picture: Japanese "Rei" meaning "to bow"
"If instead of fighting with him you say to your enemy, "You have won" and bow before him, that is the biggest deed in the world." -Author unknown
For most people, karate is all about learning to fight and defend oneself from attacks. They go to the *dojo, expecting to become strong and invincible within a few days of training. In fact, they can’t wait to show off! But soon they learn that karate is more than just that.
Karate teaches us many etiquettes, one of the most important of them being humility. This humility comes from the practice of bowing, which happens to be a deep seeded culture in Japanese tradition. Bowing is not about religion, nor does it imply a master-slave relationship between the teacher and the student. Bowing stands for mutual respect. We bow when we enter the dojo as a sign of respect for the place where we practice. It also signifies that we are now clearing our mind of all other things and preparing to take in all that the class has to offer. We bow to our **sensei, to show our respect and gratefulness to him for his teachings. Also we bow to our fellow students and sparring partners to indicate that we are alert and ready for combat.
While bowing shows our reverence for the other person, it also helps us feel humble and down-to-earth, for we do not simply bow physically but we bow in our mind as well. It helps us shake off our ego and all other tensions from our mind so that we can concentrate and remain alert in class.
In the bowing position, our hands are open and placed on the sides. It shows that we have come for peace and not to fight. Although the movement is fairly quick, it must be done with utmost grace so as not to convey any sort of aggression or threat to the other party.
In the Seibukan Bangalore dojo, it is customary to follow all such etiquettes while the class is in session. We bow to the dojo, to the teacher and to all others present. Also, we do not talk unnecessarily, nor leave or enter the arena without seeking due permission. Such values, I believe, should be the basis of any martial arts dojo.
*dojo- It’s a Japanese term for classroom
**sensei- It’s a Japanese term for teacher.