Discussion in 'Korean Culture and History' started by mastercole, Apr 18, 2012.
In Korean/Taekwondo culture, should you present your hand to a senior and expect him to shake it?
I think most Korean's I have met are not surprised by Americans profering a hand for a hand shake, in most situations where we would do that. If you want to show them the most respect and education, place your left hand a little below the right inner elbow/high forearm and bow slightly when you do.
No. You bow, and do not offer your hand. You only shake their hand if they make the offer to you first.
But only if they offer you their hand first.
I thought the correct form was to kiss them full on the lips. (but don't initiate any tongue-action... that'd be rude)
In this day and age, I truly hope that no one would take offense at what was clearly intended (and generally understood) as a mark of respect and friendship, and frankly, I'm not sure I'd want to train under anyone who decided to take offense at an "improper handshake"
The problem is that different cultures have different rules for what is offensive and not. I could see how a Korean living in the west would need to become desensitised to this pretty quickly (as it will happen a lot), but if a Korean visitor comes over or if you go to Korea, then I would have thought it best to at least be sensitive of their cultural rules.
I don't see it as them being overly sensitive, I see it as them being from the country they are and it certainly wouldn't stop me wanting to train with them...
Well, if you're training under someone ho hasn't taught you what the expect when shaking hands then they can't get upset with you, can they? It's really on the instructor to teach Taekwon-Do etequette, just like they teach Taekwon-Do techniques and philosophy. If they haven't done so they have no one to blame but themselves. If they have taught those things but someone doesn't do them, I suppose it would depend on if they didn't shake hands correctly on purpose or because they simply forgot (which is easy to do for beginners, I've found). Getting angry over such a thing isn't going to be as constructive as simply telling the person in question, "Don't forget to shake hands correctly."
If you're talking about going to a seminar or other event and meeting a senior instructor or something, a brief reminder by an instructor to observe proper etiquette goes a long way. I was at a seminsr where a junior student forgot to shake hands correctly with a very senior black belt. All he did was keep a hold of the student's hand, took the student's left hand in his and placed it under the student's right elbow. Then he told him, "OK?" It was a teaching moment and, you know, he's a teacher. I dare say that the student has a much different attitude towards that master, Taekwon-Do, and proper etiquette now than if there had been a different reaction.
I'm all for following proper etiquette. In fact, I'm usually one of the people at my instructors' school who reminds students about etiquette. But if Taekwon-Do is about personal development at all then at some point you should see seniors realize that their reactions towards things also need to develop. Courtesy is important, but so is self-control. If a white belt forgets to shake hands correctly with a senior black belt and the senior reacts by getting in a huff it's obvious to me who needs to mature.
This is also what I have been taught. You stand at attention until recognized by the senior, then bow. IF the senior extends his hand, then you shake it, but it is inappropriate to offer your hand.
I believe that is the rule with women in western societies also. You don't offer a lady your hand, but you may shake hers if she offers it.
I have never put my left hand under my right elbow when shaking hands, and I honostly don't understand why some do it.
It is a traditional way of showing respect in the culture....this is more than just TaeKwon Do, these are threads that make up the fabric of Korean culture as a whole.
Korea has a culture much older than ours, and with strong Confucian roots -- which include deep seated traditions of respect for education, for authorities, and for those older than oneself. This results a hierarchical structure of society, although some modern Koreans do not adhere to the older ways as strictly as older generations.
In business, an item is always presented to a person with two hands -- including a business card. For a westerner, this feels awkward...using two hands to grasp something so small. However, in Korea, the gesture is very respectful. Think of a police officer saying "put your hands where I can see them!". This is what the gesture means in Korea, but in a non-confrontational manner. By presenting a business card with two hands, you are demonstrating that your intentions are honest -- you are not trying to get close to the person to try anything sneaky. Same with presenting a coffee cup, or a printed report, etc.
By the same token, cupping the hand under the elbow shows the same respect...one hand restrained in the handshake to show that you are not going to attempt anything that sneaky. Some say the cupping of the elbow additionally harkens back to the left hand pushing up the right sleeve to show the other person you have nothing hidden up one's sleeve.
Its possible to look at such a thing as a negative -- a deeper tradition of structure also tends to create more opportunities for people to take offense at a societal faux pas. While that is possible, it is very much a modern world, and I suspect most folks won't patently take offense at a westerner offering a western handshake.
However, by demonstrating traditional ettiquette to a Korean person, you are showing that what divides you is irrelevant, because you repsect traditions an order of magnitude older than our own (North Americans, at least). Ettiquette alone is not enough to build a relationship. However, when the common grounds and common interests are there...experiencing the appreciation that people have for a demonstration of proper ettiquette is very rewarding, even bonding. The reward far outweighs the efforts.
Carol has given a very good answer. I guess the best I can say is that for whatever reason you do not, and however it works for you, I really think it would work better for you if you did.
It is entirely your decision of course. I am curious, do you bow in and out of your dojang? Do your students bow to you? Do you bow to your teacher(s)? Are those not signs of respect that are done as part of Korean etiquette?
To the dojang, yes if there are others present, otherwise I salute the flag if one is displayed. Absolutely bow to teachers, pretty much anyone, and my students bow to me. I get all that, not a problem.
I just remember a Korean grandmaster asking someone who did put their hand under their elbow why they did that. I don't remember ever seeing a Korean do that. The Korean grandmaster also asked why the students bowed to the flag - he said you bow to people, salute flags. I to this day have a very hard time bowing to inanimate objects. I still bow to people, salute flags.
I went for very many years before I ever saw anyone shake hands with the supporting hand under the elbow. I thought it was only one school/style that did that, but I do see it everywhere now.
I'm going to see a Korean grandmaster this weekend. I'll be sure to ask if that is something common in Korea. If so, I will consider doing it if that is their actual way of showing respect in Korea. Ive always thought it was an American invention done in Korean dojangs. Id like to find out for sure.
It is definitely not an American invention, and not restricted to martial arts, either. It may not be the soft of thing you see when passing a person at a grocery store, but in formal environments, such as being introduced to an exec, the behaviour can still be seen and still be appreciated.
Like a lot of things, the gesture can make more sense when you see it performed in person and understand the sentiment behind it. For example when handing someone a business card with two hands -- perhaps the most awkward gesture for me to emulate -- you are presenting it not just so the person can take it, but also so the person can read and absorb the information as they accept your card. (Among Koreans, the proper gesture is to actually study the card for a moment, not just take it and put it in your wallet as Americans tend to do).
I did some quick googling and found this Business Ettiquette guide from the UK
I am surprised a Korean Grandmaster questioned why someone supported their elbow, or why a flag was bowed to, unless he intended it to be a teaching moment, and for some reason didn't follow up. Do you remember if the student provided an answer and if the Korean Grandmaster provided any followup?
FWIW, I saw the hand under the elbow done in Korea when I was there, and that is how I learned. I have seen it done among Koreans here in the USA, and I do it with Koreans and they do it with me.
I also sometimes noticed it on Korean TV. I say sometimes as I don't watch all that much Korean TV, especially if it doesn't have subtitles. Lazy me. As to bowing, I was taught some 45-50 years ago to bow to enter the dojang, as a substitute for bowing to the teacher who might be otherwise involved, and to the flag as a substitute for a hand salute. The same on leaving. That in the USA. I have also seen it done in Korea. But perhaps not all teachers do that.
I will look forward to what you learn. But regardless, if what you are doing serves you well, then I guess you should continue to do it.
I can understand not bowing to other inanimate objects other than the flag and dojang. As I said, I take that to be similar to bowing to the teacher (what would be like shaking hands or a salute in our culture) and to saluting the flag.
I did find a good time to ask a Korean Grandmaster who was visiting the US conducting a seminar about the handshake. He said just handshake, and even thought about it and did it in the air demonstrating no supporting hand.
I left a message with another Korean master I trained with a few months ago the same question, and have not heard his reply yet.
So although I have read about the supporting hand in Korean etiquette, I have only seen some Americans doing it, having been told by their instructors to do it that way. I never originally learned it that way. Maybe the Koreans are just being polite and trying to do the American greeting while here in the US, I don’t know. I’ll still keep my eyes open and watch closely. Last thing I want to do is to offend them.
Yes, for the most part it is a manner of Koreans following American customs of shaking hands when they are in America. Even if you are in Korea and you go to shake a Korean hand they may do it American style as a sign of respect (intentional or non-intentional). However, from one Korean to another, I have often seen the supporting hand hand-shake.
Interestingly, a friend who is a lawyer and also trains in Taekwon-Do was working with some business men from Korea some time ago. When he met them he shook hands while supporting his elbow with his other hand and they were quite impressed that he knew that point of Korean etiquette (I don't recall off hand if he mentioned his training at the time or not) and appreciative of it. Another friend of mine lives in Korea and we've discussed the whole hand shaking thing before and he's said it's pretty much how things are done there, and told me a few additional points of detail about it.
Bowing/Etiquette was one of the first thingsI learned in my Dojang. We always bow to the Dojang ( entering and leaving ) and always bow to anyone of higher rank. As far as the handshake, I always let the Senior initiate it and although not formally taught, I have noticed Senior black belts and Instructors all place their hand under their arm for handshakes.
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