"Traditional Dojo Etiquette: Part Two Bowing in and Lining Up"

In the Traditional Dojo, you may have noticed that the class ‘Lines Up” facing the Instructor. Have you noticed that the Instructor is always facing East when ‘Lining Up”?  Many people here in the west believe that the reason you face east when bowing in to begin class is to pay respect to Japan and other countries in the east where our Martial Arts originated. This may be true, at least in their respective schools. The real reason for facing east is because this is the direction of the rising sun. The instructor is positioned in front of the class facing east to symbolize his willingness to receive wisdom and guidance from the light of the Divine. The students line up facing west and the Instructor to symbolize receiving the light and guidance as reflected through the teachings of the Instructor.
The “Line Up” at the beginning of class is a important step to the beginning of each class. This is always done with the most senior student to the far right and the newest student to the far left. The students must stand still in the ready stance and await further instruction by the highest ranking student or the Sensei. This is a demonstration of the students willingness to train and respect for the Sensei and the Dojo led by the highest ranking student. It also serves as an opportunity for a Sensei to assess his group and their readiness to begin learning.
The bow is another reflection of respect toward the Sensei and the Dojo as well as your fellow students. The proper bow is performed by standing up straight and bringing the left foot toward the right and touching the heels together. One should bend at the waist, keeping the head up and the eyes forward. It is considered impolite to dip the head down. After returning to the upright position the left foot should wave out again to the ready stance. There is only a short pause when bowing, but it is customary to bow slightly longer and slightly lower when bowing to the Sensei. The Bow should be performed whenever one is entering or leaving the Dojo,  when entering or leaving the matted training area, when beginning training with a partner, when addressing a Sensei, at the beginning and end of class, and anytime that one is conveying respect toward another. The tradition of bowing is one that should not become an automated response. Every Martial Artist should bow to convey what they are feeling toward the Dojo or The Sensei. A lazy bow has no thought or feeling behind it. It conveys the direct opposite of the respect that is intended by this traditional gesture. So the next time you are bowing in remember to think “Respect” and “Honor” and it will show in your gesture.                       WRITTEN BY SENSEI & NANCY TOPP

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