Why we bow

theletch1

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During a recent conversation with a co-worker about the art of aikido in general and the art of Nihon Goshin Aikido specifically I was asked; "Why do all you guys bow when you walk onto the mat?". My first thought was to give the standard answer that we bow to show respect for all those who have trained in the art before us to make it what it is, for all of those who train now to continue the art and for those who will train in the future. That was my first thought and automatically that was the answer that I gave. Later, while on the road, though, I realized that that is only a very small part of the reason why we "Bow in." The rest of the reason is this...

On your right shoulder is an invisible weight. It's name is Ego and makes you think you are better than others.On your left shoulder is another weight. It's name is Self Doubt. It makes you think others are better than you.As we walk through our daily lives we compensate for these two weights by moving in one way to compensate for the Ego and another for the Self Doubt. It just depends on which weight is heavier. When the Ego is heavier we may hold our shoulders back, and our heads a little higher than it should be. Having your chin up too high just makes it an easier target for someones' sword. A disdainful look for others on our faces tells the world that our weight is heavy, indeed. The weight of Self Doubt causes our shoulders to roll forward, our head to hang a little too low so that we must look up to look anyone in the eye. Having the back of your neck stretched out like that just makes it an easier target for someones' sword. A timid look on our faces tells the world that that weight is heavy as well. The constant weight of these two things make us walk in a robotic, off balance fashion. They keep us from turning our heads to look around us and see the world that is passing us by. They weigh not just on our bodies but on our minds and spirits as well, keeping all three from moving freely and to their greatest potential.

When we bow at the edge of the training mat it is, indeed, to honor others and the traditions of our art. It is also to tilt the body forward so that both the Ego and Self Doubt that is weighing us down have no choice but to fall from our shoulders to the training mat. This frees the body, mind and spirit to move fluidly and unfettered. If we are not feeling the weight of Ego and Self Doubt we are free to feel the energy that is ever present in the dojo. Once you can feel this energy you can flow with it and then you are truly free.

When our training session is done we bow when leaving the training area. There, on the mat in front of you are your old enemies Ego and Self Doubt. As you lean forward in your bow will you pick them up again? Or will you whisper a quiet "Good Bye."? For me I'll tell them good bye every time knowing that a little of their weight will follow me home. As I follow the path before me in Nihon Goshin Aikido I can only hope that, eventually, I will out pace the two weights and will walk with true balance in mind, body and spirit. I wish you the best in your training and I hope to see you on the path.
 

Brian R. VanCise

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Nice post Jeff! Very nice.
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theletch1

theletch1

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Thanks, Brian. I drive a truck for a living and have way too much idle time on my hands when I'm behind the wheel to let random thoughts go through my head.:)
 

zDom

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I've given out too much rep in the last 24 hours, so I couldn't send any your way! I'll be sure to do so when I can again.

Great essay on bowing!

You should submit that as an article to a martial art magazine. Very well written!

:asian:
 
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theletch1

theletch1

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I've given out too much rep in the last 24 hours, so I couldn't send any your way! I'll be sure to do so when I can again.

Great essay on bowing!

You should submit that as an article to a martial art magazine. Very well written!

:asian:
Thanks. The only magazine that I'd be willing to have publish is would be MT magazine and most of the readers there will have already read it here. What I wrote truly did come from the heart as I find myself fighting with both ego and self doubt on a fairly regular basis...not nearly as much as before I began the study of aikido but still more than I'd like.
 

charyuop

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That is a great way to see the meaning of bowing in a dojo.
But according to that way of seeing it I should be walking daily leaning on one side. My Ego side is definately invisible compared to the Self Doubt part hee hee.
 

cubankenpo

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Thanks Jeff,
A good point of view , thats important for the students and sometimes we need to look for the words to explain the meaning of bowing, so now i can add your words to mine
bye amigo
Joe
 

Kacey

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Thanks for sharing that - I really enjoyed reading it.
 

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