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This ensured mutual safety while at close distance. Secondly, although unsubstantiated, it has been held that the modern day military-style salute showed that one's weapon hand was empty and therefore posed no threat.

Greeting in Japan: Bowing

Others dispute this claim and note it is performed this way right hand touching the forehead historically in medieval tournaments. At these events, the two knights opened the fronts of their helmets to show their faces to their opponent and to the audience. Suffice it to state, the salute has military origins as does the bow. Bowing as a Modern Self Defence Principle We have looked at the historical rationale for bowing from a self defence perspective.

Learn about the Japanese bow or Ojigi

These lessons of old still apply in the 21st century. The dojo is an active place that if treated with a cavalier attitude could be a hazardous place. Many dangerous techniques are taught and practised but with a predictable outcome. This predictability comes from proper etiquette. Proper etiquette contributes to making the dojo a less perilous place for its practitioners. Students who bow to each other when training with each enter a silent contract, like the warriors of old, that they shall practice within a safe and secure environment.

If you're now convinced that bowing is an important aspect of studying the martial arts, or at least believe it warrants further examination, read on. We are going to look at the different types of bows and how to bow. Types of Bows There are two basic categories of bows. These are zarei - the seated bow and ritsurei - standing bow. Within these two basic categories, we can find several different types of bows that are commonly used.

The following includes brief descriptions of each of the basic types of bows. Generally, these can be completed either as zarei seated bow or ritsurei standing bow. There are types, or rather names, of other bows, although these cover the fundamentals. The types of bows include:. Soushu Rei Soushu rei comprises a first kanji of "sou" meaning "pair" or "set.

The Kanjuro Craftsmen Have Made Bows for Samurai and the Nobility for over Four Centuries

When conjoined as soushu rei it means with "both hands or approving bow". It is the basic bow used in everyday life in Japan. Takushu Rei Takushu rei is the formal "general purpose" bow. It can be used from both the standing and seated positions. It is the bow most often seen performed by students in the dojo especially when the courtesy is being paid formally to a higher rank. Literally translated, it's the "open up hands bow. Shiken Rei Shiken rei is a formal kneeling bow used in the presence of juniors.

It also is appropriately used when listening to a person conversing in an official capacity such as one's teacher. Literally translates as "finger point build bow. Gassho Rei The first kanji is the well-known "ai" meaning unite but it also has a pronunciation of "Gatsu. Gassho rei means pressing one's hands together in a fashion similar to prayer and then bowing. Shorin ji Kempo practitioners use this bow. When used in seiza, it is appropriate at religious ceremonies but is not used as an everyday bow.

Interestingly, gassho is similar to the gesticulation used by the Japanese when they wish to express "I'm sorry. This is used for common salutations, "Good Day" greeting. It is slightly more formal than the cursory bow. This is the most common, respectful bow to be used especially when indicating appreciation. This bow is used to convey very deep respect or to expressing extreme gratitude or an apology. This deepest of bows is reserved for ceremonial occasions such as a visit to a shrine or Buddhist temple. The only significant difference amongst each of these bows is the angle to which it is performed.

Why do Japanese cleaning crews bow at trains?

This angle increases according to the level of respect that should be shown. In most everyday situations, one uses the "ordinary bow. How to Bow. Please remember two things - Don't bob your head. Bend from the waist. Let me repeat those - Don't bob your head. Did I mention - Don't bob your head and bend from the waist?

History of the bow: Why do we bow?

There are other rules, but these are key. One should take solace in the fact that nowadays most young Japanese do not bow very often, nor do they bow correctly. Generally speaking, most Westerners who take Jujutsu, Karate or Kendo etc. In fact, many companies in Japan have classes on etiquette for their new employees so that these employees know when and how to bow. The art of bowing does not have the prominence in Japan that it once did. Nowadays there are many adapted methods that barely resemble the traditional methods.

These appear to be blended versions of tea ceremonies, geisha and the military arts etc. However, those "in the know" will very quickly determine your level of knowledge in this regard. Reisansoke Before getting into more of the body movement mechanics of the various bows used in the dojo, and elsewhere, it is important to look at the breathing pattern used when performing a bow. This basic area is the one most neglected by teachers when instructing their students on the mechanics of bowing. I believe many teachers are unaware of the breathing technicalities of the proper bow.

The generally accepted technique for breathing during a bow is known as "reisansoke", which can be loosely translated as the "three breath method" or literally as "bow three breaths. One should breath in while bending forward. Next, one should exhale when she or he stops at the lowest part of the bow.

Finally, one inhales once more as he or she returns to his or her initial posture. This method of breathing allows the back to stretch naturally. As well, the motion of the head will draw a smooth arc. These are two fundamental pieces of a visually pleasing and sincere bow. It is important to have the bow "look" correct so that it conveys the correct message. An example once given to me was to consider a person at a funeral saying, "I feel great sympathy for your tragic loss," while standing with his or her hands in his or her pockets jingling loose change.

These sentiments would not be judged sincere. To sincerely convey a message, bow correctly by keeping the back straight. True respect is seen to start with this gesture.

First allow me to aver that the methods of bowing from school to school and style to style are not identical or standardized. Thus, the caveat is to bow in the manner in which you were taught is proper at your school. Later in this article, we will examine some of the various idiosyncrasies of bowing in some of the Japanese ryuha. It can be stressed, nevertheless, that the pivot point for a bow is at the hips, the back stays straight and the head does not bob. Thus far, I know of no school that does not concur with these three points.

With the aforementioned admonition in mind, let's examine the remaining body mechanics of the bow. For ritsurei, allow your hands to hang naturally at your sides in the beginning. Some schools note that the hands appear to "grab one's rear. Your heels should be together and you should be standing erect without appearing to be in a military "attention" stance.

Without any apparent effort you bend forward, with the head and back forming a straight line, to a depth that is appropriate for the circumstance. Reisansoke three step breathing method is also employed as it is with zarei seated bows. Women may move their hands to the front of their thighs until they just touch during the descending portion of the bow and return them while ascending.


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In the dojo, this is not as consequential as in other circumstances. The hands are never, never "slapped" on the sides of your thighs. Whether seated or standing, the correct and visually pleasing bow is defined by the manner in how it is completed. The upper body should be raised slowly, calmly and in harmony with the motion of other party. Too often, we observe people returning to their natural posture like they have just been hit with an uppercut and snapped upwards. Bows are typically reciprocated with the exceptions of bowing at the kamiza, dojo genkan, entrance , solo kata practice or, when outside of the dojo, to staff in department stores etc.

The bow shows respect for the person to whom you are bowing. The lower the bow, the more respect you are showing. Bows should always be returned and the person who is the lower status of the two should bow first and lowest, holding the bow until the other person has done theirs.

The Seated Bow Mechanics. While seated the hands lay flat on the upper thighs while at attention and either on the upper thighs or cupping hara when relaxed. The angle of bowing will differ according to whether the person receiving the bow is junior, equal, or senior to you as will the spacing between the hands.