how to mindfully begin class…

So, I thought it would be important to write about how to mindfully begin each class.  A lot of training happens before even bowing in.  Here ya go…

–   When walking, riding, driving, crawling, limping, or rolling up to the Dojo, begin letting go of whatever road rage (sidewalk rage if you’re walking) you may currently have. Be thankful for the vehicle you’re in (even if it’s your body).

–   Harmoniously park (if you’re driving) without bumping any other cars. This can be especially frustrating if you live in a place like Reno, NV where nobody knows how to parallel park. Look at it as part of the training, Grasshopper, whooosaaah.

–   When you get out of your car (Again, drivers only. However, if you are walking, you may attempt to step out of your body for a second and have an out of body experience while hovering above it. I’ll leave that up to you), release the tension out of your legs and hips as you walk towards the dojo. Sink into the pavement with each step. Relax the shoulders.

–   Approaching the entrance, realize that you’re entering sacred ground. Not in a religious sense, but in a personal sense. C’mon, you know this place is awesome, or you wouldn’t come here. Appreciate and respect that, it’s a great way to start the training session.

–   As soon as you enter, focus your attention towards the Shomen (front of the Dojo) and give it an abbreviated but mindful bow. While doing this, you’re leaving whatever might have been going on outside in your hectic life just where it should be… In the s**tcan. That’s right, all of that doesn’t matter now. Prepare for transformation, baby! Oh, and don’t forget to take off your shoes either, damn ‘Mericans.

–   If you wore your training gi to the dojo, good on ya, especially if you walked. You’re pretty much a boss. If you have to change like us mere mortals, do so in a harmonious fashion. Think about throwing on some deodarant. If you’re having a conversation and the real heavy part of it happens during the part of changing where you’re just in your skivvies, don’t stop there and continue talking in just your drawers. Talking and changing is part of the training, don’t stop the flow.

–   Come out of the dressing room and open up your peripheral. Feel the energy of the dojo. See the mat and take everything in. What’s going to happen on that mat tonight? What are you gonna make out of your time? Where are you right now? Be here! This is a privelege not many people can afford. It’s good stuff.

–   Bow again to the Shomen before stepping on the mat. If you’re late and class is in session, be mindful of when you bow in. You’ll know when the time is right if you’re paying attention. When you step out on the mat, reeeaaallly relax your shoulders, hips, eyelashes, and everything. Let all of the tension go. Sink into the mat. If you have time, do some light stretching. Make eye contact and at least acknowledge the other people on the mat with you. You don’t have to be chatty, just mindful and welcoming. This isn’t the octagon.

–   Be mindful of where Sensei is at the time. Line up in your proper place on time even if Sensei hasn’t started class yet. Use this time to sit in seiza and relax even more. Become even more fully present to the opportunity which the upcoming class opens you up to. Open your peripheral even more (Get this, even if you’re eyes are closed. You can do it Grasshopper).

–   Every dojo is different in how they bow in. However it is, this is huge. You’re now entering into training. This is another chance to toss what’s going on outside the dojo and fully come into the moment. If you don’t, you’re wasting your time and money. Be there. If you happen to clap like we do, feel the timing in that, and please, no premature eclapulation.

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One comment

  1. Hey! I take exception to that: I can parallel park like a pro! *laughs*

    Great checklist post, Jonas. Some mindfulness to into this would make many people’s training a lot easier–not just for the person reading the checklist, but others. Allow me to explain.

    I have a lot of trouble organizing my thoughts and…let’s just say, moods. The dojo to me can be the biggest challenge of my day. If I do not follow a regimen similar to what you posted above (I have my own method), training will be flustered and awkward at best and downright anxiety-ridden at worst. My goal is to train, and I have to keep that in mind. The things that bar any training should be minimized.

    The reason why this is important for everyone, is what I believe to be out of respect for fellow Aikidoka. We all have our own paths, directions, expectations and goals outside the dojo, where it comes to a common point is within the dojo. I’m of the school that would rather not talk about car trouble, work, politics, movies and other outside or mental hubris. It’s a big distraction, at least to me, trying to align myself with the planets or whatever makes Aikido so amazing and keeps me coming back. It is also my responsibility to acknowledge and accept not everyone is going to follow this wish and expectation of mine while in the dojo, and I have developed methods to realign myself, mentally and physically to deal with this. I do this so when I train, especially with others, it’s good training for all. We train together, and we train independently. Sometimes at the same time…if that makes any sense.

    It’s said a lot: “it’s all training.” When it comes down to it, these are among the important little ideas that might help someone’s Aikido training.

    As for me, I simply learn better when I’m “properly aligned,” because it takes the guesswork out of the “little stuff” (and most of life’s stress really is little stuff) and minimizes the difficult part of how to deal with it on a whim.


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