Bowing is an important part of what we do. It is a physical expression of an inner attitude, an attitude of humility.
it's interesting to ask children what their definition of humility is. Usually we hear things like, "It's like when you get embarrassed." They generally confuse humility with humiliation. Unfortunately the concept of humility has lost some of its importance over the generations.
Our definition of humility is, to put others before yourself. Simply put, it is to view others as more important than yourself; or, to esteem others more highly than yourself. Bowing becomes a picture of this when two people bow to each other because it makes one person higher than the other. Therefore, because they esteem the other person highly they have a responsibility to protect them. So inherent in this concept of bowing is a promise that says, "I promise to do my very best to protect you from me." When two people train together with this kind of attitude, martial arts becomes a very safe
experience. It's only when the human ego services and pride takes over that the training becomes danger us.
We bow when we enter the gym our dojo. This bow represents a separation from the outside world. It marks the entrance into "our world". However, “our world" is not the real world. We do things in "our world" that we don't in the real world. We speak to each other respectfully, we use proper manors, we learn to do things that could be harmful outside of the gym, and we punch and kick each other and think it’s fun. This is not the real world!
We bow when we enter the classroom. This is what we call the "checkpoint bow". Before we walk into the training area we make sure that mentally we our prepared to train. Once we walk in, nothing else exist, there are no distractions. For the next hour the only thing that matters is our training.
We bow to begin class. We bow when we are called to step forward. These bows express a respectful attitude towards the instructors and those present to train.
We bow to each other before we work together in pairs. This expresses the overall attitude of humility as explained above. Symbolically, bowing is a picture of one person putting the other person above them or making the other person more important. Inherent in this bow is the responsibility to protect the person to whom one is bowing. This communicates the attitude that makes our training safe.
As we prepare to exit the gym we bow out of class. This bow is a picture of leaving "our world" and going back out into the real world. We hope to take with us the character and attitude that will help make the real world a better place. We believe that people who practice these disciplines as a way of life will make a difference in the world around them.