standing if desired.
The dojos are not heated or cooled. Please drink and bring plenty of fluids if you are visiting during the Summer months and take breaks during training if necessary.
Suganuma Sensei has tea on the mat after training in the tradition of O'Sensei Ueshiba. During that time feel free to either join him, and/or ask him questions. Sensei's classes are often attended by at least one member who can translate to and from English and French.
After the formal class and cleaning has finished, members often train for around 30-60 minutes where they might review techniques, do more vigorous and challenging practice or weapons training, so please feel free to ask another member ("O-ne-gai-shi-ma-su!") to practice with you.
Hombu Dojo has staff present during working hours if you wish to introduce yourself and pay training fees in advance. Please note that they do not speak English. French and English-speaking members are often present at Suganuma Sensei's classes.
Q: What should I do when I arrive at the dojo?
- Upon entering the dojo, please do two seated bows, off the mats. One towards the front (towards O'Sensei's picture) and one to the people on the mat and say "O-ne-gai-shi-ma-su". You can do this by yourself or with other people who are entering at the same time.
- Upon leaving please do the same, but saying "Arigatou gozaimasu" ("Thank you very much").
- Please introduce yourself to Suganuma Sensei (or the instructor) upon arriving for the first time.
- Please knock and say "Shi-tsu-rei-shimasu" when entering or leaving the change room.
- Please carefully observe the other members' behaviour so as to understand what formality is required.
Q: I cannot sit in seiza / I have bad knees and have trouble sitting and bowing. What should I do?
If you cannot sit in seiza comfortably it is OK to sit with your legs crossed instead. If you have any trouble with sitting and bowing please let us know. Likewise please skip any stretches or techniques that are too difficult or you are unable to do.
Q: Can I drink water during practice?
Drinking water or sports drinks during class is allowed. In the hot season, the instructor will make a break for drinking during the class, otherwise you should ask permission from your partner to drink. Please keep in mind to:
- Leave your bottle at the back of the dojo (please don't drink from a can).
- Don’t drink when the instructor is teaching.
- When you drink, please face away from the front of the dojo.
Q: What happens if the class starts and I have no partner?
Please sit in seiza at the edge of the mats and say to some pair ”onegaishimasu”, then join them.
Q: Can I take videos or photos during the class?
Please ask the instructor beforehand about taking photos and videos.
Q: Can I participate in the cleanup after practice?
Yes, please join the cleanup in a positive manner. We appreciate it if you could help clean up the dojo which you have practiced. We sweep, then wipe the mats after each class. Please follow the lead of the other members.
Q: Can I put on my hakama in the dojo?
If possible, please finish changing in the changing room before you get onto the mat. In some dojos, there may not be enough space in the change room so in that case, where other members are putting their hakama on in the dojo it is OK.
Q: Where can I fold my hakama?
You can fold your hakama on the mat after the dojo clean-up. We recommend you do it at the back or sides of the dojo in front of the wall so as not to obstruct other people. It is disrespectful to fold your hakama with your back facing the kamiza (the front of the dojo where O'Sensei's picture is).
Q: What else should I be aware of to not be disrespectful during the class?
When the instructor is teaching in the front, please focus on his instruction in seiza.
Please refrain from the following:
- Using a towel during the instructor’s teaching.
- Rearranging your keikoi-gi, belt or hakama during the instructor’s teaching.
- Rearranging your hair during the instructors teaching.
Q: I have a Kyu grade, can I practice in the regular class?
Yes. Beginners are welcome too. Members are always happy to train with people at any level.