April 04, 2010

In praise of bowing

Nice kitty. This one hangs out at Shuri Castle.

One of the things I really like about Okinawa so far is that people actually bow to each other here. Bowing has a bad name in the US, probably because of the connotations of expressions like bow and scrape, but to me it doesn't mean anything of the kind.

In karate we bow all the time, on entering and leaving the dojo, to instructors, opponents and training partners, before and after every sparring match and class. Gichin Funakoshi, widely considered to be the founder of modern karate do, said that karate begins and ends with rei, which means both bowing and courtesy. I've always liked the idea of bowing to one's opponent before and after every fight.

It' really a gesture of mutual recognition and respect, one that doesn't necessarily preclude going at it pretty hard. It's nice to be some place where it's a part of everyday life.


1 comment:

hollowdweller said...

There's a great tribute to bowing in the book "After Ecstacy, the Laundry" by Jack Kornfield.

Hope you are having a good time.