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Anonymous
05-03-2004, 01:22 PM
I am interested in training in aikido and have been investigating the locals dojos in my area. My boyfriend accompanied me to one dojo and was impressed and interested. He said he would like to join, but felt the bowing was too "submissive". I told him I felt bowing was a sign of respect, not submission - but the thought still made him uncomfortable and he has waffled back and forth several times on the issue of joining.

I don't feel bowing is submissive, but I have studied Eastern culture a little and understand the different "mind set" to some extent. My questions are: Is this feeling of submissiveness commonplace for those beginning aikido? Does the feeling lessen as one advances in aikido? Other than respect, what is the importance of bowing?

BTW - I am not trying to force my boyfriend into aikido. His idea perplexes and amuses me (honestly, I feel it is a "macho" thing ) and I just want to hear the experiences and thoughts of others on this subject.

Thank you.

akiy
05-03-2004, 01:48 PM
This thread has been moved from the Anonymous forum to the Training forum.

Please note that the Anonymous forum is intended for "delicate" subject matters for which people have a need or want to keep their identities from being revealed. I encourage people to keep this in mind before starting a thread in the Anonymous forum.

-- Jun

PeaceHeather
05-03-2004, 02:08 PM
I know that I sometimes face a certain discomfort with the idea, usually just a stereotype, that your sensei is like "god" and you spend all your time swallowing your pride and your dignity in order to kneel at their feet.

Lots of Americans do this. :)

If it helps, he might want to think of it as a basic courtesy, or as "just something you do". You know what I mean -- some people kneel to pray, some don't, some stand, some don't. All round the world, some people shake hands when they meet, some kiss each other on the cheek, some bow... in locker rooms at least, some of them smack each other on the butt. :D

The bow in my dojo is meant as a traditional way to say "thank you" -- first we bow to O-Sensei's picture, then to our sensei, then we practice. At the end of practice, we line up and bow again to O-Sensei's picture, then to our sensei, then to our fellow students. It says, "thank you for what you have taught me tonight". It can also be taken to mean, "you're welcome" when you bow back at someone.

See if that helps clear it up for him.
Heather

j0nharris
05-03-2004, 02:29 PM
I don't worry about it being submissive unless Sensei has on his leather dogi and hakama :D

Don_Modesto
05-03-2004, 02:47 PM
My boyfriend accompanied me to one dojo and was impressed and interested. He said he would like to join, but felt the bowing was too "submissive".

Does he prefer shaking hands? That is, he doesn't mind submitting to a weapons check? ;)

Janet Rosen
05-03-2004, 05:28 PM
I know that I sometimes face a certain discomfort with the idea, usually just a stereotype, that your sensei is like "god" and you spend all your time swallowing your pride and your dignity in order to kneel at their feet.
Heather
I'm lost. Don't you also bow to your partners, including the ones who are brand new first time on the mat? How is it swallowing pride or being submissive?

Robert Jackson
05-03-2004, 06:08 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I am interested in training in aikido and have been investigating the locals dojos in my area. My boyfriend accompanied me to one dojo and was impressed and interested. He said he would like to join, but felt the bowing was too "submissive". I told him I felt bowing was a sign of respect, not submission - but the thought still made him uncomfortable and he has waffled back and forth several times on the issue of joining.

I don't feel bowing is submissive, but I have studied Eastern culture a little and understand the different "mind set" to some extent. My questions are: Is this feeling of submissiveness commonplace for those beginning aikido? Does the feeling lessen as one advances in aikido? Other than respect, what is the importance of bowing?

Bowing is a form of respect and thanks. When you bow to the shomen you are bowing out of respect and gratitude to O-sensei (the founder if you didn't know) for founding the art. When you bow to your sensei you are bowing out of respect and gratitude, he has worked hard and has earned his rank.... there is a reason he is the instuctor. He is taking his time and knowelge to teach something you wish to learn. When you bow to your partners you are again bowing out of respect and gratitude. They are loaning you their body in hope that you will take care of it and learn from it. They are also training with and thus, for the most part, deserve the respect you give when you bow to them.

There are a lot of people who misunderstand the meaning of bowing. It's not worship or submission in anyway. You are not praying but you are saying thank you. You are not submitting... if you were your instuctor, or partner probably would not bow in return.

Just my two and 1/2 cents.

Chris Li
05-03-2004, 07:56 PM
There are a lot of people who misunderstand the meaning of bowing. It's not worship or submission in anyway. You are not praying but you are saying thank you. You are not submitting... if you were your instuctor, or partner probably would not bow in return.

Just my two and 1/2 cents.

Whether or not it's worship depends upon where you are - it certainly was to Morihei Ueshiba, and I've trained in any number of dojo that bow to some kind of shrine and perform Shinto religious rituals of one sort or the other.

As for "submissive", well, bowing can be submissive, but generally not the type that you find in the dojo (except from over-eager Japanophiles).

Best,

Chris

Noel
05-03-2004, 09:15 PM
IMO, people who think bowing is submissive haven't watched the same films I have (e.g. Kurosawa). That said, I do know people who do not bow due to religious beliefs, and I try my best (honestly) to respect and accommodate that.

Personally, at some point before I shuffle off this mortal coil, I would like to reach that state of zanshin, where I can bow, and still be aware of the guy trying to attack me. After all, you gotta have dreams.

My cent-and-a-half.

Nick Simpson
05-04-2004, 07:39 AM
Easy, bow without taking your eyes off him ;)

SeiserL
05-04-2004, 09:22 AM
IMHO, bowing is greeting, respect and humility. It is about how I feel about myself, not the other person. It is our thinking that makes it, or anything, submissive. It is not the act, but the associated thought, that give anything meaning.

PeaceHeather
05-04-2004, 11:41 AM
I don't worry about it being submissive unless Sensei has on his leather dogi and hakama :D

*snrrk* There's an image. :confused:
Heather

PeaceHeather
05-04-2004, 11:43 AM
I'm lost. Don't you also bow to your partners, including the ones who are brand new first time on the mat? How is it swallowing pride or being submissive?

Sorry, Janet. What I meant was that the formality of it *can* take a moment or two for me to get used to, especially since I've been away from martial arts for several years, and the last place I was felt very hierarchical.

As the rest of my post hopefully indicated, I've pretty much gotten over it. :cool:

Heather

Nick P.
05-04-2004, 11:58 AM
My mother came to watch my gokyu test, and when I asked her what she thought (of Aikido in general), she said "All that (seiza) can't be good for the circulation in your feet, and there is way too much bowing." Maybe she is right, maybe not; but in the end I am the one doing Aikido, and not her.

My point is that people can think whatever they like, whether they are Aikido-ka or not. It really doesn't matter as long as what you are doing makes you happy.

GaiaM
05-07-2004, 08:14 AM
I agree 100% with Robert's post... very nicely said.
Gaia

James Thompson
05-07-2004, 08:54 AM
I would not be too troubled by your boyfriends attitude my first impression of Aikido was "wow Jedi Knights!" as the demonstrator throw Uke after Uke without touching them.

More seriously, I have come to believe the etiquette in Aikido is a function of its Martial roots. There has to be at some point which to Warriors or Martial Artist will meet. This is a dangerous moment as the potential for violence or misunderstanding is great. If however, you add ritual and etiquette to the situation it is resolved peacefully. Remember we shake hands with our sword arms, this is descended from the codes of chivalry.

The bow in Aikido is an extension of this. If we bow with meaning we are acknowledging the potential dangers of the training relationship. Uke is giving his body to Nage by openly attacking him, Nage is respecting this gift by not killing/hurting Uke.

Your boyfriend is in error. The Bowing is a sign of how dangerous Martial Arts are, not how weak he is.

You should not be discouraged, I wish you success on your Aikido journey.

James

P.S. Don't take all the etiquette too seriously as I train with guys who after Ten years don't even notice their bowing let alone think about it. Just enjoying the training!

makuchg
05-07-2004, 02:18 PM
Great responses everyone. I just thought I'd throw in my 2 cents...

I recently taught Aikido at a dojo in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Most students where Saudi nationals (many of whom were religious police officers). My first class, I bowed in as usual and turned to bow in to them, imagine my surprise when they didn't bow! Come to find out, unfortunately after my embarassment, that in the Muslim world (and Saudi Arabia is the capitol), bowing is reserved to their religious practice only. I was upset I had offended my Muslim hosts with my ignorance, but ended up being something we could all laugh at.

Bowing is respectful in the way Aikido is practiced in the US. I explain it as it shows respect for O Sensei for giving us Aikido, shows respect for sensei for teaching us Aikido, shows respect for the student in trying to learn Aikido, and shows respect for each other for stumbling our way through. Good luck.

Greg Makuch

Lyle Laizure
05-17-2004, 06:45 PM
Bowing is done out of respect. But the act of bowing in and of itself is submissive in nature. You are trusting the person you are bowing to is not going to harm you. You are in a sense putting yourself on the line. I had one student that was uncomfortable bowing to the shomen as he felt it was a religious thing. Once explained though it was overcome.