I recently spent 3 weeks traveling in South America, Venezuela to be more specific. It was a great time as I had the opportunity to meet, for the first time, members of my wife’s family. What does this have to do with aikido? Well, it was also the first time I met some members of another family – my extended aikido family.
Whenever my wife and I make travel plans, part of those plans include looking up the local aikido dojo. Apart from my wife’s comments on how much space my dogi (training uniform) takes up in our luggage, this is always an exciting time for me. Sometimes we are returning to places we’ve been before and I’m making plans to see old friends. Other times we are adventuring to new places and in this case I’m looking forward to making new friends.
I’m always impressed by the warm welcome I receive as a visitor. Whether it’s a dojo here in Canada, the US or South America, the hospitality I receive is consistently wonderful. I’ve heard the same thing from other aikido students I’ve spoken to as well – “visiting a dojo in another city or country is often like meeting family you didn’t know you had”. It doesn’t matter what rank you are, what language you speak or if you happen to train in a different style of aikido. Things like this spark more interest than they ever do disdain.
Besides my dogi I always remind myself to bring along my best manners and etiquette – introducing myself to the instructor before class and asking permission to train along with all the best manners while on the mat. As a visitor, I’m a reflection of my dojo and my teachers so it’s important to follow the rules of dojo etiquette as closely as I can. As an instructor who has had visitors to his dojo, I can say manners and etiquette are really the only things a student needs to bring, although a dogi is nice.
If, while travelling, you ever have the chance to pop into the local aikido dojo, I highly recommend it. The aikido community whether we’re talking about our city, our country or internationally, is very strong. I believe part of that strength lies in us making new connections with those who share an interest in our martial Way.
Chief Instructor, BigRock Aikikai