Safety Tips for Aikido Training: The collected wisdom of Aikido Journal readers

We recently published an article by Stanley Pranin titled “Constant Alertness Needed to Avoid Dojo Injuries.” The article contains a number of hints for preventing injuries during training. The article generated many comments with further safety suggestions. The following is a summary of the collected wisdom of Aikido Journal readers on the topic of dojo safety. Please feel free to contribute additional thoughts on this extremely important subject.

  • At all times–not just when the mat is crowded–have training partners throw parallel to each other and aim toward the outside of the mat. In other words, all throws occur along parallel planes away from the center line dividing the mat.
  • Under crowded conditions, divide the class into groups of three. The third person who is awaiting his or her turn to throw can then operate as a “traffic cop” to make sure that there is always sufficient distance between training pairs.
  • Use kakarigeiko training, where lines are formed, and one person throws each line member in turn before being replaced by the next member.
  • Very crowded conditions can be handled by a “platooning” strategy, that is, by dividing the class into two groups. One groups trains while the other observes.
  • Minimize forward rolls under crowded conditions. Such falls are used mainly in demonstrations and are not realistic in most situations. The application of martial techniques is designed to gain complete control of uke’s body. Most techniques in aikido training involve backward rolls or falls face down, and don’t require nearly as much space as forward rolls.
  • Explicitly explain that it is everyone’s responsibility to try to avert collisions. Seniors are not to assume the “right of way” in the moment before the impact.
  • It is very important to know everyone’s first name. Being able to call out to another aikidoka in the other “lane” when you see you’re in danger of hitting them can buy a split second and save an accident.
  • Under crowded conditions, practice suwariwaza (seated) techniques.
  • Use short compact rolls keeping feet and legs tucked under like in shikko (knee walking). This helps prevent the legs and feet from accidentally hitting others and also reduces the speed of the legs and feet a bit while taking ukemi.
  • Since many collisions takes place when uke is coming out of the roll head first straight into another uke also being thrown, always hold your arms and hands in front all the way through ukemi to protect yourself and others.
  • Walk away from any training partner who refuses to train slowly under crowded conditions.
  • Avoid creating an atmosphere which allows for competition, struggling, or even fighting.
  • Show, from time to time, those things which are dangerous on the tatami, but possibly good on the street. And explain why and how to do it in a different but efficient manner.
  • Encourage people to smile while they practice. Then they are naturally relaxed and alert at the same time.
  • Intervene when you see two partners fighting each other or resisting too strongly. Such situations tend to spiral out of control suddenly.
  • The uke on the ground has the right of way. All others have to find an open space to take falls.
  • Teach students to take ukemi properly. Learning how to fall correctly is your first line of defense against injury.


  1. Joe Peterson says:

    Thanks, Stan, for all that work putting that together. It is really valuable information and should be come the standard. Something I would add, but it may already be implied is to have respect for each other. Respect is said so much to a point of over-killed it can become noise and blocked out. But, respecting each other is so very important. I would add the following:

    * Respect and be mindful of your training partner in every way, at all times. Make the effort to keep them free from injury, even at the cost of your ego. Medical bills are not cheap, and loss of income due to injury is an unnecessary financial hardship.

  2. Thank you, Stan, for all these safety suggestions. Reading the comment of Joe something comes to my mind, to advise people only to use the strength needed for each training partner, so to apply not the same force to someone who weights 50 kg than to someone who weighs double of that.

    And being uke always to fall, we call it in ushiro, that means going down softly and putting first the leg of the side we are falling and then the rest of the body, so not high break falls, maybe it is already in your suggestions.

  3. …There are occasions when it is good not to finish techniques at all. Just get them to the “point of no return”. Take the stretch and go again. That point of no return is usually pretty far into a technique and often the home of a whole family of kaeshi-waza. Trying to force counters sooner and against the power of the technique will be clunky at best, painful or injurious at worst.

  4. Thanks you. Worthy reminders for all members that the training is dangerous, but we make it safe.

    As a Shodokan or Tomiki style aikido student, I find the continuous use of rei-ing (bowing) before and after each practice, along with the Japanese for ‘thank you’ and ‘thank you for that’ of great help to keep calm, remind me my opponent is doing me a service as am I for them, and alert my presence to those around me who have gotten out of alignment in a large group. When this practice falls off our sensei rouses on us to remember we are doing a martial art and we need to respect one another.

    As well our sensei is always on about head position with ukemi. “look at your belt” he would say and the add “and black belts, don’t get cocky, do it properly and stay safe”


    In Australia

  5. We have also found tapping of injured body parts is a visual reminder to training partners to go carefully and not exacerbate existing injuries.

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