Do you know how to bow correctly or properly? 礼の作法とは?

Do you know how to bow correctly or properly?Rei kanji 2

There are two ways to do the bowing; one is standing bow and the other is sitting or kneeling bow. Today I will post Standing bow, Part 1. An article on kneeling bow, Part 2 will follow later.

I want to thank Sensei O’Neill for correcting my English.

Part 1: Standing bow (ritsu rei 立礼)

There are basically two ways to bow in a dojo situation. I decided to write this article as I find so many western dojos (some Japanese also) that are doing this important ritual incorrectly. I feel this error is almost as bad as an incorrect karate technique. The instructors must learn the correct way of bowing as it is an integral part of karate-do.

Bowing is done to show respect to opponents, your sensei, your colleagues (senpai, kohai, etc.) and even to the dojo itself. Doing a bow in an incorrect manner, even with good intentions, is impolite. Please read this article and learn the correct way.

The first thing I must say is that there is no one standard way to bow. This statement may sound confusing to some peoplCorrect ritsurei illustratione. Let me explain. The bowing method or agreement may be slightly different from style to style and even from organization to organization. What I am sharing here is strictly limited to Shotokan karate rituals.

Standing bow (ritsu rei) seems to be an easy one and you may wonder why I make it such a big deal. After showing you the correct way I will post some photos to show the incorrect ways that I witness around the world.

OK let me start with the correct way. Here is an illustration of standing bow (photo 1, left above).

The second photo (photo 2, below) shows tournamentjudges in Japan that are bowing to each other. This is the way standing bow should be performed. I do not think I need to explain the details or the finer points as you can see how it is done clearly in these two photos.Correct

Let me share some of the incorrect bows. I call them “funny bows”. I cannot determine which is the worst so I will list the incorrect ones randomly. Also, I must note that I picked these images from internet sites to show the bad examples. I do not mean to disgrace or ridicule anyone. They just learned the wrong ways. If a photo happens to show someone you know please remember my intention is to correct a mistake.

Photo #3 and 4 (below): What is wrong with these?

Photo 3

Strange 4

The practitioners are looking up as they bowed. If you try to look up as you lower your head what will happen is that your behind will be pushed back (especially the lady on the left, photo 4). We consider this way of bowing impolite. You need to look down and your eyesight should drop to the ground in front of you. Some teachers say, “You need to keep looking at your opponent when you are practicing martial arts.” He is only half right. It is true that you must be paying attention to your opponent but bowing is a ritual that is fixed in a tournament or in training. Your opponent is not attacking you when you bow. Even if they did for some crazy reason you can still see his feet or legs as you look down thus you could still defend yourself if you had to. In a street fight, of course you do not bow so this bowing is used only in training and tournaments where you are supposed to adhere to rules including bowing.

Photo 5hands together

We, the Japanese, put our hands like this only at a shrine. We do not bow like this in our dojos in Japan so please do not teach your students to do this. The hands should be placed at the sides (front is also ok) of your body.

Photo 6 and 7

These two ways of bowing are a Chinese style so please do not mix the Chinese ritual in Shotokan karate.

Strange 7

Strange 5



Photo 8Respect (Martial arts)

What is wrong with this?

The lady on the left is doing fine but the boy on the right is bowing only with his head. He needs to bend from his waist to do a proper bowing.

Photo 9 and 10

I see this often especially in tournament situations. This was the way Japanese armed soldiers bowed during WWII. However, we do not bow this way in our dojo. In other words, do not stick your elbows out. The elbows must be placed close to the sides of your body.

Photo 9

Photo 10




Photo 11Photo 11

Other than the hands being in the wrong place, it is obvious these two children are too close to each other to do a bowing. They could hit their heads together. The distance between two practitioners should be about 2 meters.






Photo 12Photo 12

His hands are not held straight down at the sides of his body. His bowing simply looks sloppy.

In Japan, even in a soccer game, we bow in the same manner (photo right).Photo 13

The distance of the two players is correct and the angle of the bowing is also good. The only suggestion I would make is that the person on the right should close all his fingers together instead of spreading them out. Then his bowing would look much more polite and elegant.

Finally, I must add that we must NOT teach our students (especially the children) to slap their hands to their legs as they put their hands down to get ready for a bow. Some teachers may be teaching this way so that they can organize their children students easier. Or some may believe it is more militaristic or martial art like. We just do not prepare ourselves this way. Please remember that we must get to the ready position quietly and in a natural manner (photo below).

Photo 14

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